Schools within the Halton District School Board are creatively turning their school grounds into living classrooms. Approximately 80 elementary and a dozen secondary schools have made significant investments in the past two years to complete numerous schoolyard greening projects as a way to continuously improve student learning and achievement.
Requests for schoolyard greening projects are increasing as schools move toward beautifying their grounds to create engaging, inclusive learning environments.
At Wednesday's Halton District School Board meeting (Nov. 1, 2017), the Board of Trustees received a report for information detailing the numerous projects taking place at Halton schools. Research shows that learning outdoors is an effective form of teaching as students can move around and interact with the environment. Benefits include improved academic performance, enhanced critical thinking skills, the cultivation of curiosity, creativity and imagination, and the development of personal skills such as confidence and leadership.
Schools plan and implement projects that encourage the use of native species.Outdoor learning spaces at Clarksdale, Falgarwood, Escarpment View and Park Public Schools incorporate seating areas and support learning in a variety of subjects such as literacy,music and mathematics, while supporting student well-being. Chris Hadfield, Orchard Park and Joshua Creek public schools have pollinator and sensory gardens that allow students to make connections between their local environment and global environmental issues such as the loss of habitats for monarch butterflies.
Partnerships are being developed with secondary schools to build small elements, such as cedar workbenches, to enhance Kindergarten spaces. These projects provide important learning for secondary students while supporting elementary schools.
Initiatives during the past year include:
• Outdoor spaces and seating areas with natural and manufactured shade to support learning
• Active play areas for older primary students.
• Increasing tree planting for shade and diversity
• Food gardens
Food gardens are a popular choice at schools to encourage healthy eating, build an understanding of food production and waste, and incorporate healthy lifestyle activities. Milton District High School and Maplehurst and Joseph Gibbons Public Schools each have food gardens on their grounds.The food gardens range from small planters in kindergarten spaces to joint community projects.
“Our Board and schools continue to support changes to school grounds that will enhance the educational experience of students as well as promote well-being for staff and students," says Stuart Miller, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board. “The role of the Board in school ground greening projects is to promote safety and sustainability while ensuring other important and appropriate functional uses of the grounds are respected. We continue to support changes to school grounds that will enhance instructional learning of all our students."
Greening projects are funded through school-generated funds, special fundraisers and grant awards from various foundations. The Board also has an agreement with the non-profit organization Evergreen for the services of a landscape architect, who provides consultation and design services for schools and serves as a resource to the Board's Facility Services staff.
For more information, contact:
Gerry Cullen, Superintendent of Facility Services
Halton District School Board
905-335-3663; Toll-free: 1-877-618-3456