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School families help plant outdoor classroom

Growing a classroom - Oliver, Ameila and Sophia Farrow worked together to help plant one of over 20 trees in the yard of Salem Public School on Oct. 20, part of the outdoor classroom project.   submitted photo

School families help plant outdoor classroom

by Kelly Waterhouse

SALEM - It is said that the best classroom is the great outdoors, and the staff and students of Salem Public School are taking that literally.

“It began with a phone call from Alex Watts, who was working with NeighbourWoods at the time, who called and said she had an idea to help our school plant some trees,” said Salem Public School principal Saskia Marquis. “At the same time, Bryan Farnworth, a teacher here, came to me with an idea to plant a vegetable garden for the students.”

Watts worked on the project during her contract with NeighbourWoods and as an independent community volunteer.

“We [at NeighbourWoods] were thinking of doing something with area schools, and of course, Salem was my first choice as I went there when I was growing up,” she said.

“They had so much green space and the yard is so well used all year, plus by tobogganers when they have snow and the ice rink ... so I knew it would be a great place for the students and the community around there to have a green space.”

With the seeds planted, the vision began to grow. Efforts have been underway since last February to build an outdoor classroom environment in the schoolyard for the students, headed by a group of community volunteers, parents and teachers.

The Greening Committee  included teachers Bryan Farnworth and Jessica Upper, parents Will Wycherley and Dave Bueschler, community volunteers Watts and Dennis Wendland of Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds, consulting for the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB).

“This group has been instrumental in the greening of our school,” Marquis said.

The committee was able to secure $3,200 of funding with Watt’s grant proposals, which allowed them to dig in this fall, carving out an area in the school’s yard to set large boulders into place and plant more than 20 trees, under the direction of Wendland, a landscape consultant.

A Queen’s Jubilee Sugar Maple tree was donated by the Elora Salem Horticultural Society.

“It took a lot of community support to make this happen,” Marquis said, noting that while the budget was limited, there was much in-kind support provided by area businesses, including Flamboro Quarry, A. Rogers Sawmill and Stumpf Bros. Excavating Ltd., who set the boulders into place on the hillside of the school.

“Garafraxa Turf donated four, 15-foot trees and Green Legacy donated 20 trees, which was just amazing,” said Marquis.

The Green Legacy program was an important component of the outdoor classroom, as Marquis explains the trees are seeded by school children in the UGDSB.

“The primary students seed the trees and then they keep them in their classroom until they start to grow,” she said, adding that grade four students also work on the project, before the seedlings are returned to the Green Legacy greenhouses.

On Oct. 20, the community was invited to join in a Family Tree Plant.

“It was a successful event. An outdoor classroom was built that will include a no-mow area, so that the grass can grow naturally and the kids can see the insects and the growth,” Marquis explained.

“We created a path of trees, so the students can explore them as a class. You can bring so much curriculum out of it.”

In the spring Farnworth will be working with Salem PS students to plant a vegetable garden.

He will be working in conjunction with the woodworking class at Centre Wellington District High School, to build planter boxes.

“This is a great event for bringing the community together, and the parents and students together,” Marquis said. “It’s wonderful for the environment of the school, the neighbourhood and the community.”

“Hopefully, these students can come back in 20 years and see the trees they’ve planted and be able to say, ‘I planted that tree’,” Marquis said.

October 26, 2012


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