On November 17th, over 45 students from École Marigold Elementary School broke ground as they dug into the great outdoors with a garden of their very own. A habitat-focused outdoor learning space created through the Green Spots school program by Habitat Acquisition Trust.
“By creating something positive for the students to focus on in the midst of this large McKenzie Interchange construction project, we are bringing their attention to what they can do to support the remaining Garry Oak habitats we have left. The students are very passionate about nature on their school grounds and want to ensure it stays protected for their own enjoyment and learning” says Paige Erickson-McGee, Stewardship Coordinator of HAT.
Empowering young learners to take part in caring for nature, students not only prepared the site for this naturally-inspired meadow of native wildflowers and grasses, the kids have also enthusiastically removed invasive English Ivy (Hedera helix) from Garry Oak habitat on school grounds.
On Thursday, they will plant the native species with bees and butterflies in mind while sipping on native plant tea made from local edibles.
In a collaborative effort between Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT), École Marigold Elementary School, and the District of Saanich, School District #61, students of Marigold get to discover how wildlife habitat can be found and nurtured not only in parks, but all around them, even on their own school grounds.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure allowed a salvage of native plants within the interchange construction area by HAT staff with bulbs planted into the garden.
“The Green Spots program helps kids to foster positive and fun connections to nature through outdoor, hands-on learning. HAT helps by providing students with the opportunity to restore and enhance habitat in their own schoolyard by pulling invasive weeds, digging in the dirt and placing native plants in the ground. These schoolyard naturescaping projects restore natural areas for future generations of outdoor explorers to enjoy” says Jill Robinson, Executive Director of HAT.
With many hands working together, wildflowers like the Camas, Fawn Lilies, and native grasses that once flourished under the majestic Garry Oaks of Marigold’s fields are being brought back by the students. Marigold’s new meadow will provide learning opportunities for the students for many years to come. Pollinators, seasonal changes, and indigenous uses for the plants of the meadow are just a few opportunities to inspire learning, curiosity, and awe.
The meadow will also provide a place for teachers to bring their students to sit and observe nature, paint or draw a spring wildflower, or to ponder why the flowers go dormant over winter.
HAT staff provide plant introductions to the students, and are leading the children through weekly ‘digging parties’ to help get the meadow ready for planting on November 17th.
“We strive to connect students to the meadow project by encouraging them to think about the plants and wildlife who needs them, teaching them about Garry Oaks and making sure they get their hands plenty dirty” says Paige Erickson-McGee.
Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) is coordinating this project through their free outdoor learning program, Green Spots, bringing hands-on natural science learning full-circle from outdoor experiences in park settings to outdoor classrooms on school grounds. The program is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada PromoScience Grant and by the Province of BC through a Community Gaming Grant. Since the beginning of this program HAT has worked with 26 schools and thousands of students to encourage hand’s-on, outdoor learning.
If you would like to support HAT in providing nature education to local kids through the Green Spots program your donations are vital to this good work. Visit hat.bc.ca/donate or call 250-995-2428 to lend your support today.