When it comes to creating habitat for wildlife in need, and ensuring the well-being we derive as a community remains undiminished, it takes a village to prevent habitat loss.
Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) knows that it’s important to involve people of all ages in experiencing and understanding nature. To complement the Land Protection and Habitat Steward Programs where HAT works directly with adult landowners (kids could not afford a home in this market anyways), HAT runs the Green Spots Outdoor Education Program, ensuring no child is left inside and everybody benefits.
The Green Spots Program empowers schools to provide an environmental education space to their students. Already, children from 34 schools have been able to plan and create their own gardens for nature, right on their school grounds. HAT gives teachers, parents, and kids the tools and guidance to run with, leaving lasting nature-based learning spaces that enhance habitat for local flora and fauna too.
As natural areas decrease, our exposure to unaltered habitats follows suit, research indicates that there are repercussions. Mounting evidence reveals that access to natural spaces benefits children cognitively, emotionally, and physically. For example, exposure to green space can increase concentration, improve academic performance, reduce stress and aggression, strengthen the immune system, and lower the risk of obesity. Stewardship-focused interactions with natural environments at a young age are important for developing a positive outlook and lasting attachment towards the environment, which is needed to ensure the care of natural spaces forevermore.
In 2017, HAT teamed up with Macaulay, Hans Helgesen, and Cloverdale Elementary Schools for the Green Spots program. Getting over 825 children out in nature to learn the fundamentals about Indigenous plants, pollinators, and creating a habitat garden for learning and for wildlife.
At Cloverdale Traditional School, children created an Indigenous knowledge native plant garden. Before planting, a local First Nations Elder led the children in a blessing ceremony and children swept the garden site with cedar bows to cleanse it. Before that, family members joined in to dig up the soil and to layer soil and cardboard. A fresh start above the grass and weeds for new native plants.
At Ecole Macaulay Elementary School in Esquimalt, students created a spectacular and unique garden for butterflies with a variety of native plant species including beautiful flowering Camas lilies. With the help of students and parent volunteers 371 plants that will return each year went into the ground.
At Hans Helgesen Elementary School, children designed a heart-shaped native plant garden. They also removed invasive blackberry and Scotch broom on their school grounds.
On Earth Day of 2018, the schools will have a school-wide assembly to celebrate the project’s success in creating a wildflower habitat garden for students, teachers, and neighbours to learn about stewardship of our local flora and fauna while providing food and shelter for our pollinators. HAT Stewardship Coordinator Paige Erickson-McGee will present the Hans Helgesen students with a trophy for all of their hard work. The trophy is an extra thick cane of blackberry impressively removed by the kids, spay painted gold.
In the New Year, the Green Spots program will start up again with three new schools, bringing with it the delight of digging in the dirt, imagining what camas bulbs become, and watching something made by tiny hands grow into something bigger than us all.
The Green Spots program is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and people just like you. Individuals and businesses can also sponsor a Green Spots School, a fantastic way to ensure that children can continue to learn about nature for years to come.
Business sponsors or community members can “Double the Habitat” by doubling a school’s plant budget on an existing project, by donating $1000.
Business sponsors or individuals can “Sponsor a Green Spot” to pay for a whole school to do a year-long project by donating $5,000.
If you would like to support Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Green Spots Program please visit hat.bc.ca/donate or call 250-995-2428 today to make a gift that elevates conservation with hands on action and in the young minds of future caregivers of the Earth.