Children from South Park Family School are discovering how wildlife habitat can be found, not only in parks, but all around them, including their school grounds.
The collaborative effort between the Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) and the school will, upon completion, see the school grounds become the South Park Garry Oak Meadow.
Wendy Tyrell, the Habitat management coordinator, is the driving force behind the project, but was is quick to credit the roughly 200 students from kindergarten to Grade 5 for the project’s success.
“The kids have been absolutely wonderful. They’ve been doing the site prep work and they just love getting dirty and learning while they’re at it,” said Tyrell.
South Park will be the 30th school to participate in HAT’s Green Spot Program in which HAT works to identify, and implement opportunities to maintain, enhance and expand natural areas at schools, while involving students and teaching them about the natural habitat.
On Wednesday morning, the school participated in planting native grasses, and 33 other species of flowers to complete the project. The day was augmented with traditional First Nations ceremonies honouring the work of the children and the community.
The project at South Park is particularly appropriate, given the unique nature of the school.
South Park was established as an alternative school in 1974 within School District 61, where parents are involved in every aspect of school life and where students take a far greater responsibility for their own learning. While it adhere’s to the standard B.C. school curriculum, the standard assessment tools are not utilized. Instead, children are encouraged to participate in a self-assessment process.
According to Tyrell, by restoring a Garry oak meadow on school grounds the children are learning much more that just gardening and the types of plants native to the meadow.
“This is an opportunity to learn about the 35 different species of plants native to Garry meadows, for sure, but it’s also a chance to learn how First Nations people used the meadows to feed themselves, and some history about how these meadows disappeared,” said Tyrell.
The children will also learn about insect life needed to pollinate the plants and the relationship between the flora and fauna of the region.
“This project is a great way of engaging our whole learning community, students, staff and parents, in meaningful hands-on learning,” said Sean McCartney, school principal, stressing HAT has provided in-classroom instruction to the students and have led the weekly ‘digging parties’ to help get the meadow ready for planting.
“The kids have also had a hand in designing the rest of the grounds, and have worked collaboratively to place the pathways, play spaces and stumps and logs within the site…all with a unique value to the quality of use we’ll see when it’s all completed,” said Tyrell.