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Learning isn’t limited to within walls, and children learn in a variety of ways. At Rockwood we strive to provide experiences that awaken all our senses and connect us with our environment. In the fall of 2005 we completed the first phase of an ongoing greening project, initiated and run through Parent Council. Our students can now make curriculum connections in the living world.
Rockwood is fortunate to have a large amount of land. We share our field with Crescentwood Community Centre for mini soccer, and the Winnipeg Ultimate League throughout the summer. However, there has been very little shade, seating, or shelter from the winds, and there is nothing connecting us to
Manitoba’s native landscape.
With the guidance of the innovative Evergreen program, the Greenspace Committee canvassed the school and neighbourhood to discover our priorities. We then enlisted the services of two talented graduate students from the University of Manitoba ’s Landscape Architecture program. We are grateful to Shauna Trudeau and Kath Glendinning for helping us bring together our community’s needs and desires. The resulting concept is a walk through Manitoba ’s ecosystems. Beginning with “farmland” (garden boxes planted and tended by students) we progress through prairie, river bottom forest and boreal forest. We are very proud of, and excited about this project.
Through the efforts of Shelmerdine Nurseries and families from the school, berms were shaped, trees were planted, a path was laid and garden boxes for each classroom were built and installed. Teachers planned and planted with their students, and in the spring of 2006, Painted Lady butterflies were grown in classrooms and then released amidst the greenery of this new gathering space.
Current Greenspace Initiatives
The work on Greenspace continues as a dedicated group of parent volunteers plan in collaboration with school staff to use our Greenspace well, in addition to enhancing the space in the future. Parents at Rockwood School have taken the responsibility of weeding and watering the gardens over the summers which has allowed for students to grow vegetables in the planters in the rear of the school.
In the spring, all classes from Nursery to grade Six planted an organic garden that consisted of flowers and vegetables. Some of the plants did better than others and at one point there was a giant sunflower forest in a couple of the boxes. We harvested small amounts of carrots, peppers, broccoli and tomatoes but we did have a bumper crop of potatoes. When the students came back to school in September they were very curious to see what had grown in their gardens and the planters were a popular place to explore at recess.
In the front of the school we have developed a small Butterfly Garden with natural prairie plants. This garden is still in it’s initial stages but the natural plants fared well over the summer due to the efforts of the parent volunteers. As the plants mature we hope they will attract our desired clientele of Monarch Butterflies but in the mean time it is still another beautiful part of our project.
The importance of connecting children to the natural world cannot be overstated. Much has been written by David Sobel and Richard Louv on this subject, as well as reports produced by Evergreen Canada. As a nation we now have far fewer people who work and live on the land, and only a handful of children have direct connection to farms and food production. We hope that by enhancing our grounds and providing students with opportunities to enjoy nature and grow food we will help to reconnect them to our agricultural roots and instil in them a true love of nature.
Many thanks go to our funders:
Thanks also to Roberta Hechter, Greenspace supporter and Rockwood principal during this first phase.
Naturalize your own piece of the world:
- Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities, by David Sobel
- Greening School Grounds: Creating Habitats for Learning, by Tim Grant and Gail Littlejohn
- Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education, by David Sobel
Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots : Activities To Do in the Garden, by Sharon Lovejoy