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Arthur Stringer Public School

Project type: 
Greening our Schoolyards

It was the perfect day for tree planting on May 5th at Arthur Stringer Public School. After a week of rain and cold temperatures, the sun was out, it reached 16 degrees Celsius, and there was barely a cloud in the sky.

Arthur Stringer Public School is one of several schools across London taking part in the "Greening Our Schoolyards" program by ReForest London. The project involved planting five trees and 14 shrubs behind a semi-circle of log seating to create an outdoor classroom. There were approximately 30 student volunteers and 10 parent volunteers and teachers at any given planting session.

Students were selected from each grade to participate in the event, which was spread out over several hours and each group designated a certain amount of time to plant.  Speaking of the benefits of the project, one parent likes the idea. "It's a different environment than a stuffy classroom," she said.

"[The experience] is especially meaningful for the students because they have been growing trees in class," said Lesley Toulnan, speaking of her Grade 4 class who participated in the tree-planting event that afternoon. The trees that the Grade 4 students have been growing started out as seedlings and the students will get to take them home. As such, her students previously had the opportunity to grow trees indoors, and now they have had the opportunity to plant larger trees outdoors. Toulnan emphasized how much she and the students were looking forward to the outdoor classroom, in which the students will be able to sit and read in the area and Toulnan can even conduct lessons outside in the fresh air.

Many parents and teachers felt that it was good to get the students involved. "It's good for the kids to understand the needs of the plants," said Corey Hinze, another parent volunteer. There certainly was a lot to learn. The project leader, Gabi Sanio, presented a short and educational introduction to the volunteer groups. "Why do we plant trees?" she asked, to which a student replied "Air." Gabi then told the students how trees give off oxygen and create habitats for different species. She then informed the students that they would be planting trees that were native to the area, otherwise called indigenous trees, such as the Tulip tree (so-called because its buds are shaped like a tulip). After a short lesson on shovel safety, the children were ready to plant.

"It's heavy!" shouted Sky, an enthusiastic fourth grader, as she carried a bucket of woodchips from the pile over to the planting area. "But it's okay, I'm used to it," she said, emptying the contents of her bucket around the base of a tree. With a proud smile on her face, Sky yelled "I did it!" as she ran back to the woodchip pile for another bucketful.

It was clear by the end of the day that the children were excited to have their new outdoor classroom. The experience was not only fun and educational, but also gave the students a sense of pride because they planted it themselves.

Content and photos by Shannon Charnock