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Seeds to Forest program at St. Kateri Catholic School

Project type: 
Greening our Schoolyards
Year: 
2019
Season: 
Spring

The students of St. Kateri Catholic Elementary School made it through lots of mud to finish all four modules in ReForest London’s “Seeds to Forest” school program!

Starting back in wintry January, grade 4 and 5 students dreamed of spring while planting bur oak acorns in their classrooms during the seedling planting workshop. They learned how to pick the best acorns as well as how to water and care for the baby trees until they could take them home in the spring to plant outside. Throughout winter, students eagerly waited for their baby trees to sprout and grow taller, and continued to water and measure their seedlings growing in their classroom windows. 

In March, they ventured outdoors for the site planning workshop. After testing their schoolyard soil and examining light and water conditions, and observing nearby trees, they carefully chose the native tree species they believed would thrive at their school. Students also completed a participatory mapping exercise to identify where they would like to see some more shade in the schoolyard. Getting kids involved in planning projects builds stewardship and promotes responsibility. After that, they just needed some warmer weather to plant their trees! 

In April, planting day arrived and students planted 21 beautiful trees and 3 shrubs in their schoolyard, including Red Maple, Hackberry, Bur Oak, Ironwood, Pagoda Dogwood, and Downy Serviceberry. Each species is native to London and will provide shade, attract wildlife, and clean the air. Some of the biggest trees weighed up to 100 pounds, but the students took turns digging, filling, and finally mulching so that every tree could grow in a good home. Many trees received special names bestowed on them by eager planters, and there were lots of worms and grubs to be found along the way! St. Kateri students showed great responsibility for planting safely and ensuring their trees were planted "just right". All this work helps the kids feel ownership over their trees and they are encouraged to be guardians for the trees while they are at their school. The trees and kids will grow together and we hope they will visit their trees when they have kids of their own!

Finally, the students took a field trip to ReForest London at Westminster Ponds to go on a hike in a mature forest. They met several special tree species during the hike, including the eastern white pine, Ontario’s provincial tree, and the sugar maple, Canada’s national tree. In the middle of a forest of skunk cabbage, students learned about wetlands and the critical role they play in combatting climate change. Afterward, shoes were lost, trees were desperately clung to, and shrieks echoed as they passed through an endless trail of mud to learn about invasive species and view an ecosystem restoration site. Now caked in mud (but still smiling!), the students took a break to enjoy some delicious Canadian apples and photograph the scenery. They took in a fantastic view of the pond before continuing through a little more mud to explore in the woods and finally catch the bus back to school.We hope the students of St. Kateri had as much fun as we did and learned some new things about forests in the Forest City! They were real troopers to make it through the mud and we are excited for them to watch their trees grow in their schoolyard for years to come!

We gratefully thank our generous 2019 Program Sponsors: City of London, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Mountain Equipment Co-Op, Tree Canada, Ontario Sport and Recreation Community Fund, and the Rasmussen Family Fund within the London Community Foundation.   

Check out more photos from St. Kateri's Seeds to Forest program journey here!