By LeRae Haynes –
Students from Sacred Heart School are embarking on an exciting project that includes habitat revitalization, outdoor classroom spaces, and gardens so each class can have its own bed.
Principal Shirley Giroux said the project kicks off soon. “We’re bringing in the community to be part of this project,” she said, adding that all students from kindergarten to grade 7 will be involved.
The project, called Birds, Bees, Berries, Beets, and Binders, is a result of a $6,500 TD Friends of the Environment grant and enthusiastic support from the community.
One community member integral to the project is well-known local botanist Ray Coupe, author of Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest. “He worked for the Ministry of the Environment and is a wealth of knowledge,” Giroux explained.
“He came to the school and reviewed the project, and did a presentation for a couple of classrooms. He has been a huge support and help, suggesting plant options and even providing some plants for the project.”
Intermediate classes are responsible for habitat restoration—planting native plants.
“Grades 6/7 are going to do some kind of a native plant garden with edible plants, and will do a garden with that theme,” she continued.
“Grades 4/5 will be responsible for general planting, grades 2 and 3 will be in charge of the raised beds, and K-1 will be working on a water wall in the upper field. We’ve been collecting recycled materials and containers for the wall.”
She said they’ve looked at the cut by the driveway, the slope below Pigeon, the slope above 2nd Avenue, and are working to get a wheelchair path put in along the fenceline.
“We’ll do some xeriscaping on one of the slopes where it’s really hot and dry,” she said.
“There’s an engineering project in the library with cardboard tubes and marbles—the kids are learning the planning process. They’re drawing the blueprint, prototyping, and then going back and tweaking their plan.”
Some of the classrooms at Sacred Heart have worm composters, which are very popular with the students.
Some of the native plants for the project, chosen with Ray’s help, were purchased from Split Rock Nursery, some will be provided by Scout Island, and some from Ray himself.
“We’ll also build some shade structures along the upper fence where the kids like to sit,” said Giroux, adding that recycled wood will be used for the garden boxes.
Durfeld Log and Timber is giving the kids a bunch of stumps to use for outdoor classroom areas, Acklands Granger is donating tools and gloves, and St. Vincent de Paul Society is helping with the beds so the produce that ripens in the summer will be used for its charitable food program.
There will be a great deal of parental support, as well as help from all Sacred Heart staff members. The students are enthusiastic and excited.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the habitat rebuilt and getting an idea of what it used to look like,” said Jessabelle Trelenberg, a grade 4 student.
Michael Phillips, grade 6, said he really enjoyed it when Ray came to the school. “We started to learn more about First Nations and the plants that were here, and it’s just nice to know what all was here before,” he explained. “There’s a lot of connection between this and what my Grandmother Minnie taught me.”
“I’m looking forward to the edible plants like wild strawberries, Saskatoons, soap berries, and raspberries,” added grade 6 student Marissa Sellars.
“I want to see if rebuilding the natural habitat will encourage wild animals here, like birds building nests in the trees,” said Remi Giroux, grade 5. “I’m really excited about this.”
Giroux describes herself as an outdoors person with forestry background. “Several teachers on staff have similar interests,” she continued. “We’re sitting on five acres right here in the middle of Williams Lake. I think it’s important for kids to get outside as often as possible during the day as part of their school day.”
She said the timing for this project is perfect. “The theme for Catholic schools this year is ‘Care for Our Common Home’ based on the pope’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si,” she explained.
Having all the kids involved is all about ownership, she added. “They can look at something and say, ‘I did that.’ This also reflects our redesigned curriculum, with more project based approach to learning,” she said.
“Kids outside are kids engaged – fresh air and getting their hands dirty – I think that’s what it’s all about.”
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.