By Nili Kaplan-Myrth
It’s time to start thinking about new ways to “green-up” the schoolyard at Glashan public school by using the money left over from a project that started six years ago.
The Glashan community may remember a competition across Canada in 2014 to create green outdoor learning spaces. As parents at Glashan, we received emails asking us to participate. “Bruce Cockburn to lend his support to the project,” we were told. “His mother went to Glashan!”
Here’s how the project was described on the Glashan Greening Facebook page at the time: “The yard surrounding Glashan School in the Centretown neighbourhood of Ottawa has been described by students and teachers as bleak, grey and uninspiring. An initiative of the Glashan School Council “Green Team,” the Glashan Greening Project is about positive transformations: from grey to green, from passive to proactive, from average to extraordinary. Glashan students welcome the idea of nature and creativity in their schoolyard … of naturalized outdoor classroom spaces … of colour instead of concrete.
What ultimately catalyzed the School Council into action was the loss of a majority of shade trees to emerald ash borer damage. Our community is now united around the “Glashan Green Team” to transform the grey, bleak inner-city schoolyard into a green innovation. Our kids deserve to spend their formative years in healthy spaces that support learning. The benefits of schoolyard greening are increasingly well-documented and include academic, social, health and environmental benefits. Since the Glashan yard is open for public use when school is out, the surrounding community supports and looks forward to benefitting from this project.”
Project objectives were to beautify the schoolyard and make it more functional, to create naturalized social and learning spaces and to establish sustainable community support to look after the green infrastructure.
Proposed outcomes included:
- redefinition of active and quiet areas.
- depaving in sections of the yard.
- creation of naturalized spaces with rocks and logs for seating.
- small raised stage for performances.
- three semi-circular seating areas for use as social spaces and outdoor teaching.
- new trees on the street allowance part of the space.
- rehabilitation of the octagon space.
Parent Council members now ask, “Why was artwork considered a valid use of this fund?” One of the initiatives
was funded by a “Paint It Up” mural grant application. The Glashan Greening Project successfully turned the outside of Glashan into a kinder, more engaging space: what previously looked a lot like the bus station next door became a work of art – check it out! An outdoor seating area with a chess table was also set up.
Even First Avenue Public School got in on the action by raising funds at their annual book sale to help support the greening effort.
Fast forward to present day. Parents and students are struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for creative ways for students to learn outdoors. About $7,000 raised during the greening competition is still sitting in a bank account of the Parents’ Council, yet parents don’t seem to remember the original inspiration for those funds. What an opportunity!
We were there in 2014 with our eldest; our youngest is now at Glashan in Grade 7. She suggested adding a labyrinth or an outdoor stage to the yard. During the pandemic, anything to create outdoor learning spaces would be very helpful.
It is time for the Parents’ Council to decide what to do with the remaining funds, and it is important to stay true to the original intent. Many students from 2014 are now in their 20s, maybe university – perhaps they have suggestions. Perhaps parents and children at First Avenue, Mutchmor and Elgin Street who may end up at Glashan have suggestions. And community members who have creative ideas and skills in areas like landscaping, architecture, environmental activism may want to share ideas about how to use the money.
Over the next year, let’s put together a plan and use the greening fund as it was intended. We need something inspirational to kick off 2021.
Nili Kaplan-Myrth is a member of the Parent Council at Glashan Public School.