St. John School's Field of Dreams
Clare Male / Shelley Berry
St. John School
63 Victoria Rd. N Guelph, Ontario Canada
October 11, 2011
St. John School is a 50-year-old institution located in Guelph, Ontario (pop.118,000). Our property sits on a main traffic artery, surrounded by heavily populated residential neighbourhoods, local businesses, a high school, church & large recreational facility. More than 430 students, from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, attend St. John School through grades JK-8. We also have a significant number of students with special needs.
Our yard is a gathering place for many families with young children and is utilized all year-round by the City of Guelph’s Minor Sports Teams (soccer and baseball) as well as several local community clubs.
Given the school’s age, one would expect to find mature trees dispersed throughout the playground. Unfortunately, that’s not our reality. When St. John School was built more than 50 years ago, there wasn’t much talk or concern about a depleting ozone layer or the harmful effects of UV rays. Planting trees wasn’t a priority. The story is much different today. Given that our students spend on average, 25% of their day outside, this lack of shade has become a growing concern! Our playground needs a facelift & our students need shade.
LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS
In June of 2010, our School Council initiated a project that would see our entire playground & surrounding green space transformed into a shady, more naturalized & stimulating outdoor environment.
A committee, lead by parent volunteers was established to oversee the project's development & execution. This incredibly passionate team, which also includes the Principal/Vice-Principal/Secretary/Treasurer, members of the Student Environmental Club & School Board, has been working diligently to make a difference, not just for the students & staff of today, but also for the thousands that will follow in their footsteps.
We have already conducted research; launched our project to the community; secured the expertise of a licensed landscape architect firm; created a master plan for the our entire property; obtained school board representation to ensure our plans are executable; raised $17,000 toward our first phase; developed/distributed a RFP; established trade relationships/negotiated deep discounts; worked with our municipality to re-furbish a baseball diamond, graded a low-lying area in the yard to prevent stagnant water build-up/mosquito procreation, created a new pollinatator garden; restored a portion of our pathway, planted some trees, installed some raised berming & created a small play area for our sr. kindergarten students.
With phase one behind us, we are now focused on the next wave. We have a solid infrastructure in place to turn our blueprints into reality next summer. However, while our hopes and dreams are very high, our financial resources are not. Coupled with the funds that our council is aggressively raising, funding from AVIVA will add to our certainty of seeing our phase 2 plans for a better, safer, more inclusive schoolyard come to fruition:
- Junior Kindergarten Enclosure - The addition of trees, a small play structure, a sandbox & rubberized safety surfacing material will transform this asphalt space into a safer, more stimulating environment to play, socialize & learn.
- Outdoor Classroom – Creation of a new learning centre with natural stone seating, 5 large trees, shrubs & bird/bat houses will provide an engaging environment to foster social, physical & cognitive outdoor learning.
- Courtyard Naturalization & Reading Room – Our large, paved courtyard is where most students gather & play. We hope to remove sections of pavement, insert several tree islands around an existing play structure & introduce some new seating to give students a protected area to sit, reflect, talk, read a book, play games or observe nature during recess/lunch breaks.
- Pathway Completion – We’d like to restore the remaining section of our path by grading this area & planting 12 large trees.
- Outdoor Volleyball Court – This area will help promote physical activity. The proposed location needs to be leveled, posts/net installed, an equipment bunker & berming added.
Once phase 2 is complete, maintenance will become the responsibility of the School Board. To complete our final phase, which includes parking lot enhancements & changes to the school’s entrances & front façade to create a more welcoming environment for staff, students & visitors alike, additional funding will be generated through council fundraisers, new grant applications & corporate donations.
By supporting us, you’ll be improving the quality & safety of outdoor play for our students. You’ll also be helping us make a significant & sustainable impact on our community & our environment. Our plans will reduce our school’s carbon footprint & increase biodiversity. Equally important, you'll be reinforcing our message to students that goals are attainable, change is possible!