Field of Dreams to Sprout at Bradford School (12 photos)



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“When it all started, they just wanted to make a difference in their community… It became so much more than that”, proudly declares a teacher

The sloping north side of the schoolyard at Fieldcrest Elementary in Bradford is currently a weed-covered field. But the students have already started the transformation that will restore natural vegetation and create a space that offers connection with nature.

The “Weed the North” project began last year, when a group of Fieldcrest students began to explore what it means to be a global citizen in terms of responsibility and action.

“They were interested in the issues facing humanity and the environment,” said teacher Anne Wright.

The students were particularly fascinated by the fact that before the school was built the property was agricultural land and before that a forest.

They examined the weed-overgrown field and came up with a plan to “renovate” and restore the property, creating a “no mowing” area that would preserve the natural habitat for the future.

“They wanted to plant native species, create trails, plant shrubs and create a conservation area for students, staff and our community to learn and preserve,” Wright said.

They not only wanted to have a positive impact on the community, but also to leave a better world.

It was a big plan and a big vision, which was going to need a lot of support to be more than just a dream.

Fortunately, the students had this support. The Simcoe County District School Board Experiential Learning Department provided a grant of $ 2,000, which was matched by the Fieldcrest School Board.

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) has become a major partner, providing expertise and financial support, helping children develop a four-phase plan to reclaim the overgrown field, even providing native saplings for students to plant.

The only obstacle was COVID-19.

COVID closures and distance learning have effectively meant the project named “Weed the North” to reflect the students’ love of basketball and the Toronto Raptors had to be postponed.

It was only last week that the students were able to go to “their” field and start planting.

Peter Shuttleworth of LSRCA, who liaises with the school, recently brought in shovels and 100 saplings for planting, including oaks, hackberry, red cedar and gray dogwood.

The students were joined by LSRCA staff, teachers and two special guests – Bradford Mayor Rob Keffer and City Councilor. Ron Orr – who helped with the plantation.

“This is the first planting event that we are doing here,” said Shuttleworth.

He noted that it would have been possible to plant trees this spring, “but due to our restrictions, only the staff would have been involved, and that sort of defeated the goal of getting the students to take in charge of their property, be proud of their natural heritage.

In addition to the trees provided by the Conservation Authority, the students also grew their own saplings.

“First, we learned it in our class. We were doing experiments – growing small trees and planting them. It was hard work, ”said one student.

The hardest part? “Growth. It takes a long time!

When asked what he wanted to see, in the Weed the North field, he quickly replied, “A big forest, where I can play cat – like Scanlon Creek.

The school’s deputy principal, Martin Orr, witnessed the start of the restoration efforts.

“Our plan is to create a path through here, to make this land a little bit more useful,” he said, offering an outdoor educational experience.

Fieldcrest is a large school with 21 laptops.

“It’s like a school outside the school,” said Orr, noting that even when a new primary school is built in Bradford and the boundaries of the school are redrawn, “our school is going to stay great, with several laptops “.

Having an outdoor space planted with native trees and shrubs, dotted with openings of meadows and crossed by accessible walkways, will provide an indispensable link with nature for the students of the school.

It will be “mindfulness,” said Wright. Plans call for the gateways to be posted with plaques featuring “Mindfulness Exercises: What Do You Hear?” ” What do you see ? How do you feel ?

The pandemic has created challenges for students, adding to feelings of uncertainty, social pressure and disconnection. This made the Weed the North project all the more important.

“It’s the only thing that gave them some control over their lives. It was good for all of us, ”Wright said of the planning, the determination to protect the environment, the hands-on activities. “When it all started, they just wanted to make a difference in their community… It became so much more.”

She added, “The students are really showing themselves as leaders. They are really invested in it. “

“In today’s world, we need to make sure kids know how to use nature and the environment and put themselves in a different place,” Coun said. Orr, as he watched the young stewards of the environment plant the trees.

Weed the North is more than just planting trees. It is a long-term project that will take years to implement and will have an impact on the students, the school and the community for years to come.

“As the trees grow they can look back and tell they were part of it,” Wright said.

“Ultimately, we will develop more restoration efforts,” said Shuttleworth. “I hope we will involve more schools. This benefits the watershed, but it really benefits the children, by getting their hands dirty.

“It will transform,” he said, not only the landscape, but everyone involved.

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