A document with the word caa on it.

Oct 9, 2013

7 min. read

This post was submitted to us by Principal Darren Seymour at John Graves Simcoe Public School, the school selected to receive the $20,000 re-greening prize during 2012’s CAA RecycleDrive.

Great things come to those who wait (and wish). For the past couple of years, the parents, staff, and students of JG Simcoe PS have been exploring ways in which we could improve our school yard. Consistently, we strive to increase and improve student achievement – that is our daily focus. What we know is that student and community engagement in school will serve to assist us in working toward our achievement goals. One of our plans was to create an outdoor learning environment.

With the support of the CAA and the Ontario Tire Stewardship, JG Simcoe was awarded $20 000 for school yard improvements. The award came about through their RecycleDrive campaign which was won by a local Kingston business, Car Medics. The owner of Car Medics, Phil Deveau, chose JG Simcoe PS as the recipient of the award. Truly, it was our good fortune!

To say that the JG Simcoe Greenspace has transformed a part of our school yard would be an understatement. Visually, the space we utilized for the Greenspace had all of the appeal of a fenced in vacant lot. Other than students and parents walking by it or through it, the space has gone unused for more than ten years. After we were awarded the $20 000, Terry Childs from Nature’s Way Landscaping, created the plans for what the Greenspace would look like. The plans were amazing but I still couldn’t imagine how they would look in reality.

Over the course of a few weeks in August, Terry and his partners from the Upper Canada Chapter of Landscape Ontario, came together to make the plans a reality. First, the lot was cleared and then came the greenery, recycled tire mulch, and limestone blocks.  The results are truly better than we ever could have imagined.

A fenced in yard with tires.

Our initial plan for the school yard at JG Simcoe PS was to create an outdoor classroom – an alternate learning environment which would provide students and teachers with a different ‘space’ outside of our four walls to discuss, learn, and explore. We achieved more than we bargained for.

The previously unused space, from the first day of school, became a gathering spot for our community as they arrived to drop off or pick up their children. The energy around the Greenspace is positive and vibrant – one that connects our families to each other and to the school in a deeper fashion. While we didn’t anticipate this impact, we have embraced it as a positive outcome, as have our families.

A rock garden with a tree in the middle.

Early in the school year, school teachers across the province work to foster a sense of community in the classrooms and schools. At JG Simcoe PS, this has been our tradition, as well.  This year, our new JG Simcoe Greenspace, was one of the areas utilized as a gathering place for cultivating community amongst our students.

A group of people posing for a photo.

During the first week of school, I witnessed teachers and students collaborating together in this outdoor space, making plans for a successful school year, developing trust, and fostering community. As well, our Simcoe Star colour houses were established. In the new Greenspace, they came together to write their songs and chants which will represent their colour house through the school year. The sound of school spirit is an amazing thing and this year our surrounding community has watched and heard it being fostered in our new Greenspace.

The Grand Opening is almost upon us. The new JG Simcoe Greenspace has already been embraced by our students and our community. If there were any kinks to be worked out before the ‘official’ unveiling, they have been. Honestly though, there were no kinks.

A man in a suit and tie standing behind a microphone.

It will be wonderful to be able to recognize all of those who have contributed to this project coming to fruition – from CAA and the Ontario Tire Stewardship, to our friends at Nature’s Way Landscaping, Car Medics, and all of the individuals who came together to create the JG Simcoe Greenspace.

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