FAWA’s (Fredericton Area Watersheds Association) schoolyard habitats projects are geared toward middle schools in the City of Fredericton who lack opportunities for outside education due to tight budgets and short class times, preventing students from participating in field trips. The construction of schoolyard habitats, their cross-curricula integration, and the use of “hands-on” learning experiences that embrace these local resources, serve to address this deficiency.
Late in 2005, we met with the Principal and a number of art, science, and social studies teachers at Devon Middle School, all of whom were in enthusiastic support of a full outdoor classroom. The group agreed to work with us to develop a site plan for the school and to identify means by which outdoor activities can be effectively integrated into their existing curriculum.
Utilization of a schoolyard habitat resource also provides participating teachers with a professional development opportunity through the acquisition of the tools and skills necessary to deliver a true hands-on, inquiry-based approach to extending the classroom into the outdoors, while fostering the goals of environmental education.
Beyond the school, the construction of an outdoor classroom also benefits community members by providing opportunities to increase their environmental awareness and knowledge, while offering additional means of participation in both their child’s education and local environmental stewardship.
Achievements To Date
Thanks to the support of the Fredericton Community Foundation and in-kind support from School District 18, the City of Fredericton, and JD Irving, we were able to complete the installation of both a tree nursery (50 white spruce trees) and a native wildflower bed (13 species) at Devon Middle School before the onset of the first fall frosts. Students were involved at all stages of the project — design, installation, and maintenance.
Site designs by Devon Middle School Grade 6–8 students.
White spruce nursery beds.
Species guide for the current native wildflower species established by landscaping the concrete school sign at the north-east corner of the playground.
Community response to the project is overwhelmingly positive. The installation of the native wildflower bed generated a lot of interest from the public as to the species of plants chosen and their benefits (attracting birds and insects; educational opportunities; and 3-season inflorescence, the colours of which complement the school sign) and what could be possible in
their own gardens.
To date, no vandalism or disturbance of either the nursery beds or the native wildflower landscaping has occurred. This is significant, given that the schoolgrounds receive considerable traffic after hours and have experienced defacement and destruction of property in the past.
We are continuing to work with the educators and administration of Devon Middle School on the development of approaches to integrate this new resource across grades and curricula. Later this year, it is our intention — resources permitting — to further expand the schoolyard habitat facility (see below).
After 1 year in the nursery beds, the white spruce trees will be large enough to be transplanted into the green space behind the school. It is intended that the trees be planted in clusters of 5–7; students at Devon Middle School have indicated that they would like some shade from the sun in this otherwise open space.
In the meantime, the Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management at the University of New Brunswick has invited groups of students from Devon Middle School to tour the nursery facilities at the Hugh John Flemming Forestry Centre as well as join existing undergraduate students for lessons in tree identification. Seeds of a variety of native New Brunswick tree species will also be made available to the middle school students for germination in the classroom. After a few months, these seedlings can then be transplanted to the school’s nursery beds, offering a more complete
Monitoring and planting at the native wildflower bed will continue, with student assistance. It is intended that additional species be introduced.
Later this year, with in-kind assistance from District 18 and the Department of Education, a constructed wetland will be installed on the site.
Aerial view of proposed constructed wetland.
Plan view of proposed constructed wetland.
We have also been approached by Garden Creek and Connaught Street schools to aid both in the development of a nature trail system and in the production of cross-curricular materials linked to a proposed outdoor classroom, respectively. We hope to pursue these projects in 2008–2009.
Proposed trail system at Garden Creek School.
Proposed outdoor classroom at Connaught Street School.