After months of hard work and collaboration, the students at Maple Ridge Elementary have finished building a new outdoor learning space for the school.
It replaces the old garden that was in the school yard for more than a decade.
“I like this one, this one’s good,” said Tona D., who is in Grade 2.
The new outdoor classroom and school garden is called the Nature Nook. Made up of large rocks and metal garden beds, it’s a space for the whole school community to sit, learn and grow plants and vegetables.
“I am a huge believer in outdoor learning and when my students are outside, they have this sense of calm and they have more engagement,” said Kyleigh Keats, who teaches the Grade 2/3 class behind the project.
“I had a student ask me where their caesar salad came from. And that was kind of the turning point for me when I thought, they really need to know where their food comes from.”
So the class set off on a journey to rebuild the school garden. They began with the planning phase, brainstorming ideas and learning about area.
“They were drawing maps outside, measuring how big the land was and making things to scale on their map,” Keats explained. “They’re only Grade 2 and 3, and they felt like they were doing something really big and important for the school.”
Once the design was set in stone, they began the work phase.
“Well, we had a lot to do,” said Stevie S., who is in Grade 2.
The Grade 2/3 students, assisted by adults and an older buddy class, removed all the weeds, moved the soil and levelled the ground.
“We brought dirt into the yard and we poured all of this,” said Grade 3 student Mack L., gesturing around the Nature Nook. “We built the garden beds.”
“Yeah, well, we had help, and we put wood chips everywhere,” added Tona.
But the hardest part, according to Grade 3 student Aiden Y., was working with the gravel.
“When you filled up a bucket, it was so hard to lift up that you needed an extra person,” he explained.
After that, a crane delivered the rocks to the school and the students filled the beds up with soil and added their plants.
The Nature Nook was nearly complete. The only thing that was left, Keats said, was leaving a lasting mark.
They painted thumbprints in the shape of flowers from the school’s 460 students onto the metal garden beds.
“That way, when the students have moved on from MRE and are maybe in high school, they can come back, revisit the garden and remember that they left their mark on this space,” Keats explained.
The project was funded by a grant from the Ridge Meadows Educational Foundation and the school’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC).