Most Prince Edward Island schools are situated on old fields – large brick buildings in the midst of grassland. At many schools, teachers and students have recognized that planting trees would help to make the school yards more interesting and attractive.
The Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project is trying to help as many students and teachers have the opportunity to green their schoolgrounds; creating seed sources, habitat, pollinator garden, outdoor learning areas, shade trees and more!
Contact us to green your school yard: Gary Schneider (902) 651-2575.
Why is Schoolground Naturalization Important?
School yard plantings should be considered an extension of the classroom, becoming the focal spot for teaching a variety of subjects. They also provide a number of ecological and economic benefits such as reduced heating/cooling costs at your school, pollinator gardens and improved wildlife habitat.
Schoolground naturalized areas are excellent places to explore and learn about:
Why Use Native Plants?
Native plants are usually very reliable – they have adapted to the climatic conditions of the area and serve a variety of functions within the ecosystem. More important they are proven performers – hardy, fitting into a wide variety of habitats, valuable to wildlife, useful for stabilizing streambanks and/or controlling soil erosion. Instead of looking for exotic species, many of which cause serious disturbances in our areas or need winter protection, look at the beauty of native plants all year long. Many native species have colourful twigs, buds and fruit, showy flowers and an exotic structure.
Many native species have medicinal uses and were valued by indigenous peoples. As well, plants are used for building boats or as a source of food. Plantings can save schools money, through lower maintenance costs and reduction in pesticide use. Lawns must be mowed regularly and are often fertilized or sprayed with “weed” killers. Once established, native plantings need only periodic pruning and mulching that the students themselves can take on.
How to Implement Schoolground Naturalization
Steps to Sucess
- Get Students Involved: A good method is to offer a list of suitable plants for the site with information on how they grow and what types of wildlife they attract. The students then do the planning, design and planting.
- Be Flexible: It is better to put in a dozen plants than none and you can always expand later. On the other hand, don’t be afraid of the energy that may be out there. Larger plantings are exciting and give a sense of accomplishment when they are done. Just make sure you can look after the plantings.
- Find Expertise: If you don’t have the expertise, find someone in the community who will help – call up someone in a local environmental or natural history group, a university or college biology club, garden club, a local landscaper or contact us!
- Plant Healthy and Plant Native: Plant only good quality plants grown in the area and remember that it is the rootstock that is important, not the height of the plant.
- Engage the students: Make sure the students are interested – if you can’t inspire them, call in someone who can or visit a woodlot with someone who loves trees and wildlife.
- Create Community Connections: Promote it within the greater school community. Get locals involved in promoting good values and students will take pride and ownership in the plantings. They also can save money through lower maintenance such as needless mowing; often in steep unused areas.
- Make it Fun: The students must do the plantings but make it an entertaining event. You can save the earth and enjoy yourself at the same time.
- Plan to maintain the plantings: A heavy mulch of wood chips goes a long way towards lessening future problems with weeding and the need for watering.
What Else Can Students and Teachers Do?
- Initiate a rare species rescue program
- Start a small nursery at the school
- Do a community planting
- Adopt a nearby pond, stream or forest
- Volunteer with groups working in your area of interest such a local watershed group
- Start a composting project for fertilizing future plantings or just to give away
- Set up and maintain bird feeders and bird waterers
- Build and set up nest boxes