Kelset elementary is designed to have classrooms back straight out onto play spaces. At the North Saanich school, that means a playground, ball field, and a carefully crafted natural area.
“When the kids were at McTavish the place they loved to play was the muddy field out back,” said former Kelset parent Brenda Taylor. “They loved to play in that unstructured way.”
With the McTavish elementary school closing, parents planned ahead for the move to Kelset three years ago. Taylor, whose daughter Piper Battersby is now in Grade 6, was among those who wanted that play using mud, water, imagination and learning about nature to continue.
“The seed to create a naturescape area was planted before the school was even built,” said teacher Maria St. Amand, who led the McTavish Green Team and brought those goals to Kelset.
“We all need to take action to help correct the wrongs we have inflicted on Mother Earth,” she said. “One significant way is by planting trees and shrubs and we have done that, big time, here at Kelset school. I am so thankful to the parents and the naturescape committee who had the vision to help create this naturescape garden.”
Parents, students and other volunteers came out for digging, planting, building beds and fences, and stream building. And the natural play space is an ongoing project, with more greenery already funded for spring planting.
“We love the idea that students will be able to step out of their indoor classrooms and step right into their outdoor classroom,” St. Amand said. “As part of Kelset’s 21st century learning, it’s not all about technology. We hope to foster that connection to the environment by providing the students with a natural place where they can play, explore, observe, imagine and learn about water, plants and the urban ecology.”
This year, as part of its 50th anniversary celebration in 2010, Golder Associates Ltd. donated $85,000 to Tree Canada’s Greening Canada’s School Grounds program to plant trees in 20 schools across the country. Kelset elementary received $3,000 for plantings that now include Indian plum, red elderberry, evergreen, huckleberry, hazelnut, camas lily, salmon berry, salal, Garry oak and birch.
Besides planting and maintaining the trees, Tree Canada will also conduct first-, second- and fifth-year assessments while retaining the title to carbon offsets.
The program “is a living investment in our communities and creates a better environment for our children and future generations,” said Mark Brightman, president, Golder Associates Ltd. “Our relationship with Tree Canada is one of many legacy projects Golder began in 2010 to commemorate our 50th anniversary.”