PortsToronto and Evergreen Announce the Six School Playgrounds Getting Greener this Spring

From ripping out asphalt and planting trees to building an interactive water wall, downtown Toronto schools will bring nature to the playground

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TORONTO, April 15, 2015 /CNW/ - PortsToronto and Evergreen today announced the six schools that will receive support to design and create a thriving outdoor schoolyard space this spring, as part of the Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds Program. These six schools are the first of 18 schools that will benefit from a three-year partnership announced in 2014 between Evergreen and PortsToronto to enable the greening of primary school playgrounds in neighbourhoods downtown and along the waterfront.

Many of the schools chosen this year are located in high-traffic neighbourhoods in the downtown core where there is a limited ability to connect with nature due to a lack of greenspace. Each year six schools will be chosen and, through financial support and the donation of its staff and expertise, PortsToronto will work with Evergreen to help bring the project plans of the selected schools to life.

The schools that will receive funding to create greener playground spaces this spring are Bruce Junior Public School, St. Paul Catholic School, Holy Family Catholic School, St. Mary Catholic School, The Waterfront School, and Toronto Island Public & Natural Science School. Full descriptions of the schools and projects can be found below.

"The projects that will be supported through PortsToronto's contribution to this program range from removing asphalt and planting native plants and vegetable gardens, to creating stone seating and establishing shade trees to enable outdoor classroom experiences, to a water wall that will teach children about the properties of water," said Deborah Wilson, Vice President Communications and Public Affairs, PortsToronto. "This program is a perfect fit with our organization and we are thrilled to be able to leverage both financial and human resources to help these schools bring nature to their playgrounds. Kids should have the opportunity to connect with the outdoors and get dirt under their fingernails as they gain first-hand experience about nature. We are very proud of our participation in this program and look forward to rolling up our sleeves to help create these school projects."

Applications for consideration in this program were submitted by schools within the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto District Catholic School Board in November 2014. Evergreen then consulted with the schools to identify specific needs and priorities. The selection of the schools was made by Evergreen and a panel of experts based on criteria that included location, integration with curriculum, existing conditions and innovation of approach.

"Our children benefit greatly from growing up connected to nature. Daily contact on the school ground enriches the learning environment while creating a play environment that nurtures the child's body and mind and their social and emotional well-being" says Cam Collyer, Director of Children's Program at Evergreen. "When they are well designed, downtown school grounds present a great opportunity to ensure that all children reap the benefits of regular contact with nature."

Schools and Project Descriptions

Bruce Junior Public School
The school has a multi-phased plan to increase native biodiversity and create a nature-based play-space in their full-day kindergarten (FDK) area. Funding for this year's phase will support improvements in two unique areas of their grounds, specifically their outdoor classroom, which directly faces their community on Larchmount Avenue, and their new FDK area. In the school's outdoor classroom area, overgrown, non-native shrubs will be replaced with native shrubs significant to local bird and insect populations. In the new kindergarten area, native trees will be planted and classes will be taking responsibility for caring for, (and naming), the trees as part of their early-years curriculum.

St. Paul Catholic School
Located between the communities of Regent Park and Corktown, St. Paul Catholic School acts as a community hub, where parents and students meet before and after class. The school plans to add stone seating to better accommodate both outdoor learning and community socializing. They will also revitalize their existing raised planters, by removing overgrown grasses and planting native shrubs to increase biodiversity, and create an understory for the existing trees.

Holy Family Catholic School
Funding for Holy Family School will contribute to a large-scale revitalization plan to replace the existing asphalt with trees, install raised planters for vegetable tending and install a variety of seating to accommodate outdoor curricular activities and passive play. The current school grounds are comprised completely of asphalt and a greenspace for both students and the wider community is needed. Funding will be spent on fast-growing native trees that will be planted to provide shade for seating areas, and for vegetable seeds and native shrubs for the raised planters.

St. Mary Catholic School
Students at St. Mary School will be receiving new learning features through the school's plan to increase nature-learning opportunities on their grounds. One feature is a water wall, an interactive system of pegs and chutes that allows children to manipulate water and learn about its properties. The school will also be creating food gardens in raised bed planters. The new features will help to promote learning about natural resources and to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for the environment.

The Waterfront School
Funding for Waterfront School will contribute to their large-scale redesign plans in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board and the City of Toronto taking place in 2015. Plans for the school include a new play-space and dedicated kindergarten area, vegetable gardens, tree planting and shaded outdoor classroom seating. The Waterfront School is housed within the Harbourfront Community Centre along Lake Ontario's shoreline, yet it currently has limited outdoor space for students. Land from a nearby park, (Ireland Park), will be reassigned to the school, and funding will used to plant large trees to provide instant shade for the new outdoor classroom.

Toronto Island Public & Natural Science School
The Toronto Island School has been successfully incorporating gardening into their curriculum for several years. Previous support from Evergreen has assisted the school with installing their current 17 raised garden boxes. This year, they will be expanding their garden into a new area of their grounds with an additional two raised garden boxes. They will also be planting trees around their existing outdoor classroom to provide shade and protection from strong lake winds. The new additions to their school grounds will help the school to further achieve their nature-school learning objectives which include healthy eating, growing plants, and energy cycles.

About Evergreen (http://www.evergreen.ca/)
Since 1990, Evergreen has engaged over one million Canadians to take action and create green, healthy cities. Evergreen works with diverse partners from all sectors to build, support, test and scale bold new ideas to solve pressing urban issues that bridge the natural and built environments. Working with a national network of community and institutional partners, Evergreen has helped to transform over 4,000 school grounds into natural learning grounds, engage over 100,000 volunteers in stewarding public greenspaces, and create collaborative strategies that advance how we plan and build more sustainable cities. Evergreen operates from its home base at Evergreen Brick Works, an internationally award winning centre for inspiring and showcasing innovation in green cities, a dynamic social enterprise and a LEED platinum campus

About PortsToronto (http://www.portstoronto.com/)
For more than 100 years PortsToronto, (formerly the Toronto Port Authority), has worked with its partners at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to enhance the economic growth of the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. PortsToronto owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which welcomes more than two million passengers each year; the Outer Harbour Marina, one of Canada's largest freshwater marinas; and, Terminals 51 and 52, which provide transportation, distribution, storage and container services to businesses at the Port of Toronto. PortsToronto is committed to fostering strong, healthy and sustainable communities and has invested more than $6.7 million since 2009 in charitable initiatives and environmental programs that benefit communities along Toronto's waterfront and beyond. PortsToronto operates in accordance with the Canada Marine Act and is guided by a nine-member board with representation from all three levels of government.

SOURCE PortsToronto

For further information: Lea Anne Armstrong, Evergreen, 416-596-1495 x221, larmstrong@evergreen.ca; Erin Mikaluk, Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations, PortsToronto, Tel: (416) 863-2065; Cell: (647) 298-0544, E-mail: emikaluk@portstoronto.com

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