PortsToronto and Evergreen to Support Six New Downtown Schools for Second Year of Playground Greening Project

Replacing asphalt with vegetable gardens and outdoor learning spaces, six more downtown schools are going green this spring

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TORONTO, May 19, 2016 /CNW/ - PortsToronto and Evergreen today announced the second group of six downtown Toronto schools that will receive support to green their outdoor spaces this spring as part of Evergreen's Children's Program. Eighteen schools in total, including six who received support last year, will benefit from the $150,000 three-year partnership announced in 2014 between Evergreen and PortsToronto to transform primary school playgrounds into dynamic outdoor learning spaces that include vegetable and pollinator gardens, as well as shaded seating areas.

Many of the schools that benefit from Evergreen's program are situated in high-density areas of Toronto's downtown core and lack green space where students can experience important daily interactions with nature. PortsToronto's investment will help develop and create naturalization projects that provide students with healthy outdoor spaces in which to learn and play. By planting native trees, vegetable gardens and wildflowers, nature-based learning opportunities for both the students and the surrounding community are brought to life.

The schools that will receive funding to create greener playground spaces this spring are Dundas Junior Public School, Eastdale Collegiate Institute, Second Street Junior Middle School, Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School and Regional Arts Centre, St. Louis Catholic School and St. Mary Elementary School. Full descriptions of the schools and projects can be found below.

"Through PortsToronto's support, students in this next round of participating schools will gain access to a variety of new outdoor activities, promoting nature-based learning and play. From the beginning, students and teachers will be able to dig in and fully participate in the installation and care of a variety of green spaces ranging from vegetable and rooftop gardens to outdoor classrooms and pollinator gardens," said Deborah Wilson, Vice President Communications and Public Affairs, PortsToronto. "PortsToronto places great importance on protecting the environment and contributing to the community within which we operate. We look forward to yet another year of getting our hands in the soil and helping to bring nature to these downtown and waterfront school yards."

The participating schools were identified and selected by Evergreen through a careful process based on criteria including location, integration with curriculum, existing conditions and innovation of approach. For a naturalization project to be truly successful, it is crucial that schools have the opportunity to integrate the development, monitoring and maintenance of the grounds with what happens in the classroom.

"These are dynamic classrooms where kids can re-connect with nature and, most important, play in the great outdoors," says Cam Collyer, Director of Children's Program at Evergreen. "A green school ground provides a wide range of benefits for children, from an enhanced learning environment and an increase in physical activity to positive community engagement."

Schools and Project Descriptions

Dundas Junior Public School
In spring 2015, students and staff at Dundas Junior Public School installed six raised bed planters and have since been using the space for curriculum-based outdoor learning. This year, they will be building and installing an additional eight raised garden beds to enable more students to take an active role in the project. Students and teachers are working together to bring the vegetables grown in the new gardens into their nutrition program as well as for use in the school lunch program.

Eastdale Collegiate Institute
Funds for Eastdale Collegiate Institute will contribute to two distinct growing projects. The school plans to revitalize a ground-level space and expand its current rooftop garden project. On the rooftop, students will help build vertical food planters and install 120 bucket planters. For the ground-level space, students and teachers will plant wild edibles and grasses. This garden space will be animated cooperatively with FoodShare, a Toronto-based non-profit organization, who will execute Field to Table workshops in which students at Eastdale Collegiate Institute and visiting schools learn about wild edibles, gardening and creating connections with nature.

Second Street Junior Middle School
Second Street Junior Middle School will be creating an outdoor classroom that engages students from junior kindergarten to grade 8 and the surrounding community. They plan to enhance their math and science classes by bringing in outdoor nature-based learning for students to develop a deeper connection with nature. The school will be building a shade structure and seating area around an already successful pollinator garden.

Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School and Regional Arts Centre
Funding for Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School will contribute to engaging their 1,000 students in grades 9 through grade 12 in outdoor learning. Students, teachers, parents, the school board, as well as local environmental teams will be working together to redesign an existing garden space by planting native trees and shrubs. The space will be used to educate students and the community about local ecosystems, plant diversity and to foster students' development as stewards of the land.

St. Louis Catholic School
The primary objective of the school greening project at St. Louis Catholic School is to provide shade and seating for their asphalt school ground. Plans include cutting asphalt and planting three large native trees. Trees will be protected with tree-boxes that will also be used as seating. The project will be used to develop students' skills in math and project planning as students will be building the tree-box/benches and researching and selecting the tree species to be planted. The new shaded seating area will enrich the play area, and increase the social engagement opportunities for students. The benches will be used as the school's "buddy bench" – a designated area where students can sit to advertise the fact that they are in search of a "buddy" to play with at recess.

St. Mary Elementary School
Support for St. Mary Elementary will help to create a dynamic outdoor classroom area that the grade 1-8 students will use for their daily learning and play activities. New large trees and an armourstone seating circle will provide shaded outdoor space for students and teachers, and open up the world of nature-based learning to the entire school.

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 $8 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.

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

SOURCE PortsToronto

For further information: Media Contacts: Sarah Sutton, Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations, PortsToronto, Tel: (416) 863-2054, E-mail: ssutton@portstoronto.com; Cameron Collyer, Director of Children's Programs, Evergreen, Tel: (416) 596-1495 x 228, E-mail: ccollyer@evergreen.ca


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