"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to getbetter. It’s not.”
– from The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
It all began with one tiny seed. An outdoor hike to the nearby trail guided by Dale, the school’s environmental mentor from the community conservation authority, uncovered the gifts that nature brings as summer magically transitions into fall. Accompanied by parents and grandparents, co-op students and volunteers, the kindergarten children from E.T. Carmichael Public School in the Near North District School Board used a shared iPad and some digital cameras to capture evidence of animal life that was tracked, nibbled, and scratched along the path. Respectfully minimal samples came back with the photo documentation so that the students could continue to research, uncover, and discover.
The wonderings of these students and others in our school grew into a collective desire to do something for the natural world just outside our windows. We invited our environmental mentor back to the school so we could learn more about what our community urgently needs. How could our school have a lasting positive impact on the environment?
Bringing More Monarch Butterflies to North Bay
As early-Primary educators, we wondered, “What can we learn, as a school, from growing a garden together?” We extended an invitation to the school’s teachers, administration, custodians, and secretary to share their ideas and expertise. From there, the JK to grade 6 students, staff, and community at E.T. Carmichael engaged in a focused, year-long, authentic, living, and ongoing “Garden Inquiry,” with the goal of celebrating our learning at a Share Fair for the school and the community in the spring.
Once the kernel of the idea was formed, the JK/SK children wrote a persuasive letter to the principal asking if they could help the community by planting a garden that would bring monarch butterflies back. They knew that milkweed was becoming depleted and that this was impacting the butterfly population.
As conversation evolved and ideas grew, we saw how this collaborative project quickly began to foster positive attitudes toward environmental stewardship and cross-curricular learning. Soil-testing samplers, butterfly study kits, life-cycle exploration, and habitat research were a natural fit. The planning, design, and implementation of the garden inspired real problem-solving opportunities for the students from JK to grade 6. Through measuring the garden’s sun exposure and plant growth; estimating soil volume and studying temperature and weather patterns over time; determining the cost of materials and suitability of plants; inviting community-building volunteers and scheduling care of the garden through the summer, math grew out of the Garden Inquiry naturally and everywhere!
Science experiments to observe the effect of light, temperature, water, and soil quality on plants, and composting with worms, grew horticultural expertise in the youngest of scientists! Letters to inform families, invite guests, and thank experts lent themselves