Staff and students of St. Nicholas Catholic Elementary School in Newmarket have teamed up with Windfall Ecology Centre and the LSRCA to transform the paved Kindergarten area into a piece of paradise.
The St. Nicholas Depave Event is a collaborative effort with close to 80 volunteers and community partners of all ages eagerly working together to green the schoolyard.
On Friday, Sept. 23, using hand tools and shovels, volunteers removed approximately 150 square meters of pavement by hand. Once completed, the rejuvenated kindergarten area will feature a rain garden, native plants and shrubs, and trees, as well as a natural outdoor classroom for students.
In addition to increasing the greenspace in the schoolyard, the new gardens, trees and permeable surfaces will work to benefit our local bodies of water. The increased number of hard surfaces in urban areas, like driveways, parking lots, and schoolyards, interrupt the natural water cycle by preventing rain water from infiltrating into the ground.
“Prior to the Depave event, St. Nicholas’ kindergarten area was nearly one hundred percent paved,” said Andrea Fallone, Program Manager at Windfall Ecology Centre. “By removing hard surfaces like pavement and replacing it with gardens and trees, we’re allowing rain to absorb into the ground naturally, preventing polluted stormwater run-off from reaching our local waterways untreated.”
The Depave event was the first of many schoolyard greening projects at St. Nicholas that will help create a more natural schoolyard for students, as well as educational opportunities for active and experiential outdoor learning. “Our vision is to create a forest of biodiversity where our students have an opportunity to explore and learn in a natural environment,” said Noelle Mikkelsen, the St. Nicholas CES teacher who has spearheaded the schoolyard naturalization project. “We are so grateful to our sponsors for helping us inspire a new generation of environmental stewards.”
Funding for the project was provided by RBC Blue Water Project, Green Communities Foundation, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment, St. Nicholas Catholic School Council and St. Nicholas Green Team.
This Depave project is a partnership of Windfall Ecology Centre, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, St. Nicholas Catholic Elementary School, the York Catholic District School Board, Green Communities Canada, and Depave Paradise.
Special recognition goes to the North Newmarket Lions Club, who showed their support by providing a free community BBQ.
Main photo: St. Nicholas teacher Noelle Mikkelsen and students lift the first piece of pavement in the Kindergarten area.
Article and photos courtesy of Windfall Ecology Centre.