2022 Greener Greenspace Profile
Irma Coulson P.S. Climate Ready School Project
In partnership with the national non-profit organization Evergreen, and the Halton District School Board, Irma Coulson Public School in Milton, ON, transformed their school grounds into a nature rich play and learning environment.
Design and Process
This school grounds transformation project is part of Evergreen’s Climate Ready Schools initiative that sees the potential of school grounds as valuable public spaces to mitigate climate change and foster environmental literacy and stewardship. Before the project started, the school grounds were mostly turf and asphalt. Working with Evergreen, a landscape designer and with input from students, educators and the wider community, the school grounds were transformed into a dynamic, naturalized environment with play areas, outdoor classroom spaces and food gardens.
At the start of the project, soil rehabilitation was needed to improve compacted soils and address persistent muddy conditions that resulted in dying trees and a lack of shade. Impermeable surfaces were removed and replaced with extensive vegetation to improve air quality and reduce flooding risks. A diversity of trees were planted around the property to provide shade. Native shrubs such as Serviceberry and Pagoda Dogwoods provide microclimate improvements, natural habitat and seasonal interest. Berms, remediated soil and vegetation cover help prevent flooding and allow stormwater to be absorbed in place. Accessible food gardens provide produce for the school community and Milton residents.
The school grounds were strategically designed to foster biodiversity and provide habitat for local wildlife. As the vegetation grows and wildlife is attracted to the site, it is hoped that students will be able to observe and learn about local wildlife and develop strategies to protect it.
To reduce the environmental footprint and cost, the project incorporated natural materials and repurposed materials, such as school bricks left over from local schools in the area.
There are two teams to care for the space: a Gardening Club and an Eco Team. Both focus on maintenance, care, and education to ensure the space is in good condition over time. The surrounding community is welcome to use the Climate Ready Space before or after school hours. The food gardens are open for harvesting during the summer months and often produce is shared with families in the area.
The outdoor space support the school’s efforts to foster opportunities for interaction with nature and community stewardship of public greenspaces. Students at the school learn about protecting the environment, but also about social and environmental justice and the right for all beings to have healthy environments to thrive. The school grounds are a place to learn about climate change adaptation and mitigation and how landscape design and stewardship can make a difference in making cities and towns more resilient. The school community is passionate and excited about the space, and is happy to see the growing momentum to transform school ground into nature-filled spaces to enhance climate resilience and improve health and education outcomes.
The Climate Ready Space at Irma Coulson P.S. supports the Town of Milton’s Restoration Framework to create diverse habitats for local wildlife and rehabilitate degraded natural spaces.
For more information on Irma Coulson P.S.'s Climate Ready School, click here.
For more information on Evergreen's Climate Ready School initiative, click here.
Photos c/o Irma Coulson P.S.
Greener Greenspaces is a recognition program for sites from across Canada that exemplify greener greenspace stewardship. The aim of the program is to showcase examples of ecologically-focused land care as a means to inspire others and to further the movement across Canada.See the full list of 2022 recognition recipients here