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Halton Reimagining the old school yard

A Milton public school will be the first in the Halton District School Board to help transform the school grounds of an existing school into a valuable climate-resilient learning space. The Halton District School Board has formed a unique partnership with the national not-for-profit organization Evergreen, and has selected Irma Coulson Public School in Milton for the first project.

Irma Coulson school will be the first to undergo schoolyard greening

This project involves a unique child-friendly participatory design and public engagement process to address the redevelopment of the school yard to make it more sustainable from an environmental perspective. Typical projects that Evergreen has employed with other school yard reimaging projects include:Rain Gardens. Inadequate drainage results in large puddles and erosion on many school grounds. With the installation of a rain garden comprised of native plants and grasses, a school will gain areas where water can permeate, mitigating flooding not only of the property but also of nearby streams.

Tree Planting. Adding to the urban tree canopy, new trees planted on school properties help prevent erosion and provide cleaner air for students.

A school in Eastern Ontario with a reimagined green schoolyard
  • Mixed Native Species. Planting native species around the school ground means more water absorption compared to grass. Native species also attract more pollinators to the area, adding to the biodiversity. Using a mixed planting pallet also avoids monocultures making the landscape more resilient to the uncertainties of changing conditions.
  • Mulch. Mulch was used throughout the school ground as an absorptive landscape material. It suppresses invasive weeds and helps reduce the watering requirements throughout the property.
  • Shade Structure. An integrated shade structure provides a practical use in offering much needed shade/shelter to students and it also provides a framework for climbing plants.

Some of these changes may not seem ground-breaking, but they work together to create a resilient outdoor space for the school and the community. The project gives the HDSB the opportunity to create enhanced experiences for student development in which they can connect hands-on with the environment. The overall aim of this project is to help mitigate the effects of climate change by cooling outdoor learning sites with shade and better managing the infiltration of stormwater to minimize flooding.

A selection committee was formed to determine the first school to participate in this new partnership. The committee examined existing site challenges typical to many schools in the country including soil erosion and compaction, inadequate grading and shade issues. A short-list of schools was developed following the committee’s work and Irma Coulson Public School in Milton was selected.

The Balsam Foundation, Intact Foundation and other key supporters are helping fund this project.

The Climate Ready Schools design process, which is expected to begin shortly, is anticipated to be completed by early spring 2021, with construction starting at Irma Coulson PS in the summer.

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  • “a unique child friendly design”
    Why aren’t all schools designed with children in mind? What is wrong with us?

    Tree’s are good.

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