The Gleaner
Education

Franklin Elementary is now officially a Living School

Over the past four years, the students at Franklin Elementary have been getting up close and personal with the natural environment around their school.

On June 4, Franklin students gathered at the stone circle in the yard behind their building for a brief ceremony, during which the educational institution was officially recognized as the second Living School in Quebec.

The administration, staff, and students at the school have been working over the past four years in collaboration with Dawson College’s Office of Sustainability to implement numerous nature-based projects and sustainable initiatives, with the support of the New Frontiers School Board and funding through Nature Canada and the Naturehood Initiative.

 

Students and staff at Franklin Elementary took part in a ceremony designating the institution as a Living School on June 4 PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

Former principal Eveline Taylor said she was inspired to start the project after completing the Sustainable Happiness certificate at the Montreal-based CEGEP, where she first learned about the Living Schools initiative. Taylor began working closely with Chris Adam, who coordinates the Living Campus program at Dawson, to incorporate nature into almost all aspects of the learning process at the elementary school. Since then, students have helped create an outdoor classroom, a bug hotel, nature-based yard games, and biodiversity areas across their expansive schoolyard.

Adam was on hand to personally designate Franklin as a Living School. Before the entire school population as well as representatives from the New Frontiers School Board, he mentioned overhearing how students building a fort on the playground relocated their construction after finding a bluebird was nesting nearby. “It may seem like a small act,” he said. “But it tells me a lot about who you are as a school,” he continued. “That is what a Living School is all about. We care.”

 

New Frontiers School Board commissioner Barbara Ednie and Council of Commissioners chair John Ryan took part in the presentation along with Chris Adam of Dawson College principal Carla Shaw and former principal Eveline Taylor PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

Adam then presented the school with a very special tree to be planted somewhere on the rolling playground. Student and budding naturalist Sullivan Greenhalgh was eager to point out that the gingko tree was special because they existed during the time of the dinosaurs. Nodding enthusiastically, Adam noted this particular tree was grown from seeds taken from a gingko that survived the bombing in Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II.

A total of 30 seeds were germinated at Dawson, from which 12 trees survived. “They are symbols of nature’s resilience and messengers of hope,” said Adam, while presenting the rare tree to the students at Franklin. “We only give these to special schools,” he emphasized, before adding he hoped it will grow for many, many years.

 

Chris Adam spoke with the students about the significance of being a Living School during the June 4 presentation PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

Taylor congratulated the students, noting how much work had gone onto all the different projects over the last few years. “To the students who are here for the next couple of years, keep working on this,” she said. “Take care of nature, play with nature, enjoy nature, and really work on this,” she encouraged, while suggesting there were more ways in which the project could develop.

“I just hope that it will carry on,” she said, noting the nature-based projects were easy to do, given the access the students have to the natural world without having to go any further than the playground.

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