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What stands between an inner-city school and a $20K outdoor classroom? Your help

By Pam Kapoor on April 16, 2014

“Our school looks like a jail” – that’s the sentiment behind a new effort to turn Centretown’s Glashan Public School from “grey to green”.

Having to spend their outdoor time on mostly cement, Glashan students were heavily consulted about the kinds of changes they want to see in their schoolyard. They overwhelmingly welcomed the idea of nature, texture, and creativity … of colour instead of concrete.

So the school council’s Green Team initiated the Glashan Greening Project last fall to transform that bleak inner-city schoolyard into a green innovation.

One of the project’s first milestones was to be named a finalist in the Majesta Trees of Knowledge competition which grants a $20,000 outdoor classroom to a Canadian school annually – whichever finalist garners the most votes. From April 7 to May 5, anyone can vote once daily for Glashan (you have to be Canadian and over six years old). Rankings shift daily (Glashan is currently in 3rd place) as finalists do all they can to mobilize support.

Glashan hosted a spirited event to kick-off the voting period last Monday. Dignitaries like MPP Yasir Naqvi, MP Paul Dewar, and Mayor Jim Watson were in attendance. The Mayor afterward encouraged all City staff to vote daily, various groups have issued similar invitations to their members, and Glashan principal Jim Tayler has been visiting other schools to incite Glashan alumni and their friends to rally votes.

Tayler hopes to “create the kind of energy and excitement amongst our students that will be maintained throughout the contest and put us over the top when it closes.”

“We need everyone to vote for Glashan – and we need them to vote daily!”

Nearly 700 people have signed up at the project’s website to receive daily voting reminders.

The potential outdoor classroom is one component of the overall transformation plan for Glashan. Organizers have budgeted $200,000 for the total project with a fundraising campaign well underway.

As Glashan alumni and Ottawa natives learn of the project, some big names are getting behind it. Olympic bobsledder Cody Sorensen attended the kick-off event and music icon Bruce Cockburn is a supporter.

Benefits of schoolyard greening are increasingly well-documented. Research shows that outdoor experiences – from exercise to learning – help motivate children to learn, build their imaginations, and improve indoor classroom behaviour. School green spaces have been shown to foster positive social dynamics, patience, appreciation of nature, environmental stewardship, and to even decrease bullying.

In addition to improving the functionality and attractiveness of the schoolyard, Glashan Greening Project aims to create naturalized, shaded social and learning spaces designated quiet (non-active play). Plans for the yard include de-paving, trees, seating areas with logs and rocks, and a raised performance stage.

Since the Glashan yard is open for public use when school is out, support from the surrounding community for the greening project is on the rise. Nearby businesses like Wilf & Ada’s Scratch Diner and Davidson’s Jewellers have jumped on board; organizational support has come from a raft of partners, including Ecology Ottawa, Hidden Harvest Ottawa, and Evergreen.

To learn more about Glashan School and this initiative, view this short clip:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=511WWwf6a5c[/youtube]

Vote daily for Glashan until May 5 and spread the word: on Facebook and their project website.