Principal Wayne Naka and the staff and parents at Kinnaird Elementary have been on a mission to improve their school.
In the past five years the school has received over $200,000 worth of grants in the form of cash, products, gifts in kind and labour.
“We are a work in progress. It is amazing what staff and children can do when they really put their mind to it. We only do it because it is good for kids,” said Naka.
It all began when the need to improve safety prompted the building of a new parking area. After the construction, the school grounds had very few trees left.
This was the inspiration for a grant application, to improve the green space around the school with trees and shrub gardens.
The school received a Toyota Evergreen grant, new trees were planted and, along with the leaves, ideas for future projects also began grow.
The school now has multiple shrub gardens with paths through them so students can experience nature, not just look at it. Classes take turns caring for the gardens. They are actively involved with Communities in Bloom and the school was a stop on the judge’s tour of town.
In the middle of one shrub garden rests the sculpture “The Dreamer” by artist Peter Vogelaar. The sculpture, on loan from Columbia Basin Trust, is an inspiration for the children.
Students participated in a project where they wrote what the sculpture meant to them. Teachers then assembled the writings into a book and sent it to the artist.
Another exciting feature is a wetlands pond. There is only one other school in B.C. with a wetland pond on its grounds. The school received help from BC Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Shell, Castlegar and District Wildlife Association, BC Wildlife Federation, Columbia Basin Trust, Environment Canada and SD 20.
The students were actively involved in installing the pond, working on rock removal and even helping carry in the heavy pond liners. The pond continues to offer learning opportunities. Frogs have moved in to the pond and principal Naka is hoping for tadpoles in the spring.
Students have picked the reeds, dried them, and used them to weave mats. A biologist is currently working on writing some curriculum for wetland education.
Grants from Kootenay Savings Community Foundation and Teck have also allowed for the purchase of playground equipment designed for the youngest students in the school.
The equipment sits on a rubber surface made possible by Tire Stewardship. The surface was made from 2,504 kg of recycled rubber, the equivalent of about 300 tires. The assembly was completed with help from School District 20.
Just past the new playground, you will find a raised container garden. The harvest from the garden included pumpkins, beans, “spuds in tubs” and 600 pounds of tomatoes.
The tomatoes were part of a project which saw tomato seeds that had orbited on the International Space Station planted alongside a control group.
Students studied the growth and size of the plants and reported their findings. The tomatoes have been made into salsa and dried and will be enjoyed by the students in soups and other foods. The school has now furthered its gardening project with indoor germinating stations.
“This is an amazing project. It is amazing when you get the kids close to the ground, because they are different,” said Naka.
Nature and exercise cross paths in the most recent successful grant. The school has received an entire classroom set of new cross country skis valued at $10,000. The school will pass on their bounty by donating their existing skis to charity.
The next project they are hoping to accomplish is an interpretive trail that will circle the school grounds. The trail will be approximately one kilometre long and will have a rubber base. Naka would like to see it draw people to the grounds.
“We want senior citizens, we want parents, we want grandparents, we want everybody to be able to come here and be able to go for a kilometre walk in a cool place.”
After that they would love to see an amphitheatre at the wetland pond location to further onsite learning opportunities. The only thing they are waiting on is another grant.
As the plaque attached to “The Dreamer” sculpture states, “Dare to dream, a lifetime of adventure awaits.”