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Building resiliency through school ground greening: Elginburg & District Public School Case Study

Through consultation and collaboration, Elginburg & District Public School is now prepared for a changing climate and the future.

A panoramic shot of Elginburg PS redesigned play space.

Published on October 15, 2018

Working in collaboration with students, design consultants, parents, community members, school staff and experts from Evergreen the community at Elginburg & District Public School has a newly naturalized space for outdoor learning and play.

Evergreen began a partnership with the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) in January 2018 to develop guidelines for school ground projects. The partnership was created to support interested schools in developing plans for naturalized play areas and school ground greening. 

Elginburg PS is the first school to develop plans and construct their project through this new collaboration with LDSB. The completed project at Elginburg PS is a showcase of the collaborative effort of an engaged student body, school staff and parent council, who were all willing to make a positive impact in their community.

Evergreen works through collaboration. With diverse voices and engaged stakeholders at the table, we can work together to create spaces that work for everyone. In this case study, you can see the way Evergreen’s method facilitates positive change.

Elginburg PS's schoolgrounds before renovation.Elginburg & District Public School's grounds before the project.

The challenge

Before the project began, Elginburg & District Public School faced multiple challenges with their existing school grounds, including:

  • Lack of shade. The school lacked sufficient opportunities for students to escape from the sun and harmful UV rays.
  • Safety concerns. A previous project had installed a number of rocks, which had created injury hazards for students. 
  • Drainage issues. The existing lack of drainage and permeability resulted in large puddles and erosion. These extensive wet areas were routinely placed ‘out of bounds’ and the school tried to control student access through daily messages over the PA system.

The approach

Before beginning work on the grounds, Evergreen facilitated consultations with many stakeholders. Lead by Terence Radford from Evergreen, the work was aided by Joe Hendry, Capital Projects Coordinator, from LDSB Facility Services, and Linda Ford, Elginburg Principal.

Together, the core team went through four stages of consultations:

  1. Initial consultation. Evergreen and LDSB met one-on-one with the school’s principal to better understand the school’s goals and existing problems. The principal presented a list of priorities the school had developed for their grounds and a tour of the site was conducted. From this evaluation, a schematic masterplan was developed which integrated all of the schools goals into a number of priority areas for consideration.Children's drawings of what they wanted to see in the Elginburg PS's schoolground project.Student's draw what they want to see in the final design.
  2. Community engagement and student consultation. After the initial consultation, the core team met with Elginburg’s School Council and conducted one full day design workshop with students. The school council reviewed the schematic masterplans and provided feedback on which priority area they wanted to develop further. Through surveys, sketches and discussions, over 100 students were engaged in developing plans for the priority area during a series of workshops.  Student feedback was then documented, summarized and integrated into a preliminary design for the project. 
  3. Presentation of the preliminary design. Student feedback and detailed designs were presented to school council for review and comment. The preliminary design was then issued by Evergreen to the LDSB Facility Services for technical review and comments.
  4. Final design development. The preliminary concept was revised by Evergreen based on final community feedback and subsequent ground truthing during site visits. Final designs were then provided to the Principal and LDSB for final approval.

Digital drawings of the Elginburg redesign plans.Final plans for the project.

 The solution

Once the design was approved by all identified stakeholders, it was ready to move forward. The new space now features:

  • A rain garden seeded with native grasses and wildflowers
  • A large gathering circle with a cedar stage and arbour
  • A storage container for loose parts and gardening tools
  • Intimate gathering space for quiet play
  • A mulch play mound
  • Seven new trees and over 80 shrubs native to the region

Children playing with the newly unveiled cedar stage and arbour at Elginburg Public School.Children playing on the cedar stage and arbour during the opening event in September 2018.

Through these new naturalized features, there is now greater control of site drainage and a reduced probability of erosion. The new space also boasts increased safety and accessibility through the creation of an accessible route, relocation of the armour stone seating and provision of suitable setbacks around features.

The site itself also now has increased biodiversity, potential for bird sightings, and connects the site with the adjacent seasonal stream and regional ecology.

Children plant onions at Elginburg PS's schoolground opening event. Planting onions on the grounds as part of the community opening event in September, 2018.

Moving forward, the project will be evaluated on its ability to meet student needs and provide students with appropriate outlets for play, exploration and learning. It is our hope that the site will become an integral public space for the community. We expect stewardship of the project will serve as a catalyst for the community involvement with Elginburg.

Elginburg’s naturalization project is a fantastic showcase of the collaborative effort of an engaged student body, staff, and parents willing to make an impact in their community. Eagles By Nature – a place for peace and play, is a safe environment for students and staff alike to gather in large and small groups with increased opportunities for inquiry and play-based learning.
Linda Ford, Elginburg & District Public School Principal

With the help of Evergreen’s unique approach to collaboration, Elginburg & District Public School successfully revitalized its wet and unusable school ground into a flourishing space for both students and community members to enjoy year-round. 

This project was completed in partnership with Limestone District School Board.