Published on October 5, 2022

In photos: Evergreen unveils Canada’s first climate ready school ground

The new climate-resilient school ground is opening to students and the community. Here’s a peek at the transformed space.

It’s the first of its kind in Canada.


At Irma Coulson Public School in Milton Ont., the Climate Ready Schools pilot project sets a new standard of how school boards across the country can extend the use of school grounds beyond school hours and into the surrounding community.


A partnership between Evergreen’s Climate Ready Schools program and the Halton District School Board (HDSB), the project has transformed the school ground into an outdoor learning hub that adapts to the changing climate while respecting the ecological landscape.


Evergreen worked with Berlin-based landscape architect Birgit Teichmann, integrating the Sponge School Ground Strategy, which removes impermeable surfaces and replaces them with extensive vegetation, allowing the site to act as a giant sponge.


From the start, a participatory design process brought together teachers, students, parents, neighbours, and school board administrators to build a vision for the school grounds. The result is a site designed to meet climate, education and child development goals all at once.


But, what does that look like?


We asked Gina Brouwer — the Canadian landscape architect on the project — to give us a rundown of some of the unique features of the site. Here are some of the highlights of Canada’s first climate-ready school ground.


Tunnel feature in playground at irma coulson public school


The tunnel


The Crawl Tunnel and Land Bridge offer an exciting way to navigate the school grounds and explore different heights and spatial qualities. The tunnel can be a sheltered, quiet area and exciting place to explore.


Pathways at Irma Coulson Public School Climate Ready School Ground




The pathways at Irma Coulson provide an accessible circulation system that is dynamic in material, texture, width, slope and elevation throughout the school grounds. Pathways not only connect elements, but they also provoke a sense of space, scale, direction, movement, arrival, views and perspective. Materials are chosen for accessibility, sustainability, permeability, durability, maintenance and visual and textural interest.


Parkour feature in playground




The parkour wood climbing structures provide a connection with natural materials that are soft, less heat conductive and visually blend in with the surrounding environment. Wood can be durable, long-lasting, locally sourced and sustainably harvested.


Water play feature in playground


Sand and water play


The sand and water play areas provide sensory, cognitive, physical, social and emotional development through observation and manipulation of natural elements. They provide many opportunities for imaginative, artistic and constructive expression. They also contribute to physical development including hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, gross and fine motor skills, strength, dexterity and endurance. Sand play areas also contribute to drainage and natural infiltration to slow the rate at which stormwater leaves the school site.


Edge walls between sand and pathways in playground


Edge walls


The Edge walls incorporate natural and repurposed extra materials donated from construction yards and building sites. They provide visual definition and physical barriers between materials.


Slide in playground at Irma Coulson public school




Embankment slides are a great addition to mound landforms and active play areas providing a fun way to experience heights and speed.


Wood platform and stone seating areat at Irma Coulson Public School


Wooden Platforms and Armor Stone Seating Areas


Wooden platforms and armor stone seating areas throughout the site provide opportunities for gathering, rest and creative play. They are custom-built to fit the landscape context with curved edges.


Mounds of soil and plants in school ground


Planted mounds


Planted mounds provide a sense of adventure and challenge for students to circulate along informal paths up and down through dense shrub planting. The shrub areas provide microclimate improvements, natural habitat, stormwater infiltration and seasonal interest.


Learn more


Evergreen’s Climate Ready Schools project builds on a 30-year legacy of transforming school grounds across the country into areas of green learning for both children and their community.


The Climate Ready Schools program has been generously funded by the Balsam Foundation, Intact Financial Corporation, the LCBO’s Spirit of Sustainability campaign and other key funders, with in-kind support from Arup.