Published on December 16, 2022
Evergreen’s School Ground Greening program is helping create new learning opportunities in Canadian schools.
For 30 years, Evergreen has been partnering with schools across Canada to transform their school grounds into areas of green learning and community activity.
With innovative design guidance, training programs and policy development, Evergreen has a suite of resources to fit the sustainability and learning objectives of Canadian schools.
Over those decades, Evergreen has distributed $3,504,243 in grants and supported 6,137 schools directly. But behind those numbers are stories of impact on students, staff and communities.
To learn more about those impacts, we spoke to Daniel Kunanec, the department head for Emerging Green Technologies and Environmental Stewardship at Don Mills Collegiate Institute in Toronto. The school is home to an outdoor farm equipped with raised beds, a glass greenhouse, indoor aquaponics system, outdoor kitchen and more.
For the last seven years, Don Mills C.I. has received support from Evergreen in the form of guidance and networking opportunities. More recently, the school received a grant through the School Ground Greening program, supported by HelloFresh, to help with upgrades to green infrastructure.
Dan tells us about the impact of Evergreen’s support and why he’s so excited about the potential of tomorrow’s green industries leaders.
Evergreen: Tell us about what’s happening at Don Mills Collegiate Institute.
Dan: At Don Mills C. I., we strive to be a leading organization in the development of practices, connections and possibilities found within an emerging green urban infrastructure. The courses I teach are green industries, technological design and hospitality and tourism. Students can get very involved in different parts of the process and do a deeper dive into different concepts. But we’re especially driven by food security and climate adaptation.
We also had an eye towards improving the school grounds for the betterment of the community — both in the school and outside the school. We’re very aware of our neighbours. I think the space can be an educational piece for the community, whether it’s the vineyard or the orchard or the Haudenosaunee Mound Gardens built in a traditional way with Indigenous knowledge keepers and community leaders.
Evergreen: What was the impact of the grant from HelloFresh?
Dan: The funding we secured through Evergreen and a great partner like HelloFresh allowed us to purchase and install a polytunnel over two of our existing rows of beds in our farm area. It’s essentially a season extension. Some of our limits are related to weather, and this allows us to farm throughout cold weather months, augmenting our supply for programs and explore deepening aspects and approaches to local food security. This is a natural progression for us and we are ready for this next wonderful step. We’re planting seedlings right now, earlier than we’ve ever been able to before.
Evergreen: In what other ways has your partnership with Evergreen impacted your work?
Dan: We began a loose partnership with Evergreen in 2015 when I was invited to Evergreen Brick Works to speak about what we were doing at the school. It was such an important moment for us because it gave us a little bit of heft, knowing that we’ve been recognized. Getting out and networking like I did at Evergreen and meeting people from different walks — educators, city builders, politicians — you’re really being inspired by other people.
Our connection with Evergreen was at the forefront of those beautiful networks that form when you do these presentations and conferences. That really gives you a sense of empowerment because you realize you’re not alone. The network that Evergreen opened us up to has been massively impactful, and it just keeps moving us forward.
“The network that Evergreen opened us up to has been massively impactful, and it just keeps moving us forward.”
Evergreen: Why is it so important to give students exposure to the emerging green industries sector?
Dan: Labour market statistics show that the combined sectors of the green industries represent several multi-billion-dollar industries in Ontario, employing thousands of workers from multiple post-secondary pathways.
Teenagers have so much potential. These are our future world leaders, our future voters and future deciders. It can feel like we’re surrounded by so much negativity in the world — so how do you turn that into: ‘What can I do about it?’ The pathways can be atypical compared to what their parents did. Sometimes you don’t know what the needs are going to be in five years, but they want to be a part of that journey and process — whether it’s as a tradesperson or a policymaker.
Evergreen: What’s the impact of this work on students at Don Mills C.I.?
Dan: I think we’re seeing the first wave of students who chose post-secondary studies directly related to this. Something they wouldn’t have chosen if we hadn’t introduced this in 2009. That crop of students are either going into amazing jobs or apprenticeships, or diving a little deeper in the world of academia, getting their Masters in outrageously cool things like Urban Arctic Design. Knowing that you positively influenced members of the next generation, who are already influencing their peers — I think all we can do as humans is to be part of that solution.
School Ground Greening projects were supported by long-standing partnerships with 407ETR, HelloFresh and Ports Toronto.
Visit Evergreen’s Climate Ready Schools page to learn more about the next stage of our 30-year legacy of transforming school grounds across the country, with a deeper focus on climate resilience and areas of green learning for both children and their community.