Friday, December 2, 2016

Including pollinator-friendly, native species plants in school gardens.

Central School, Hamilton.
As non profit groups, working towards the health of our environment and our community, we are delighted to learn about the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) Outdoor Manual to help guide schools in improving their outdoor spaces.

The importance of engaging children in and bringing children closer to the natural world cannot be over-stated.

Nature is health and well being, and connection to the outdoor world not only improves physical and mental strength, but also, nurtures the love of our fellow creatures and the wonder of the natural world itself.

Unfortunately, many of these small critters are in danger. Pollinator populations such as beneficial insects, solitary bees, butterflies and small birds are declining rapidly. The loss of habitat, the use of harmful pesticides, climate change are some reasons for this decline. But it turns out that urban centres can help towards this conservation problem in ways that have been overlooked. Planting native plant species in gardens across a city is of extreme help, and the beauty is, everyone can participate in this since pollinators do not require a lot of space to carry out their functions.

A schoolyard is a perfect environment in which to plant a pollinator-friendly garden. Children reap the benefits of observing the creatures the gardens will attract. Native plant species are also very low maintenance, once they are established and require far less water than traditional ornamental gardens that contribute very little towards pollinator food.

On looking over the current plant list in the Outdoor Manual, we've noted very few native plant species. As well, we have noticed that some plants on the list are also invasive plants (not native to the area) that cause harm to our local habitat by competing for resources and space.

As such, we've let the HWDSB folks know that amending this list so that the selections add both biodiversity and educational value to school sites would be a simple matter.

Not only are we and other local nature groups available to assist, but there are also many people (including a number of Board parents) in this community who have this expertise and who would be very happy to help with a suggested list of species to use.

There are numerous resources such as Peel Region's "Digging" manual and examples that showcase what gardening for nature looks like (for instance, Central School on Hunter Street is one excellent model).

We have urged them to plan the gardens to include large numbers of native plant species and contribute significantly to the wellbeing of pollinators. We've let them know that we are available to help.