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Strawberry Vale Elementary students restore native species garden in Saanich for Earth Week

Teachers team up to provide remediation opportunities for the students
Grade 4 student River Soloway tends to the ivy in the school’s forest-like native species garden as part of Earth Week remediation efforts. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

A celebration of nature education during Earth Week is taking place at Strawberry Vale Elementary as young students have the opportunity to get their hands dirty in the school garden.

Starting Tuesday (April 19) and throughout the week, students at the school will be participating in restoration efforts in the native plant garden at the school by removing a variety of invasive species.

Teacher-librarian Travis Richey joined forces with music teacher Matthew Martin to provide the opportunity for every class in the school during what would normally be their music and library classes to participate in invasive species removal. The garden was planted over 25 years ago and to this day, teachers and students work to nurture and maintain the space.

“It’s an opportunity to teach kids about caring for their natural environment, allowing them to see the effects of what they’re doing and encouraging them to explore,” said Richey.

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Grade 4 student River Soloway said that it’s important for kids his age to participate in restoration projects like this because it allows them to learn about nature and to be outside. “But make sure you wear gloves if you want to do projects like this too, there are prickles everywhere,” he advised.

“It feels great to have opportunities like this because I know that a lot of schools don’t have the environment that this school does and I feel that it’s great to get an early start on gardening, helping the ecosystem and keeping this how it was,” said Grade 5 student Claire Aveyard who also gardens at home with her mom.

A longtime volunteer in the school’s forest-like garden, Sylvia Samborski, said that it is magical to see children getting involved in nature. She participated in a study many years ago that looked at how children play within a natural environment versus children who have access to a typical school ground where there is grass, asphalt and a man-made playground.

“The degree of imagination, environmental learning and the joy that was found … the children just couldn’t wait to get outside when in those natural environments.”

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