SEN Hero

Inspiring Eco-Education Stories


How to turn unused school grounds into native prairie classroom

students planting grassIn Lumsden, local high school students are demonstrating how an abandoned field behind their school can be transformed into a living classroom for learning about land-use planning, biodiversity, native plant species, and the possibilities we all have to make change!


Students are learning that they can make a difference; they can do something themselves - it is a gradual empowerment process.

Rhonda Phillips

In 2001 a group of students were talking with Rhonda Phillips, a science teacher in the school about an area behind the school where a river had been re-channeled. Some of the students were studying land-use planning as part of an environmental science course.

According to Mrs Phillips, " we were looking at designing a land-use plan using native species and grasses, and a group of students picked up on the idea of renaturalizing the land behind the school. They took the idea for the renaturalization project to the school board and the school board accepted the idea. Then they went out to raise money for the project."

students planting grassBy 2004 the project was well underway - and they are naturalizing a 3 acre area. This includes building pathways, islands, picnic tables, and an outdoor classroom. Amost 1/3 of it has been planted in native grasses, and the rest is various shrubs and other plants. The school is continuing to work on it, we are realizing that this is a huge project, it is ongoing" according to Phillips. Now that overall plan is in place, students are assigned small sections to work with and plan out in more specific ways.

"The students are really enthusiastic, they seem eager and willing to work on the project. Because the project is right beside the school, it is convenient and sustainable- does not require any travel."

Most importantly, the Lumsden High School project is giving students hands on experience in learning about their environment, and how to reclaim it. Phillips is watching these changes first hand "I guess students are learning that they can make a difference, they can do something themselves- it is a gradual empowerment process"