Hands-on learning at Oxford-on-Rideau

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by The Grade 6s of Oxford-on-Rideau PS

This school year at Oxford-on-Rideau Public School in Oxford Mills, Mrs. Martin’s 6th grade class has truly embraced the art of “learning by doing”. One endeavour that the class has been tackling for over seven months is their Habitat Garden project, which is gradually adding an additional garden to Crozier Park. A Habitat Garden is a garden that mimics a natural, native plant and insect habitat. The purpose of the one made by Mrs. Martin’s class is to bring back pollinators to Crozier Park.

Thanks to the diligent work of a group called North Grenville Habitat Gardeners (NGHG), and the Environmental Action Advisory Committee (EAAC) of the Municipality of North Grenville, Crozier Park already has three Habitat Footprint Gardens, with the one installed by the Oxford-on-Rideau students set to be the fourth. Phillip and Nadia are two members of NGHG and EAAC who have been acting as mentors to the students throughout the project. The students first met the pair in November of last year, and then officially began their project in January.

“In February, we started the stratification process by planting our seeds in soil in biodegradable bamboo to-go boxes,” explained Mrs. Martin. “One partner took the seeds home and placed them in the fridge to stimulate winter and let the seeds sleep.” The seeds were refrigerated for 6-8 weeks before being placed on the classroom light stand (which was generously donated by Wild Flower Group of the CMC) to begin the germination process. The successful plants were moved into small plant pots, while students whose plants were not successful were able to use a “plan B” plant grown by Philip.

The Habitat Garden project taught the students about far more than just gardening. They also gained experience with bureaucracy and governance, as a group of them needed to present in front of the Environmental Action Advisory Committee and Mayor Nancy Peckford at the Municipal Centre in order to get permission to add another footprint to Crozier Park. The lessons that the class learned about biodiversity were a great part of their science studies. The class has also completed writing assignments about their project, and they even used math to measure how many plant pots could fit on the light stand and window ledges. They also practiced handling money, as well as interacting with the community at the Sustainability Fair.

Mrs. Martin’s students agree that a hands-on learning experience is superior to learning solely in a classroom setting. The students report that hands-on learning has less opportunities for distraction, since the process is so engaging. On May 17 and May 24, the students were at Crozier Park to complete preparations – they dug the sod, cleared the dirt from it, and added soil and rocks to form the shape of the Garden Footprint. They even raised their own money to fund the project – initial fundraising raised $454, plus an additional $132 at the Sustainability Fair.

This project has taught the students many important life skills, such as how to take care of plants, how to prepare a garden, and the ways in which plants help the environment. It came with some challenges, such temperature and humidity variations in the classroom, but the students always persevered. Many students reported having their own gardens at home, which gave them foundational skills for the school project.

Ultimately, the project is an effort to help take care of the Earth for future generations. When asked why he wanted to help Mrs. Martin’s class with the project, Philip said: “Very simply, because our young people are the future, and they can do so much to help fight the problems raised by climate change and the loss of biodiversity.”

The Oxford-on-Rideau students are proud of their rural schooling. “Going to school in a rural area is fun because there are less people,” said student Andy. Student Jano added that “living in a rural area is quieter”, while student Lily said “you have more property and more space between houses.” Two of the students connected rural schools with environmental sustainability.

Lucas said “if you are going to school further away from the area you live, there would be more gas and therefore more pollution”; while Mackenzie added “you can bike to school with less traffic… you have space to breathe!” So, what are the next steps for the project? The plants will be planted in the Habitat Garden on June 14. There will then be a launch event on June 18 (with a rain date of June 19), with invitees including the Mayor, parents and guardians, grandparents, students from other classes, members of the Environmental Action Advisory Committee, and even the UCDSB’s Real-World Learning Team! Some students were eager to express their interest in inviting celebrities like Taylor Swift and Dwayne Johnson to the event, but it was agreed that may be… less than practical! The event is scheduled for 10am at Crozier Park, with an official ribbon cutting and a few speakers. 

Way to go, students! You’ve made North Grenville proud!

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