The Just Energy Foundation was excited to unveil recently its first Sustainable Garden and Outdoor Learning space in Canada. In partnership with PACT Urban Peace Program's Grow-to-Learn (GTL) initiative, volunteers from Just Energy worked alongside PACT representatives to convert an existing green space at Elmbank Junior Middle Academy, in Toronto, into a fully accessible half acre garden complete with plant beds, fruit trees and bushes, and a dedicated teaching area. Rebecca MacDonald, Just Energy's Executive Chair, joined PACT leads and school administration at the ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the official opening of the ‘living classroom'.
In the days leading up to the opening, students and staff also rolled up their sleeves as all got involved to plant a tree per grade, enabling the full student population to engage in the gardening experience. The transformed space offers 600 students from JK to grade 8 the opportunity to learn about the environment and the importance of sustainability in everything from pollination, to seeding and harvesting throughout the seasons. Designed to be a fully accessible space, children with diverse needs will be able to fully participate. The organic produce grown will also be shared to help feed the local community.
The opening of the sustainable garden also coincides with an important milestone for the school, as Elmbank celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018. The outdoor classroom will serve students now, and well into the future through unique, hands-on learning as teachers utilize the ‘living classrooms' to build on existing curriculum. These opportunities immerse youngsters in an environment where they can learn firsthand about plant lifecycles, food and gardening, and their role as stewards of the earth.
Focusing on priority neighbourhoods, PACT's Grow-to-Learn program transforms school grounds into high quality outdoor, experiential education where GTL staff facilitate a variety of curriculum-led workshops to students in grades 1-12. The spaces can be accessed by students, teachers, and community members alike.
"We have seen the amazing benefits that outdoor, experiential education provides, especially for younger children who may not get the opportunity to take part in extracurricular activities," says Paige Lockett, Director of Operations at PACT. "We are delighted to be partnering with Just Energy to be able to provide the chance for our youth to both connect to nature and provide an expansive learning experience in the garden."
"We are pleased to welcome our first Just Energy Sustainable Garden and Outdoor Learning space in Canada," says Rebecca MacDonald, Just Energy's Executive Chair. "As a company with strong Canadian roots, it's important that we continue the Foundation's mission to cultivate communities of action, cooperation and enrichment in more of our operating markets. We believe in strong corporate citizenship and our social responsibility to be an engaged and active community member. Supporting humanitarian initiatives is important to us and, as an organization, we take great pride in our ability to give back and pay it forward in service to others."
Since launching the Just Energy Sustainable Gardens initiative in December 2017, the Foundation has completed 12 gardens and outdoor learning spaces across several markets in the United States, with our most recent being in Canada. These include Houston and Weslaco (Texas), Boston, West Orange (New Jersey), Suwanee (Georgia), Sacramento, California and Toronto, Ontario.
This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.