Praise for older schools


Last Friday, one of the blog posts that I shared because I enjoy it came from Anne-Marie Kee. She had a “Focus on Trees” as her topic. It has stuck with me since I read it.

In the post, she took us for a virtual walk through of her school setting and the heritage that was attributed to the various trees on the property.

The post took me back to the high school I attended as a teenager. It was actually a building built in two stages. The first stage was really old and had significant older trees on the property. The new stage had nothing at the time I went there although a recent trip through there showed some nice trees growing.

The first school I taught at was relatively new. Like so many new builds, it looked like the after math of a bulldozer going through levelling everything and then building the school. I can remember Student Parliament running a fundraiser, a planting session ensued and now there are at least some trees there. It’s really apparent that they were planted as an afterthought as they’re all in a row, equidistant from each other. They’re planted a fair distance from the school but, in the spring, you do see the odd class or other group of students gathering around enjoying the shade.

This summer, my dog and I, had a distraction as we walked past an elementary school during our morning routine. In front of the school, there was a fenced in area for younger students with a sidewalk around the perimeter and an area that would have been a lawn in another context. But, here, it was an area for the kids to play/learn. There was an old tree trunk lying on the ground which appeared to be a great place to play. It was well worn; the bark was long gone, and it was nicely smooth from being walked/climbed on. Kids can see things at times that we adults miss.

Over the summer, while there were no children around, trucks moved in. The entire inside was dug down a bit and eventually filled up with dirt. Jaimie and I walked by daily and speculated that it might eventually be sodded. Or maybe seeded. Or maybe someone had won the lottery and it was going to be artificial turf. While we never went in, Jaimie was hoping to see the tree trunk remain.

Yes, the story didn’t end that way. It ended up being paved.

Now, I get the convenience of it. No grass to cut; no mud to worry about when it rains; no inside recesses – the list goes on. Sadly, the tree trunk was a casualty as well. In its place, you’ll now find a great place to ride a tricycle. And, it’s maintenance free. Since it’s unshaded and uncovered, it’s going to be pretty hot next spring.

It’s going to be good for certain elements of play but there will be learning opportunities lost. I’m guessing that there might be a bit of nature in the form of earthworms after it rains but that’s probably about it. I can’t help but think that the historical significance that Anne-Marie mentions in her post is a non-starter here.

I think we all know of the benefits of modernization of older buildings or of building new schools. But, I really think we’re missing a great deal when paving over what nature has so generously given us.

My guess is that, if students were asked for input, they’d want the best of both worlds. There is a great deal of discussion about classroom arrangement and design. That’s important and not to be minimalized here. I would just hope that planners consider the entire package.

OTR Links 10/30/2019


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.