Western researchers partner with London school to reclaim playground

On Tuesday, October 8, researchers from Western University’s Human Environments Analysis Lab will join students at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Elementary School for a ceremonial sod turning and tree planting as they enter the final phase of a unique project to “green” and reclaim a valuable part of their school yard.

Janet Loebach, a PhD student in Geography at Western, has been leading a team working with Blessed Sacrament students to plan how they would rescue a play area considered out-of-bounds due to safety concerns, including high levels of pollutants from vehicles travelling past on Oxford Street.

Loebach and the team held workshops at the school over several months to gather ideas from students, teachers and custodial staff. Eli Paddle, another PhD student in the Lab who also teaches Landscape Design at Fanshawe College, recently joined the team to support the final design development.

The final plan, dubbed “The Green Direction” by Blessed Sacrament students, includes removing asphalt and planting shade trees to help reduce the amount of heat on the schoolyard, as well as adding shrubs, grasses and mulch to help reduce exposure to airborne pollutants. The new “naturalized” yard will also provide multiple opportunities for outdoor learning and environmental education.

“We thought it was very important that the children be involved in the planning process,” said Loebach. “Not only do they bring the user’s perspective to the table, but it&’s been a wonderful opportunity for them to learn the issues and principles of environmental planning and get hands-on experience.”

Once the project is completed, Loebach’s team will administer air quality and heat imaging tests and conduct student and teacher surveys to determine the impact of the schoolyard greening on air quality, heat reduction and the students’ use of the space.

Partial funding for the project was provided through a grant from London Community Foundation’s 2011 Clean Air Challenge.

What: Schoolyard reclamation: sod turning and tree planting

When: Tuesday October 8 at 1:00pm

Where: Blessed Sacrament Catholic School, 1063 Oxford Street E, London, ON

Who:

Janet Loebach, Project Leader, Western University
Laurel Looby, Principal, Blessed Sacrament Catholic School
Blessed Sacrament Catholic School students