Toronto students aim to leave eco-legacy

  • May 8, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - When nine-year-old Erica Martin and her friends take a break from playing in the schoolyard, they sit down on the yellow gas pipes along the side of the yard.

But as the weather gets warmer, the St. Brigid Elementary School students say resting on the metal pipes isn’t exactly a good idea.

“Students need shade. Sometimes it gets too hot,” said nine-year-old Erica.

Enter teacher-librarian and supervisor of the school’s Eco Club, Kathryn Zaleski-Cox. Zaleski-Cox started a $100,000 “legacy project” to green the schoolyard last year. The project involves planting at least 30 trees, building shade islands and an alley of trees, and providing seating on the school grounds.

So far, about $75,000 has been raised, including funding from the Toronto Catholic District School Board. But at least $25,000 is needed within two months — when the project is scheduled to start — in order to build a butterfly garden and extra seating.

One of the school’s fundraising efforts is called “Leave a Leaf Legacy.” Zaleski-Cox’s husband, a sculptor, plans to engrave a wooden tree that will be displayed in the school’s entrance. Donors who contribute a certain amount will have their name engraved on a leaf or on the roots of the legacy tree. It’s a project that 10-year-old Camilla Smith, one of the Eco Club’s 60 members, said she hopes will be there not only for her class but also for the next generation of students.

With three of her own children enrolled in the school, Zaleski-Cox said this is what the legacy project is all about.

Camilla and two of her schoolmates, standing alongside their teacher in the schoolyard where about a dozen students are playing soccer during gym class, say it’s a mass of asphalt that can get really hot as temperatures rise. There is no shade on the school grounds, although there are a few trees along the street.

It would be nice, Camilla said, to find shade under a tree or read a book during recess or lunch time without having to leave the schoolyard.

Near the school’s entrance, the yard has two trees with roots which had been paved over with asphalt several years ago. Zaleski-Cox, a seven-year veteran at the school, points out that the trees, with their orange-tinged hues, are dying. She hopes to open up the space for the trees’ roots to grow.

Another important aspect of the project, she said, is that it  reflects Catholic social teaching. Zaleski-Cox said Pope Benedict XVI is the “greenest pope ever,” pointing to his announcements of building a solar panel roof and having a neutral carbon footprint at the Vatican.

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