As a Master Naturalist, my primary focus is creating a naturalized school yard at Hardisty School. I have taught there for 8 years, as a special needs teacher and a grade 6 teacher. I’ve long desired to utilize the front space of the school for more than it is presently.
The entrance is boring, uninspired, and begging for improvement. There is an existing mountain ash tree, a birch tree, several blue spruce trees, and a lot of boring grass along the eastern and northern edges of the school. I have started a committee consisting of staff members, parents, and community members to improve the school grounds aesthetic value, while providing students with new learning opportunities.
On Saturday, October 24, I spent several hours visiting other new and established school yards. Mount Pleasant School, Belgravia School, Holyrood School, and Norwood School are existing school yards that have been naturalized to varying degrees, with a variety of outcomes. Below is a slideshow of the four school yards that I visited.
Edmonton School Natural Spaces from Michael Hamilton
I am hoping to create a space that will connect students and staff to nature, create new learning spaces at our school, and beautify our community.
– Michael Hamilton, Master Naturalist, 2015
This photograph was taken from the top of the river valley stairs in Westridge Park, about 650m from the Fort Edmonton Footbridge which is visible in the distance. Westridge Park’s southeast tip overlooks the North Saskatchewan River valley. It’s a fantastic viewpoint from a high elevation in a gem of a natural area. Though there is a nice trail from the bridge to the stairs, the journey feels more like a hike than a walk with thick forest all around. Westridge Park and this view point in particular are notable to me because their beauty makes them a magnet for the community. Running up and down the punishing stairs in such a beautiful natural setting makes the experience much more enjoyable. Photographers and videographers, like the one in this photo, are gifted with awe inspiring beauty to add to their portfolios within the city limits. Couples have engagement photos taken on the nearby trail and on the stairs, capturing the natural beauty of Edmonton in some of their most treasured memories. The clear connection people have with this area is a testament to the connection we have to our natural environment and how important it is to preserve its presence and integrity in urban areas.
Beyond this viewpoint, the trail system continues into Wolf Willow Ravine. In addition to providing excellent continuity for people using the trail system, the connectedness of the natural areas along the ravine provide important ecosystems for wildlife and native plants.
This natural area is a great destination to visit in the Edmonton area!
Tessa Ryan, Master Naturalist 2015