The Kent Parent Advisory Council (KPAC) presented the concept of a ‘natural play garden’ project for Kent Elementary School to School District 78 Fraser Cascade (SD78) at a board meeting Feb. 6 at Harrison Hot Springs Elementary School.
The “Kinder Garden,” as KPAC called it, is still just a vision. But with funding and a little momentum, the council hopes to have at least a solid start on the project this spring.
Kent Elementary already has an intermediate garden geared to Grade 4 and up. But the “Kinder Garden” would be tailored to the learning needs of younger students. The garden would include a variety of perennials, herbs, pollinator plants and trees as well as structures like stepping stones and wind chimes. A “mud kitchen” could act as a gathering or teaching space.
KPAC member and garden organizer Mark McLaughlin said the council consulted with teaching staff and parents about what they wanted to see kids gain from the garden. Advancing and supplementing traditional curriculums with the outdoor space was high on the priority list.
“Using the language that takes place in the classroom setting and bringing that outdoors,” McLaughlin said.
KPAC’s presentation illustrated a number of other benefits, including lessons in food and plant growth, seasons, planting, land planning and counting.
But aside from the direct educational components of a “Kinder Garden,” KPAC chair Kate Doucet said students can grow their balance and coordination using structures that aid spacial awareness and development.
“It’s going to have a lot of learning in it – stepping stones, counting and patterns. It’ll have a growing area [and] a meeting space so they can sit in a group and discuss [the garden],” she said. “The outdoors in general is good for the kids, but now they get the hand-eye-coordination, balancing on logs [and] learning how everything grows from start to finish.”
Kent Elementary principal Stan Watchorn is excited about the project too.
“I think it’s absolutely marvelous,” he said. “The PAC has done it all the right way; they’ve consulted with our teachers… [on] how do we make this space not only a fun place, but also a place where kids can learn and work on their ability to count, their ability to collaborate with each other, [work] on their fine motor and gross motor skills. It’s just an interactive area for kids to learn in.”
After the introductory presentation, SD78 asked KPAC to take it to the Operations and Facilities Committee before moving forward. KPAC said that it is in the process of putting together a budget and does have some of its own funds to put into the project.