The students and teachers of Georgia Park Elementary have been hard at work making the wooded area near the school a better place to play and learn.
They’ve been working in collaboration with Greenways Land Trust, learning about and removing taking out invasive species, planting new native plants and trees and putting up habitat helpers for local wildlife like mason bees and chickadees.
Unfortunately, just a week or so after they got their most recent work completed, they came back out on a Monday morning to find their hard work torn off the trees and smashed beyond repair.
“They’d torn down all of our new birdhouses and mason bee houses and smashed them, for some reason,” says Grade 4/5 teacher Lisa Walls. “The kids were super disappointed, but they din’t want to just let it go.”
So they called up their friends at Greenways and asked if there were any more habitats they could use to replace the ones they had to throw out after they’d gathered up the pieces.
“The bird and bee houses all got cleaned up and thrown in the garbage,” Walls says. “They were just too broken to fix, but we managed to repair the insect hotels and put them back together again. Then about a week later, the insect hotels were ruined again.”
The insect hotels are basically just a few wooden pallets placed on the ground with sticks, dirt, leaves and other organic material from the forest itself jammed amongst the slats to give the bugs a natural-feeling habitat to thrive in, but the bird and bee houses are a different story.
Thankfully, there were a few left that had been purchased with the grant Greenways had secured for the program, so last week they headed back out into the woods with them to put them up. Four more sets of chickadee houses and mason bee houses were re-installed in the trees to replace the ones that had been torn down.
Walls hopes these ones – a bit further into the woods and placed a little higher up with the help of some ladders – will last. She plans on circulating a letter to the homes in the neighbourhood about what happened in hopes that people will maybe help look out for possible suspicious behaviour in the area.
“When we brainstormed some of the things we could do, the kids all wanted to hire security guards or install security cameras,” Walls says with a laugh, “and while that’s obviously not realistic, we’re going to be sending out these letters to the neighbours and putting up some signs that talk about what we’re doing here and hope the education aspect will help.”
This isn’t the first time the area has had a setback because of vandalism.
Back in November of last year, a batch of newly-planted trees in the area were dug up and removed, later found a short distance down the trail.
But they’re not letting the senseless – and clearly intentional – damage keep them down.
”It was really disappointing to see,” Walls says. “These kids have spent dozens of hours out here in the forest playing, learning, building, exploring, and contributing, trying to make it better – taking out plants that don’t belong and putting in ones that do, putting up habitat – working with our little buddies in the kindergarten class. When they were destroyed, those little ones were literally in tears and there had to be a big long discussion about why things like that happen and what we can learn from it.”
One of the things they learned, at least, is that it’s important not to give up when what you’re doing is worthwhile.