Though it has only been open for three years, David Suzuki Secondary School in Brampton, Ont., is a national leader in waste reduction, recycling and improving the habitat value of its grounds. Students are also working in the community. One of their signature projects? The restoration of Berisford Park. Josh Crozier, the school’s cross-curricular head of student success. How did you and your students come up with the idea to restore Berisford Park?When David Suzuki Secondary School opened, we wanted to demonstrate a true environmental commitment. We took immediate action to minimize waste, plant native trees and remove invasive species. We also wanted to do work beyond our school grounds. So, working with the City of Brampton and Credit Valley Conservation, we decided to start a restoration project at Berisford, a small park very close to our school. Berisford had a few mature native trees but was largely full of European buckthorn and garlic mustard. They are invasive species, and the buckthorn in the wooded areas created poor habitat for birds. So, this park was a great candidate for invasive removal and eventual replanting. How does the park look now?The park has come so far. All the buckthorn is removed each semester. As a result, many fewer whips pop up now. We’ve added around 80 native trees, and the city contributed a mulch path. It’s now a much more inviting space for the community, and we’ve already noticed a few more native songbirds using the space. Part of what we enjoy is also how our students see the park now. Most of the kids in the school have been part of helping rehabilitate the park at one time or another, and we’ve built a sense of stewardship toward the land. Your students take on many projects during the year. What made you choose park restoration as one of them?In our opening year, we wanted to make meaningful progress on several fronts. My colleague Andrea Luksts championed recycling and community cleanups. Mark Miller brought vermicomposting to the school. I wanted to work on biodiversity by planting native trees and removing invasive species. We planted our schoolyard, but Berisford Park was a chance to both remove invasives and plant native. It needed rehabilitation and it was the opportunity to involve our kids in helping their community, to make a difference locally. It also fit the mandate of our school. David Suzuki allows us to use his name, provided we embed environmental work into every aspect of our school’s life. We feel that commitment and responsibility very keenly. Was the restoration project linked to classroom work as well?Science classes connect our work at Berisford to ecosystem units, in which students discuss the idea of native and invasive species and the importance of biodiversity. This work leads to a summative experiment where they assess one type of human impact on the environment and explore all the consequences. We’ve also partnered with the City of Brampton and had its invasive species technician speak to classes, allowing them to handle and learn about a variety of invasive species from our area. Tell us about other student projects. Is there anything special in the hopper right now? Our students and teachers are in the planning stages for a large all-season outdoor classroom. That’s generating excitement. We’re also seeing a lot of energy around planting herbs and otheredibles. The hospitality program at Suzuki is significant, so connecting this to the local food movement is a great fit. We’re also working with other schools. I’ve been able to advise them on gaining approval to plant trees, conducting invasive removal work and starting campaigns, like anti-car-idling programs on schools grounds. I hope our work will show other schools what is possible and, as with our students, inspire them to build a sustainable future.
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