Looking outside my window, the late winter browns have started changing to early spring greens. To me, the waking of spring signals the opening of GreenUP Ecology Park’s Native Plant and Tree Nursery.
Our team looks forward to welcoming people of all ages across the region as they venture out to the annual spring opening event on Saturday (May 20). The native plants we sell may appear to the eyes of the public to pop out of nowhere.
As director of Ecology Park, this season is special to me. The emergence of bloodroot, sensitive fern, and wild ginger coincides with the return of young people to Ecology Park, who share in their love and labour of growing the park.
Here at Ecology Park, young people come in many different varieties, just like the plants we see blossoming.
Many elementary and high school students will visit the park this spring to take part in education programs. These learners will experience the thrill of a field trip out into a beautiful local green space. Simultaneously, they will have the opportunity to learn from our educators about topics ranging from pollinators to food systems. Learning programs in Ecology Park are a pathway for many of these individuals to embrace natural and sustainable studies wherever they end up.
Ecology Park welcomes older youth back into nature once that seed is planted during their younger years. Students from the Trent University School of Education complete a placement as part of the Learning Garden Program. Teacher candidates have the chance to arrive in our outdoor classroom and get their hands dirty while learning about native plants and outdoor education, amongst many other exciting topics. Many students from this program go on to become the next generation of teachers.
In fact, Parys Carr is a Trent student returning to Ecology Park for her third season as both a staff and a teacher candidate. She describes it as a beneficial opportunity for students to have a visual of what they are learning about in the classroom.
While participating in the Learning Garden Program this year, Carr says “The best learning I’ve done is out in nature, and bringing kids outside will allow them to do their best learning, too. As a teacher, you and your students both grow as individuals when you learn outside.”
Michelle Michaud, another teacher candidate, says that “through the Learning Garden, we’ve been learning about how to incorporate nature into education, which is really crucial for students especially with the way that the world is going nowadays.”
Ecology Park brings on a handful of young people as staff each year. Many students from both Trent University and Fleming College apply to work at Ecology Park to gain essential employment skills. Each student-staff member at Ecology Park has brought something valuable to Ecology Park.
This year, GreenUP has three full-time student landscaping staff that you may see at the park during the annual native plant sale and working all summer in the Native Plant and Tree Nursery.
Our three 2023 summer staff — Symon Edmead, Eve Lockhart, and Abigayle Stoddart — are looking forward to working at Ecology Park for many reasons.
Edmead, a paramedic student at Trent, is gaining valuable knowledge about science and ecology. Edmead says he would “come to Ecology Park to help out in their own time regardless of work.”
Lockhart describes how she is excited about the good experience she will gain in plant identification, which will supplement her Trent Environmental Studies program and add practical knowledge to her resume.
Stoddart is delighted to have a position that gives her the opportunity to learn more about and identify Ontario native plant species in Ontario and work with like-minded individuals.
Finally, spring brings the Ecology Park team together with some great students from Thomas A Stewart Secondary School (TASS).
For decades, TASS students have had the chance to learn about horticulture from educator Michelle Chambers. These young people have long assisted Ecology Park by planting and caring for all our spring veggies at the TASS greenhouse, located right in their high school.
Each season, I look forward to the smell of fresh basil plants, making me, and surely the students, crave pizza! I am lucky to be a part of it all as the director of Ecology Park.
I get the opportunity to learn so much from these young folks. I get to see how education has changed since my days, and how much more environmental education youth receive today.
I also look forward to learning about all the new fads and music, as well as how students today see their future in an ever-changing environment.
The youthful spirit that students bring is something I believe represents the essence of spring. Their efforts ensure that Ecology Park has many beautiful plants and their energy provides those around them, like me, with a sense of rejuvenation.
Ecology Park’s Native Plant & Tree Nursery’s annual spring opening event takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 20th, after which the nursery will be open for plant sales and self-serve compost sales on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ecology Park is located at 1899 Ashburnham Drive in Peterborough. Parking is in the south end of the Beavermead Park parking lot off Marsdale Drive.