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Red Deer school celebrates its Outdoor Indigenous Garden

École Oriole Park School has a new garden and learning space
Students, parents and staff attended the grand opening of École Oriole Park School’s Outdoor Indigenous Garden on June 14, 2023. (Photo contributed by École Oriole Park School)

École Oriole Park School celebrated the grand opening of its Outdoor Indigenous Garden on Wednesday.

In addition to the garden, which includes a wheelchair-accessible garden box, the learning space also has a concrete Indigenous medicine wheel.

“We always talk about book learning, but we know that when kids experience things they learn better, and we just wanted really positive experiences for them in a garden area,” said principal Lori Irvine.

She said the garden is a place where students can learn about health and wellness, Indigenous teachings, science, math, and more.

“It fits in so many parts of our curriculum.”

The idea for the garden came from Grade 4 students and teachers last year who volunteered at Common Ground Garden in Capstone and won the Canadian Geographic Queen’s Jubilee Classroom Challenge and $1,500.

Those students went on to supply Saskatoon and raspberry bushes and an apple tree for the new garden.


Irrigation system planned for Red Deer’s Common Ground Garden in Capstone

On Wednesday during the grand opening students planted vegetables like pumpkin and zucchini. In the fall when they return to class those vegetables will be ready to harvest and can be used in the school’s nutrition program.

“It’s lovely to have. The schools of yesterday probably wouldn’t have had something like this. Now we’re always looking at ways to connect kids to school, and families to school.”

Much of the construction for the nine-by-nine metre garden, located in what was an unused space in the schoolyard, was funded by the school’s Math-a-thon fundraisers.


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Irvine said there are still some things left to do for the garden, like build a fence, and watering and composting systems.

But the school is grateful for all the support it’s received for the project so far, from consultations with Red Deer Native Friendship Society, to the work by Gilmar Construction, Knelsen Sand & Gravel, Creative Concrete, and Red Deer Sunrise Rotary Club.

“It’s been a real community effort.”

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Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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