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Building community through beautification

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Beautifying a neighbourhood and creating a space where individuals can come together builds a strong healthy community. The Earl Grey School parent council is doing just that through a school grounds beautification project and is creating a unique space for everyone to enjoy.

The project involves creating an outdoor classroom that will have the children planting native Manitoba plants and grasses and containing an amphitheatre-style sitting area.

"Our vision is having the space incorporate fundamental teaching of North American Aboriginal peoples, which means we take only what we need from the land," said parent council president Darryl Balasko.

"The space is meant to teach students about sustainable development."

Currently the space is fairly plain.

"We are not maximizing the use of the space," principal Gail Singer said. "The new space is meant to create something the students and the community can be proud of."  

The project is a two-phase process. Phase 1 last August.

"Last summer we were excited to see the upgrading of the brickwork, the planting of shrubs and lilac trees, and the construction of limestone planter walls," Balasko said. "This next phase, which includes a raised, limestone-edged berm and seating for classrooms and neighbourhood meetings, will still require more funding in order to be completed by Earl Grey School’s 100th anniversary celebrations."

Earl Grey was built in 1914 and students first attended in 1915. It was designed by J.B. Mitchell, an architect credited with design of more than 30 schools in Winnipeg. The school was named after popular Canadian governor-general Earl Grey. In 1919, Earl Grey became the first junior high school in Western Canada.

Today the Earl Grey community is comprised of many diverse groups; roughly 35% of th students are Aboriginal or recent immigrants to Canada.  

"Our curriculum is based on teaching issues of tolerance, principles of equality and solidarity, and understanding and valuing human rights," Singer said.  "Due to the nature of this project, we strongly believe students will have greater opportunity to learn how we can work together harmoniously in spite of our differences of background."  

The project is expected to impact the community by bringing members together with a common purpose.

"We have seen the positive impact the first phase has had on the community through families using the space, the pride they take in their neighbourhood and all of the positive comments we have received," Singer said.

Earl Grey School’s 100th anniversary celebrations are planned for 2015 and the parent council is working towards having the final phase of the beautification complete.  

For more information, visit wsd1.org/earlgrey or call (204) 474-1441.  

Carolyne Braid is a community correspondent for Crescentwood. You can reach her at carolyne.braid@gmail.com.

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