CJP’s Discovery Garden expands opportunities for learning and play by creating a quiet space to reflect, gather, explore, and deepen connections with the land.
It features an outdoor classroom surrounded by natural elements, native species, planter boxes, and a little free library. The garden’s development and evolution are guided by the following goals:
- Incorporating local Indigenous knowledge and encouraging land-based learning
- Improving accessibility within the school’s natural spaces
- Including native species
- Ensuring low-maintenance and low-water design
- Planting species that will extend the garden season from early spring into late fall to maximize enjoyment during the school year
Spring 2023 Plan
New plants have been ordered from ALCLA Native Plants in northwest Calgary. They grow native plants from locally sourced seeds and have provided some great advice in selecting plant varieties that will work well for the CJP Discovery Garden. ALCLA also has a very cool native plant database on their website that is fun to look through.
The plants will be babies and will not flower this year – possibly not next year either – as they will need to grow and get established in our garden.
Some of the species we’ve selected include: Yellow Prairie Coneflower, Purple Prairie Clover, Purple Coneflower, Smooth Aster, Blue Clematis, Prairie Smoke, Alpine Forget-me-not, Boreal Oxytropis, Smooth Blue Beardtongue, Prairie Crocus, Golden Currant, Shooting Star, Yellowstone Draba, Early Blue Violet, Cutleaf Fleabane, Showy Oxytropis and Blue-eyed Grass
A little history
In 2009, the CJP Parents Association engaged with CJP students, teachers, families and the community to identify priorities for creating the Discovery Garden. Their vision for this naturalization project was to incorporate natural elements, inspired by Alberta’s landscapes, to create an outdoor learning space where teachers could link the curriculum to a natural setting. The goals were to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students and to facilitate a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, nature through structured learning and free play.
The initial Discovery Garden was funded by Parent Association fundraising initiatives, the Montessori Alternative Public School Society, and the Government of Alberta (CFEP grant). Through this funding, the space was developed with trees, bushes, sandstone boulders, a semi circle berm (natural amphitheatre) and a gravel path.
Fast forward ten years…the Discovery Garden remained a beloved teaching space and quiet play area. However, the foliage became overgrown and invasive species took over. The semi-circle berm became eroded from years of play and was identified a safety issue by the CBE and subsequently removed.
Where we are today
In 2019, the CJP Parent Association identified that the playground was in need of replacement and took this major fundraising opportunity to revitalize the Discovery Garden at the same time. Preliminary design ideas for the garden revitalization included a new outdoor classroom space, the addition of more native plants, the inclusion of local Indigenous knowledge, and increased accessibility within the garden. By fall 2022, the CJP Parent Association successfully designed, funded, and completed the first phase of the Discovery Garden revitalization with a new stone outdoor classroom, eight newly planted trees, rehabilitated pathways to improve accessibility, and new garden planter troughs.
Going forward, we intend to add more native species, collaborate with classrooms to support learning in the space, and incorporate Indigenous knowledge, stories, and traditions local to Treaty 7 through the use of art, nature, and space.