kids with shovels from Madeleine-de-Roybon Elementary prepare for a Little Forest

by Susie Everding


It started with a lunchtime running club; it’s now a project for potentially an entire school.


In September of 2014, our kids transferred to Kingston’s Madeleine-de-Roybon Elementary (MDR), and I was looking for ways to become involved at this new school. I quickly had the opportunity to lead a lunchtime running club, but since I wasn’t familiar with the area, I needed to find short, safe running routes in the neighbourhood. On one of those scouting missions, I came across Grenville Park, a former farm that had been purchased by a handful of families back in the ‘50s. Those founding members had the vision of planning green spaces amongst the residential lots and now, as a result, it is a unique, leafy oasis enjoyed by many of Kingston’s residents beyond the Grenville Park Cooperative. “Hmm…this would be a nice place to live”, I thought to myself.


Fast forward 5 years, and the country home that we built became too much of a commute to the city in which we conducted most of our business, so we began looking at houses in Kingston. Just before COVID struck, we moved into one of Grenville Park’s bungalows directly across from the park where I had once made children perform warm-up drills! (Unfortunately, our kids graduated from MDR before they could enjoy the convenience of living within walking distance from their school.)


Just to be clear, MDR is no ordinary school. Long before our kids walked through its doors, the school prided itself on being a “green” school with a strong mandate to the 3 R's, a vibrant staff-initiated, student-run environmental club, natural gardens, and in 2020, it became part of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network. This group connects thousands of schools in 182 countries, and all prioritize, among other UNESCO ideals, the goal of embedding sustainability and climate action into their schools and wider communities. 


So, that’s all very nice, but what does this have to do with Little Forests, you ask?


Not surprisingly, many kids in Grenville Park attend MDR and a year ago, an enterprising parent floated the idea to a teacher that classes may enjoy using Grenville Park’s green space as a convenient location to identify native trees and discuss invasive species. I happily helped out. A couple of discussions with the principal and some successful field trips later, MDR is now in partnership with Grenville Park to plant Phase One of a Little Forest in autumn 2023. This is a wonderful initiative: Grenville Park has the land and desire to increase biodiversity in its green space, and MDR values the opportunity to champion its vision for climate action by taking part in a hands-on afforestation project. 


Grenville Park residents began the project in June ’22 by first removing invasive species and spreading wood chips. MDR kids also helped haul wood chips and in class, the grade fives researched the appropriate native trees and shrubs that would likely thrive in the site and completed a small, spring planting. This fall, the students will return to help plant over 300 trees and shrubs and will quickly recognize how their contribution of time and energy can have a lasting, environmental impact. 


As part of this circuitous journey, the students and I made a short, two-minute video that summarizes the project and its importance. Please have a look: it’s a wonderful example of how students, teachers, a principal, parents and residents in a community can work together to integrate sustainability not only in the domain of teaching and learning, but in community partnerships as well.


Together, Grenville Park and the students of Madeleine-de-Roybon Elementary have a BIG goal of planting 3,000 trees and shrubs. We have the land. We have the vision. We have the kid-power. All we need is your support to help us fund this one-of-a-kind forest classroom and accessible neighbourhood gem!


To raise the funds, we started a GoFundMe. The students kicked things off with $500 they raised through a grant. You can support their ambitious goal of planting 3000 trees and shrubs by donating on GoFundMe. Every donation helps!