Strawberry Vale Elementary has around 300 students, from kindergarten to grade five.

Located in a semi-rural area of Saanich, surrounded by Garry Oak meadows, the teachers strive to bring the environment into the classroom.

Teacher Kiersten Brookes says her grade four and five students have been learning about the habitat that surrounds them.

“They’ve been learning about water, and its cleanliness, they’ve been learning about pollution,” she says.

The students have also been learning about habitat restoration.

“We’ve been chopping down invasive species,” says Brookes.

“We’ve been planting milkweed, we’ve been trying to take care of pollinators, and we’ve been worried about the different invasive species, as well as the species that were native here, long ago” Brookes adds.

Strawberry Vale Elementary is one of many schools working with Saanich Parks.

Rick Hatch, from Saanich Parks, says the municipality has “25 plus youth groups that work with our lead stewards.”

“Last year with the youth groups, we put in I think, over 17,000 hours of volunteer work in one year,” says Hatch.

The students are also learning about building bluebird nest boxes, which delights Linda Proctor.

“My father in the ’80s, started to put out nest boxes because he’d noticed there was a decline in the bluebirds that he’d seen as a youngster around Metchosin,” says Proctor.

“It’s delightful to see these kids taking it on, and maybe, who knows, they’ll get the bluebirds back here again.”

Brookes is also hopeful that the bluebirds will return.

“We’re hoping that if we put up houses in our neighbourhoods, and in our yards, then maybe we’ll be able to entice them back to our area too,” says Brookes.

In his work with the student volunteers, Hatch has noticed that “when they take ownership over a park, whether it’s invasive removal, or planting, or anything like that, it goes a long way. The kids just love it.”

Veronica Cooper