Kids give Carr's lily field a makeover

Students at South Park Elementary have been doing more than planting trees in a corner of their Douglas Street schoolyard -they've been digging into the history of their James Bay community.

Makayla Kew, 9, right, holds up a worm to show her fellow South Park Elementary student Aurora Ralph, 7, while Aurora's sister Asha, 4, examines the soil.

Photograph by: Debra Brash, Times Colonist. Article by Jeff Bell

Students at South Park Elementary have been doing more than planting trees in a corner of their Douglas Street schoolyard -they've been digging into the history of their James Bay community.

With the help of workers from the City of Victoria and the Greater Victoria school district, and guidance from the Habitat Acquisition Trust, the students are creating a nativespecies garden in an area known to have been favoured by one of James Bay's most famous residents -Emily Carr.

One of the inspirations for the South Park students, staff and parents is a Carr essay she wrote in The Book of Small (first published in 1942), which describes the environs of the site they are improving at Douglas and Niagara streets, just across the roadway from Beacon Hill Park.

"Nothing, not even fairyland, could have been so lovely as our lily field," Carr wrote. "The field was roofed by tall, thin pine trees. The lilies were sprinkled everywhere."

The school project is part of the Habitat Acquisition Trust's Green Spots Program, which aims to help children from kindergarten to Grade 7 get closer to nature.

South Park vice-principal Anne Nilsen said the effort is the first part of a plan to reclaim an overgrown area full of invasive species and often fouled with garbage by passersby.

It will be returned to its natural state as a Garry oak meadow. "Eventually we'll have more trees planted in there and all sorts of things to make it really like a lovely garden," Nilsen said.

The assistance of city gardeners from Beacon Hill Park and school district personnel has made a big difference, Nilsen said.

"We've had co-operation from everybody."

Additional plantings will be done over the next several years.

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