VICTORIA -- Thanks to the work of 400 students, the playground at Keating Elementary School will have a lot more shade this spring and summer.

Students at the school are getting their hands dirty while they learn the value of trees. They are planting 25 new trees to promote environmental sustainability in their Central Saanich community.

“We wanted all the students to participate in planting the trees so they could learn how to take care of them,” said Kaycee Simpson, a Grade 5 student at Keating Elementary School. “It will help the kids by making the new playground more shady.”

The funding for the $4,000 project was made possible by grants from the Keating Elementary Parent Advisory Council, the Municipality of Central Saanich and Oroweat Organic. The Langley, B.C.-based bread company has partnered with Trees Canada to provide schools with trees to be planted by students in schoolyards across the country.

“What the grant allowed us to do, especially during the pandemic, was to take the learning from the classroom and bring it outside,” said Keating Elementary School vice principal Philip Jungen. “Anytime we can get children outside, out of their desks, working creatively in a group, is always a success.”

One of the key lessons the students learned was the role trees play in the sustainability of the environment and how they help to minimize the effects of climate change in their community.

“It’s important to plant the trees because it would spread the oxygen around,” said Simpson. “We are in the middle of the city so trees aren’t just trees to us, they help the environment and they help us too.”

Students also learned about the role trees play in sustaining the ecosystem present in the grounds surrounding the school.

“When they get bigger and stronger, birds and insects will start living in them,” said Grade 5 student Nolan Leask. “It is also important because it will help the community.”

Jungen says the project began with the planting of three trees in June 2020. He says the project grew from three classes in the spring to all 22 of the school’s classes in the fall of 2020. He adds that every stage of the project was a learning opportunity for the students.

“The curricular component for the tree project involved the students planning, designing and executing the plan to have trees successfully grow for years to come,” said Jungen. “There’s math, there’s teamwork, responsibility for the environment and it was a very layered project that the kids really enjoyed.”

The 25 new trees the students have planted at their school will be a legacy to the community from the Class of 2020.

“It’s going to make me feel pretty great because we helped these trees grow and they will get really big,” said Simpson.