First Leaside school to get a Butterfly Canoe!

Rolph Road Kids ready to dig in. Photo Alexandra Stefanoff.
Rolph Road Kids ready to dig in. Photo Alexandra Stefanoff.

It should come as no surprise that Rolph Road Elementary School is the first school in Leaside to have a Butterfly Canoe. After all, this is a certified EcoSchool with Gold EcoSchool status.

Carol Lee, a local Butterfly Ranger with the David Suzuki Butterfly Way Project, told me about this new canoe last fall. Her mission is to help create neighbourhood corridors of pollinator plants to support our native bees and butterflies. To do that, she reaches out to Leaside schools and churches to promote the creation of native pollinator gardens on their sites.   

Last year, Carol visited Rolph Road Elementary and met with the office administrator, Anna Ivans. Coincidently, Anna was already making inquiries about getting a Butterfly Canoe for the school. As they say, timing is everything!

Smooth sailing from the start

It sure helps when everyone is on board with a project like this one, and that seems to be the case with this particular Butterfly Canoe crew.

Alexandra Stefanoff is a kindergarten teacher at the school who started (and leads) the equity committee there. She’s been involved with this project from the very beginning. “Once we knew we were getting a canoe, our principal had me and the equity committee lead the project,’’ she said.

Alexandra planned to include everyone at the school, and wanted to use this opportunity to link learning to the land.

“We want students to understand the significance of native plants, their origin and why they are important to the land,” Alexandra said. Students will be able to explore, learn about the plants, bees, butterflies, pollination and so much more. 

All docked up and ready to grow

The canoe arrived last June (generously donated from the Guildwood Butterflyway), and its greatest adventure has only just begun. At the beginning of this school year, in recognition of Truth and Reconciliation Day, students learned about Ontario native plants. Each class from kindergarten to Grade 6 chose a plant to research, understand its unique qualities, and even learn its Indigenous name.

Every class will have an opportunity to plant in the canoe. Some of that activity began last month, when students began to dig in with donated plants.

(The photo shows kindergarten students from Ms. Stefanoff’s and Mr. Sauve’s classes, all ready and eager to get their hands dirty.) 

Throughout the school year, different classrooms and the Eco Club will maintain the canoe garden. But during the first summer (when these seedlings are most vulnerable) they will need some extra care. Alexandra told me she is more than happy to tend to the young plants (if needed) but hopes that community members will pitch in too.

Ultimately, this project is really about connecting to nature. There are so many ways this native pollinator garden will help these students understand the importance of natural spaces. “We hope we will inspire students to do the same at their homes and for the community,” added Alexandra.

Butterfly Ranger Carol Lee said, “Children are my biggest hope for our future, and the planet Earth’s.” And that’s why she does what she does. Looks to me like everyone at Rolph Road Elementary School feels exactly the same way! 

About Debora Kuchme 66 Articles
After a 30-year career as a fashion designer, Debora worked at Horticultural Design for over a decade. Now with her concerns about climate change, she hopes to help local gardeners find positive solutions for a greener and healthier neighbourhood. As a board member of the Bayview Leaside BIA, she created the Bayview Pixies, a volunteer group introducing sustainable gardening practice to Bayview.