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Green and white grounds

Over half the school year is in Winter so it is important to plan projects that can be used year round. Some ideas for green and white projects:

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  • building feeders to attract birds throughout the Winter
  • growing plants that retain seeds and berries for birds in Winter
  • planting stands or rows of conifers to form a windbreak for children and shelter for wildlife
  • building a weather station
  • turning raised vegetable and flower beds into ice and snow sculpture gardens  
  • making straw bale play spaces such as mazes, play houses and forts which can be soaked to make them freeze hard and packed with snow
  • creating a nature trail around the periphery of the school yard and using it in the Winter as a snowshoe or cross-country ski trail

Growing for Winter

Plants can be grown:

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  • for their attractiveness in Winter
  • to provide food and shelter for birds and small mammals
  • to serve as windbreaks to increase children's comfort in the yard in Winter
  • for school grounds curriculum activities

Learning outdoors in Winter

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It is important to continue to use the school grounds and the neighbourhood around the school for curriculum activities throughout the year to help students learn about monitoring and recording seasonal changes in vegetation and animals' and plants' adaptation and survival strategies. The results of the students' observations and data-gathering exercises during the Winter can be used to help plan the following growing season's planting projects. The information collected can be used to improve the attractiveness of the grounds and their usefulness to birds, small mammals and insects in Winter. Recording wind direction and wind speed throughout the season will help to determine the proper placement of trees to serve as windbreaks to increase children's comfort in the yard.

Many activities can be carried out in the schoolyard during Winter months. Students can:

  • learn about various measuring techniques
  • develop observation skills
  • monitor and record temperature and weather patterns
  • learn how to predict short-term weather conditions by studying wind directions
  • measure precipitation
  • record wind direction and wind speed
  • learn how to determine wind speed by using the Beaufort Wind Scale
  • learn about types of clouds and cloud formation
  • observe and identify birds visiting the bird feeder
  • learn about how birds survive the Winter months
  • find out how trees and other plants protect themselves from freezing and look at what happens to plants that do not have their own anti-freeze
  • learn about the insulating properties of snow and its value to animals
  • record snow fall in different areas of the grounds so comparisons can be drawn
  • study insect life in Winter and the emergence of insects in the later Winter months
  • construct and install bird feeders
  • study the parts of a tree in Winter and learn how to identify them from their shape, trunk, bark, branches, twigs, buds, seeds, etc.
  • learn about the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees
  • learn about animals' Winter adaptations and survival strategies
  • identify the kinds of food animals find in the Winter
  • learn how to identify animal tracks in the snow
  • record and store information gathered from the school grounds to make comparisons with data gathered in subsequent years

Creating habitat

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When identifying plants for inclusion in your grounds greening projects, think of their potential usefulness to wildlife in the Winter. Birds and small mammals need shelter as well as food. Evergreens provide animals with shelter from cold Winter winds and the foliage helps to protect them from snow and freezing rain. Many trees, shrubs and flowers produce berries and seeds that will provide a source of food during the Winter months. When providing birds and squirrels with an additional source of food in feeders, make sure you maintain a consistent supply once you start because these creatures soon come to depend on it. It is important to continue to fill the feeders until mid-spring.


You will not find much material on Winter gardening in Canada. However, much of the information you require for creating Winter gardens can come from direct observation throughout the Winter months of the school grounds, neighbours' gardens and green spaces in the community.

Trees, shrubs and vines that create attractive patterns and shapes, remain colourful and retain berries and seeds all Winter can be identified by taking classes on walks around gardens and parks in the community.

Consult wildlife gardening books for lists of plants that provide berries, seeds and shelter for birds and small mammals in Winter. (See Plant Lists)

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