Armed with shovels, enthusiasm and a gorgeous fall day, students at Hillcrest Public School dove into the dirt Wednesday to plant trees.
The kindies were first to put little white spruces in the ground in a recently depaved area at Hillcrest that is now an outdoor learning space.
"They loved it. They loved getting in there and getting their hands dirty," said Kindergarten teacher Staci Miller.
The Simcoe County District School Board worked collaboratively with the City of Barrie, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority and Collingwood-based Environment Network to complete the project.
Four fruit trees - apple and pear - were donated by Fruit Share, a local organization that harvests fruit from trees on private property by volunteer pickers and shared to the tree owners, volunteer pickers and local social service agencies such as the Food Bank.
This year, Fruit Share used a portion of a Canada 150 grant to plant 14 trees in Sunnidale Park and decided to devote some funds to Hillcrest.
The organization has donated fruit in the past for the school's breakfast and lunch clubs.
"We're so happy that they'll have fresh fruit for the students and hopefully they can make some apple sauce or apple muffins in the classroom," said Jenna Zardo, Fruit Share Coordinator.
The concept started as a depave project of two old tennis courts on the Hillcrest property wherethe pavement was buckled and unsafe.
All the asphalt was removed last year and an outdoor space was designed wth input from students.
"Not just an outdoor learning space but a fun space. The grade sixes last year did a survey of the school of what people would like to see out here. The key things they wanted were shade, They wanted an obstacle course and they wanted a place to sit. Here it is," said Jessica Kukac, the SCDB's Environmental Systems Coordinator.
The area has ecological significance to Barrie and the depaved area is helping to filter the water before it makes its way to Kidds Creek where there is a cold water fishery.
"It's really important that the water that is going down there is clean. Having an area like this will help to clean the run-off water that's coming from the school and to slow down the rate at which the water is travelling down there," said Kukca.
"So these depaved areas are really significant to our local bio-diversity here."
A variety of other trees donated by the Environment Network were also planted.
Kennedy Orchards in Nottawa donated three large bags full of apples for the young diggers.
"Cool!" exclaimed 6-year-old Sammie Allison when asked about the tree planting. "Cause I always loved planting trees."
"I think the digging is hard and fun," said Finlay Dewolf, also 6.
The outdoor space the students were tending plays an important role.
"Our kindergarten program is based on outdoor learning. Our program starts outside every day. We're outside for the first hundred minutes, every day - rain, shine, snow," said teacher Miller.
"We see the benefit of the kids being outside every day. They are ready to learn and calmer when we go in after being outside in the morning."