Shoreline middle school Grade 8 students Caitlyn Church and Linnya Thomas yank ivy from Portage Park.

Shoreline middle school Grade 8 students Caitlyn Church and Linnya Thomas yank ivy from Portage Park.

Shoreline students lend an outdoor hand

Teens sure to get green thumbs from Portage Park project

A large pile of English ivy lies along a pathway in Portage Park.

Further up the path, another pile languishes on the side of the walkway and before long, a third pile begins to grow. Alongside a stretch of parkway, 17 Shoreline middle school students have buried their heads and their hands into the underbrush of the View Royal park across Island Highway from their school.

“This is the first day that Shoreline students are engaging in these environmental restoration actives in Portage Park,” said Greater Victoria Green Team program manager Amanda Evans.

“(Hopefully) it’s the first of many. All the teachers are so excited for long-term outdoor educational possibilities here.”

The Green Team, in partnership with the Portage Park Restoration Project and View Royal, helped organize the two-hour long retreats which drew approximately 60 total students in two separate groups. Each group pulled English Ivy out, and planted native Garry oak ecosystems in the park, while learning about invasive and native plant species. In the end,  approximately 300 square meters of the park was cleared and 13 cubic metres of English Ivy piled up and taken out in one day.

“Just getting out of the classroom is really important … It’s just getting outside, getting connected to nature and learning about our local ecosystem,” Evans said. The impact that they can make on the local environment (will) hopefully instill a sense of stewardship so they can grow up to be future stewards.”

The event is part of youth programming for the non-profit society, which organizes and runs environmental conservation programs in conjunction with schools, stewardship societies and municipalities. The focus is on local parks and local food production with students from high school, right down to those in elementary getting involved. Students are provided with tools, gloves and snacks for the day as they remove invasive species with a negative impact on the local ecosystems. Jared Valencia, 14, said the native vegetation is well worth saving.

“It’s a chance to have fun because we are always sitting in chairs,” the Grade 8 student said. “It’s a chance to come out and do something good in life and help our society.”