Depave Paradise

What does it take to transform an old, unused basketball court into a beautiful outdoor classroom?

Brookland’s School in Winnipeg was wondering that very thing, and on May 28th they found out.

The plan for the day was ambitious: Rip up 150 m2 of asphalt (mostly by hand), build 15 raised garden beds and fill them with soil, install benches between the beds, plant a native garden including a strawberry patch, lay down mulch for the walking areas, and plant a special tree in memory of a special teacher.

Despite the morning threatening to rain, the volunteers arrived in droves, and with them – the sun. The excitement and energy was contagious, and everyone was ready to start working.

The volunteers from the Brooklands community meant business. It would be hard to find another group of people who worked as hard and efficiently as this group did. By lunchtime, the group had accomplished more than had been imagined would be accomplished all day.

Not only were the volunteers hard-working, they were incredibly cheerful and encouraging. Many of the volunteers had huge smiles on their faces every time you looked at them, whether they were hauling asphalt, building benches, or laying mulch. Their dedication deserves to be recognized – particularly one volunteer who apologized for leaving early, as his son was having his first communion in an hour – and his son was volunteering that day too! It was a truly incredible group of people.

At the end of the day, the site was completely transformed. Complete with garden boxes to grow vegetables in, and native gardens containing local, edible, and medicinal plants, the site is now absorbing water and diverting it from sewers. Since the installation, the school children enjoyed a 2-week outdoor challenge, learning and playing in their new outdoor classroom.

Depave Paradise is a project of Green Communities Canada and the Green Communities Foundation. For more information about Green Communities’ initiatives on ecological stormwater management, visit