In September 2014, in light of the necessity of transforming the land surrounding the school, a widespread consultation was launched regarding the landscaping for a dream yard. The consultation began with the personnel and subsequently included parents. The project got underway with each class preparing a proposal which would be evaluated by a panel of judges. The proposals had to be original and realistic, and had to take into account our four seasons and the large number of children from 5 to 12 years of age who would use the yard. The contest was spread out over six weeks, and there was a real sense of anticipation in the air!
In February, the jury awarded the prize for the best project to a kindergarten class. However, when the professionals responsible for the dossier moved to their drawing boards to develop the final project, they took into account the proposals of the other students as well.
The project proposed by the professionals rallied teachers, pupils and parents, but the support of other parties was also needed. The members of the Board of Directors of the Corporation got on board quickly and, in a tangible way, supported the school administration. Then, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary offered its support through a significant financial contribution . And, the Externat Mont-Jésus-Marie Foundation contributed by soliciting the parents for a special contribution. It was also necessary to get all the compulsory permits from the municipality within the time required so as not to delay the start of the work.
In order to achieve our dream yard in about 12 weeks, everyone had to join forces, from the professionals to the laborers, including all the collaborators. Weekend work was necessary in order to complete the project before the students arrived.
On Monday, August 24, 2015, all experienced a sense of magic as the eyes of returning students filled with wonder. These students had left in June with a vague idea of what the yard would look like and they came back to begin the year in a completely different environment. From the beginning, they had been convinced that they would have “the most wonderful schoolyard in Montreal” but now they believed that they had “the most wonderful schoolyard in the whole world” … and nothing less. Moreover, they showed themselves to be excellent ambassadors a few weeks later when they welcomed their parents during an “open yard”.
Our four-season Marie-Rose Garden made it flawlessly through the winter. The changes have made recreation pleasurable in winter as well as in summer. All the equipment is safe and the yard respects the natural surroundings, with all the trees being preserved. Several works of art, created by the students, are integrated into the Marie-Rose Garden, and these student-artists are especially proud to have their work immortalized in this way.
Mother Marie-Rose is certainly present in the garden through the presence of a strategically-placed acrylic plaque incorporating her photo. Mother Marie-Rose is well known to the students since we celebrate her feast day every year.
It was quite a challenge to bring this project to fruition while respecting the timetable and the initial budget. We achieved this through the collaboration of all concerned and most likely also because Mother Marie-Rose was watching over us all along the way.