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Universally Accessible School Yard 448
Universally Accessible School Yard

JRPS Universally Accessible School Yard

1. Accessible Outdoor Classroom

Funding:  TD Friends of the Environment, Markham Environmental Sustainability Fund, JRPS School Council, student fund raisers (Dance a Thon) several donations and discounts from businesses secured through our contractor, Hawkins Contracting. (Examples: Lee Sand and Gravel, Unilock, Kawartha Quarry). 

The accessible outdoor classroom is an ideal venue for integration. It is large enough to integrate two classes of “Reading Buddies.” (A higher grade is partnered with a lower grade to develop reading and writing skills. This relationship building also is part of the anti-bullying plan in the school) Each year, grade 6 students from a neighbouring school are integrated into JRPS to complete grades 7 and 8. The outdoor classroom is used as gathering place to welcome the new students, exchange information, launch cooperative games and mixers to give the students a chance to get to know each other in an unthreatening setting. The outdoor classroom was also used during a summer academic program (R.I.M.E.S.) which integrated able-bodied and disabled children. At recess, students turn the outdoor classroom into an imaginary play place and it represents a sanctuary for those who like to read and reflect. The outdoor classroom is regularly used as a meeting place for teacher instructions before curriculum related activities in the schoolyard. Elderly neighbours take a break on the stone seating when using the path to access the sidewalks for shopping or exercise. 

2. Paved Learning Trail

Construction of the first 180 m. appropriately textured and painted trail for low vision users was completed in 2014.

Funding: TD Friends of the Environment honorary contribution, Gallo Brothers Paving, JRPS School Council and Hawkins Contracting.

Construction of 340 m of main trail featuring accessible sand play area, loose parts play zone, kettle rock, storage, shade structure with rock seating, and tree plantings

Funding: Landscape Ontario

A wheelchair accessible trail in a naturalized setting does not exist in Markham. JRPS is creating the first one. The trail enables all children and adults access to shade and outdoor experiences. The universal design takes into consideration the needs of people in the community who are able-bodied and those who live with developmental, emotional, low vision and/or mobility issues. Senior citizens use the trail to safely travel to the only sidewalks in the neighbourhood. The trail is used as a “track” for physical education classes and Cross Country Team practices. It also expands the play area for students when recess activities are restricted to “pavement only” because wet/muddy field conditions.

One of the main features of the learning trail is the serpentine component where students in wheelchairs experience the gradual changes in elevation within the trail which stimulates vestibular input. Another feature of the learning trail is a tunnel created from plants that have been shaped and cut to create a safe enclosure for students.

3. Curriculum - Based Food Gardens 

(3, 3x6 raised planters mounted on top of asphalt)

Funding: Whole Kids School Gardens (Whole Foods Foundation), Seeds for Change partnership and Home Depot

Food gardening was introduced through an interactive presentation on World Hunger as part of Earth Day 2013 celebrations. 

The 3 garden plots were adopted by the school’s teachers and students for therapeutic qualities, inquiry based learning and reaching “at risk” students through authentic, hands on learning experiences. Students now have a better understanding of their role in sustainability and a real connection to where food comes from. Gardening also bridges the language barrier between students in the JRPS multicultural setting. We are proud to say that students have harvested vegetables from our food garden to include in our Breakfast Program.

4. Wheelchair Accessible Sensory Garden

Funding: Markham Environmental Sustainability Fund, plant donations from a neighbour.

Students in the Multi-Exceptionalities Community Class learn best through using their senses. This demonstration garden meets those needs. Concepts such as “long and short” are taught through comparing tomato and pumpkin vines, as an example. In their life skills program, students have cooked a pesto lunch made from basil they grew and made coleslaw from cabbage also grown at school.    

5. Trees/Shrubs

Funding: TD Friends of the Environment, Sheridan Nurseries (2013 National Tree Day donation)

Plants: 36 Shrubs and trees planted.


Urban forestry is a priority at JRPS. New trees must be planted to replace the existing ones that are declining because of age, ice damage and insect infestation. More native trees must be planted to provide shade, diversify plant material and to establish a more naturalized environment. The use of plastic “tree gators” has proven to be the best way to teach students and adult volunteers about tree care. The gators allow for consistent and effective summer watering maintenance of the trees. Vandalism is minimal because of the hard work and stewardship role that students, families and neighbours have developed over the years.

6. Accessible Outdoor Stage

Funding: JRPS School Council (hot lunch program fund raiser) and Hawkins Contracting securing discounts and donations. 

Weather permitting, drama and music classes take place at the stage. During recess, students have balancing races up and down the ramps and use it for imaginary play, including hide- and-go-seek. The children with autism, (Transition Class) particularly like the secure, “closed in” feeling of the stage/back drop and will gravitate there away from the large open spaces. The stage currently provides a loop in the trail for skate board or scooter use, promoting safe, physical fitness after school.


7. “Dancing Leaves” Chain link fence mural art

Funding: A.I.R. Project, (Artist In Residence - Ontario Arts Council and YRDSB partnership) JRPS School Council, Volunteer labour to cut wooden shapes - Parents, Transition to Employment High School wood shop students.

All students painted colourful wooden leaves for display in schoolyard. The leaf shapes are reflective of the native shade trees growing in yard.

Loose Parts Play Manual:

​​​This document helps to explain the specifics around the new Loose Parts Play portion of the Universally Accesbile School yard. 

Loose Parts Play Manual.pdfLoose Parts Play Manual.pdf

UAS Landscape Plan:

JRPS AS OF MAY 2016.pdfJRPS AS OF MAY 2016.pdf

Want More Information?

To learn more about the history of the James Robinson Public School "Universally Accessbile School Yard" please click on the following link: 

JRPS Eco Schoolyard History (3).pdfJRPS Eco Schoolyard History (3).pdf

This link provides an in depth look at the progress of the Universally Accesible School Yard from its beginnings until current day and future plans. 

UAS Funding Chart

JRPS Sourcing Funding Chart.pdfJRPS Sourcing Funding Chart.pdf

Thank you to our Generous Supporters and Partners:

Artist in Residence Program (YRDSB and Ontario Arts Council partnership)
City of Markham
Drawn from Nature
Engineers in Residence
Foundary Lane
Gallo Bro. Paving
Hawkins Contracting Services
Home Depot
JRPS School Council
Kawartha Rock
Lee Sand and Gravel
BOT Construction Group
Brock and Sons Construction LTD
Four Season’s Tree Care
Hutcheson Sand and mixes
Kelly’s Tree Care

Landscape Ontario
Larkin Equipment
Markham Environmental Sustainability Fund
Markham Mobility Foundation
Seeds For Change
Sheridan Nurseries
TD Friends of the Environment
Uxbridge Nurseries
Whole Foods
YRDSB Continuing Education
Post Holes Plus
Recon Consulting
Royal Stone
Spartan Cement
The Miller Group
Wellington Way Rental​



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