Our Courtyard

The seed of the idea germinated, quite literally, in the mid 1950’s.  The neighbourhood around the school was being cleared and developed for the first time.  Someone special planted a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia) seedling, and in 1962 Cleveland School was built around the tree, creating our beloved courtyard.

Years passed.  Students and teachers came and went.  The tree grew.  By 1997, when our dynamic and creative librarian, Sandra Santarossa, arrived at Cleveland, the courtyard was mostly overgrown.  Sandra, other teachers, students and parents gradually improved the space, cleaning out junk and adding native plants and seating areas.  The connection between the indoor and outdoor learning spaces began.

Around this time, a family came to Cleveland and among other contributions donated the much-loved red sectional couch that is still a comfortable fixture in the library.  Bill Harrison, the father, is now Principal of Forma Design and made it possible for one of his landscape designers, Josh Bernsen, to volunteer his time to work with classes and create our new courtyard design.

More years passed.  A beautiful mural was added outdoors.  New artwork and class projects were displayed indoors. Many events brought music and celebration.  The library, courtyard and tree have grown and evolved together, each fostering quiet and thoughtful learning, creative pursuits and environmental and social responsibility.


The story of our courtyard is one of transition, growth, connection and learning. We are blessed and grateful for our community of teachers, administrators, parents and students – past, present and future – that make Cleveland so special.  The cycle will continue.

Next spring, the Northern Flicker will return to build her nest in the courtyard.  The welcoming and inclusive nature of the courtyard reflects a core value of our school.  This will soon be symbolized by a Welcome Figure, carved from a cedar tree blessed by a Squamish Nation elder and donated by a Cleveland family.

The flicker will also be met with a newly renovated and redesigned courtyard.   The purpose is to create an accessible and flexible outdoor learning space.  The new design, driven by students, has swings for fun and relaxation, a mock stream-bed and rain garden to echo our school’s work on salmon, and little paths for hiding and exploring.  Its main feature is a beautiful outdoor classroom, nestled beneath the graceful green boughs of the true symbol of Cleveland – our beloved courtyard tree.

It’s December 2018, we have a gorgeous concept design (see the image at right, or download a high-res version here), and we have opened our request for proposals to select the landscaping company who will help us turn our vision into an oasis.


Please help make this design a reality

Donations over $20 are eligible for a tax-deductible receipt.