She just turned 8, but Margaret Botelho can tell you the secret of a tiny white fleck on a milkweed leaf she has found deep in a downtown park.

“It’s a monarch butterfly egg,” she explains on a recent scavenger hunt with her family. She knows; her family has hatched four butterflies this summer.

And here, on the unlikely site of an old brick quarry, another sort of hatching is underway, from industrial wasteland to hub of green living, an outdoor nature school in the heart of downtown Toronto.

The former Don Valley Brick Works is the new home base for eco-charity Evergreen, whose spruced-up digs will offer city kids close encounters with nature, through summer camps, weekend programs and school field trips for Grades 2 to 5.

“Our theme is ‘all hands in the dirt,’” says Evergreen education manager Paul Gifford.