The third thing the design really wants to do is to get kids outside more and make their trips outdoors as educational as possible. So, for this, I wanted to bring nature as close to the kids as I can…literally, put as real an ecosystem at their feet as possible. AND! I wanted to do this while making spaces dynamic, educational and to feel like a PLACE! By PLACE I mean to make every space unique while also making them interconnected, full of fun things to do and creating discovery around every corner.
I named the master plan “Contemporary Ecology: Kids, Education & Nature + Culture (maybe)”. The whole idea is to be all of those things at the same time, but not trying to replicate the notion of any of those things. The master plan focused on 4 areas (see diagram below).
Area 1 is a part of the yard where a large blacktop abuts a grassy space that borders residential homes. A fence separates the school from the houses. You can see the fence in the picture above. The space slopes down which is perfect for pools of water to form in the low area. This isn’t want we want. In fact, the entire slope gets wet (see diagrams below. The purple shading is where it’s the wettest).
Water follows the path of least resistance, and so I started looking at how nature does that, well, naturally. What I found were beautiful examples of grassy mounds both natural and man-made. The images below show Maya Lin’s Wavefield at Sky King Art Center along with naturally occurring mounds in the Midwest.
The other space I wanted to write about in this post is Area 4. This is a large portion of the front yard of the school. Right now, it is void of much vegetation. It’s used mainly as a shortcut from where parents park on the street to walk their kids into the school…that is, when it’s not totally muddy and wet. Below are two photos that show where the area gets wet.
The biggest issue for the space is that it’s totally off balance ecologically. The diagram below shows how healthy forests have multiple layers of growth.
The opportunity is that we can create a place that lets the kids touch, smell, and feel the natural world. I discussed with the others at the meeting the idea of getting the students to seed native plants in Feb and March and then plant them in April and May. Overtime, the students would actually MAKE the ecology and could see how the space developed from year to year and beyond.
Below you can see how the space looks now and how it would look after walking paths and lots of plants are put in the space.
The Quest for the High Line in Suburbia
Take the Next Step with Ecology
Beauty in the After, Part 4 Density + Time
Capture Autumn with Solidago in Your Eco-Yard