In nature, places that are wet throughout the year offer unique ecological niches for an abundance of life from salamanders to dragonflies to specific types of butterflies and birds. At the Annex, the front yard offers a unique blend of wet soil, semi-canopied landscapes and is situated between the South Mountain Reservation and a designated wetlands in what is a former quarry.
Kids Building Nature
During the master planning process, the team met with kindergarten and first grade teachers to talk about how we could integrate the actually building of the front yard into the curriculum for the students. The front yard design calls for lots of plants, so one way was to help students start some of the plants from seed, and then grow them until they are ready for planting into the yard. The spring of 2018 is when that process will likely start. Another suggestion that came up that we could do this year was to get lots of plants and install them with the kids. So that is what we did.
I created a planting plan for the space, and purchased nearly 1000 landscaping plugs for the front yard. These plants are specifically selected based on the natural conditions of the landscape. As mentioned, it gets lots of shade in the summer, has moist soils throughout the year and periodically has standing water in certain areas after rainstorms. The plan included Pycnanthemum muticum, Lobelia cardinalis, Lobelia siphilitica, Iris versicolor, Aster cordifolius as well as several types of carex.
Earth Day 2017
On Earth Day this year, we started rebuilding nature at the Annex. Earth Day was a rainy and slightly chilly day, but we had about 30 volunteers of parents and kids to help with the plants.
About two weeks later, we did a final planting. This time, we did it on a Friday so that all of the kids at the Annex could be involved. Around 150 students came outdoors and with the help of parents and teachers, we installed close to 600 plants. The students, literally, got their hands dirty with rebuilding nature. They got to learn a little Latin as I told them about the native plants we had. They found worms in the ground. Some of them would scream when they first saw the worms in the dirt…but quickly after, they would want to find other worms to show their friends.
Designing Nature around Kids
Outdoor Classroom at South Mountain Annex
Kids and Outdoor Play
South Mountain Annex Master Plan