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OUTDOOR LEARNING SPACES

The Outdoor Learning Spaces committee was established to maintain and foster the areas around our building; the learning garden and the outdoor learning space. Our goal for this project is to create a durable and usable space in which our students, staff and families participate in the life long lesson of being responsible stewards of their environment and community.

Inspiration for the Outdoor Learning Space in the front of our building came out of the pandemic. We were looking for ways to bring the kids outdoors more during their school day. Early on we were able to make portable outdoor learning areas with funds from the Big Green Jumpstart Grant

 

Spurred on by these temporary areas we began to speak more about developing permanent structures for outdoor learning to improve students' social emotional development. And the Outdoor Learning Space project was born.

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CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT

OLS committee founding member Monica Richart worked with her Landscape Architecture students DePaul University to assist in developing concepts.

 

From there the OLS committee took surveys from students and teachers on how to best make use of the outdoor space. The DePaul students took that feedback and created designs based on the data as part of their final projects for the year. The DePaul students presented their designs to the Hamilton Community at the 2022 Patriots Ball. 

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PLANS & RENDERINGS

At Patriots Ball parents were given the opportunity to vote on their favorite designs. With this feedback, the OLS committee hired design firm Could Be Architecture to bring the concepts to life. 

 

By the fall of 2022 we had beautiful 2-d illustrations, and 3-d renderings of our future space. The focus was on sustainable materials, multipurpose structures and pollinator friendly, native plants.

The west side of the space features a platform that can be used for seating and staging. Reclaimed logs become benches, and, let's be honest, balance beams.

 

The design also features 8 pollinator boxes which will be installed throughout the space inviting these important creatures to our garden. 

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COMMUNITY IN ACTION

In September 2023, parent and student volunteers came together and got their hands dirty to clear the way for more progress toward our Outdoor Learning Space.

 

The primary goal was to remove the old retaining wall running along the front of the building which was accomplished in record time thanks to our volunteers!

 

The group also tended to the vegetable garden, removed dead plants and limbs, transplanted 7 boxwoods, and cleared up litter from the area. We were even able to work on repairing the garden retaining wall that had fallen on the corner of Cornelia and Paulina.

 

The middle schoolers who showed up definitely earned those service hours! 

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POLLINATOR
BOX PLANS

While the space was being cleared and the weather started to turn towards winter the OLS committee began the work of finding partners to continue the development of the learning space.

 

We are proud to partner with Rebuilding Exchange to offer a Parent/Child workshop experience in building pollinator houses! The houses will be made out of reclaimed cedar and old growth lumber and decorated with paint, carving or wood burning. Participants will learn how to use a miter saw, drill and sander. 

Families will be able to sign up for the workshop during Patriots Ball 2023.

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PHASE I:
LANDSCAPING & CONSTRUCTION

Over the winter of 2023 the OLS committee reviewed landscape and construction bids and determined what could be done through the work of passionate volunteers and what needed to be left to professionals. The project was then outlined into three phases.

 

Phase I will include clearing the space, removing trees and amending the soil. OLS committee member and master gardener, Jen Van Buskirk, will ensure the soil is optimized for plant growth.

Once the space is cleared and prepared Phase I continues to include installation of the platform stage, ADA compliant pathways, completed pollinator boxes and reclaimed log seating on both the east and west sides of the space.

Whelan Landscape was awarded the work for Phase I and work is slated to begin in March 2023.

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PHASE 2:
PLANTING & PLAYING

Once our space is prepared and the larger structures are in place we will begin to bring plants to the space.

 

Because the Outdoor Learning Space will be usable after Phase I we will open it up to teachers, students and the community and continue to collect feedback.

 

As we see how the space is used, we will work closely with Could Be Architecture and Whelan Landscaping to prioritize the remaining elements to best suit Hamilton's needs.

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PHASE 3:
COMPLETION & MAINTENANCE

The final elements will be installed and we will begin the work of caring for this space for future students and families.

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