2017 Living Outdoor Classroom for Science, Art, and Piedmont Natural History
Critical Parts of the Project
- Improve the outdoor space by making it something that facilitates learning about the ecology that is unique to the Piedmont Landscape.
- Remove all non-native species and replace with well-researched communities of local native species in order to maximize the support of biodiversity with the garden space.
- Address the demands and limitations of unique site conditions by installing plant communities that are adapted to those conditions.
- Offer habitat (including shelter, water, food, and life-cycle support) that maximizes the support of local native insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, mosses, fungi, and volunteer native species of plants.
- Capture the rainwater from each of 2-3 downspouts and direct into an ecologically designed stormwater swale that will be packed with native plants that encourage evaporation and absorption. This will create a rain-garden setting that will be active with unique wildlife (the rain garden will never hold substantial amounts of water fro more than a few days. They are known to be dry between storm events)
- The margins of the design area will be architecturally “tight”; that is, straight lines, clean edges, and shapes that augment the existing the architecture of the school
- The implementation of the outdoor classroom design may include classes of students. Our education-oriented staff are skilled at working in this fashion, and the education opportunity therein is of unsurpassed quality.
- Variety in unique plant community areas to include: semi-shade Piedmont savanna, full sun Piedmont prairie, and a Piedmont Alluvial Floodplain Wetland Swale.
- Access, via pathways to each portion of the planted areas so that inquiry is facilitated.
- Provide a maintenance plan that can be followed by the grounds crew so that the important plantings of the outdoor classroom can be protected and nurtured, and so the edges can remain tidy, straight, and clean.
- Create a proposal that conveys the list of species, as well as the numbers of plants, that should go in each unique design area.
- Generate a timeline for implementation, and cost proposal for project installation, including plants, labor, maintenance to establish, and hourly rates for additional consulting or instruction
Guiding Principles for the project:
- Designing an outdoor space that is a vibrant, wild, and dynamic ecosystem that also has open and tidy space for comfortable teaching, learning, art activities, and restful down-time.
- Creating a vibrant outdoor classroom that inspires critical thinking and facilitates inquiry around the subjects of local ecology, wildlife, native plants, and clean water.
- Supporting native birds, butterflies, bees, and other fauna by providing them with a rigorously researched assemblage of native plants for food and shelter.
- Conserving resources by minimizing the need for maintenance and using native flora and landscaping to slow and filter stormwater runoff, thereby reducing the impacts on local streams.
- Honoring the cultural past (by highlighting and nurturing the existing memorial garden that is dedicated to the life of a student) as well as the unique natural history of the Piedmont of Virginia (by creating gardens that will double as a living exhibit of native flora and fauna).