Development of an Educational Greenspace

I am excited to share about the planning of an educational green-space project starting at Center Grove Middle School North.  Students and staff at Center Grove Middle School North have started working in collaboration with our local community, environmental scientists, and design/construction engineers to develop an educational green-space and restore Indiana native species to an area behind the school.  We seek to design a wetland and climate change mitigation project that will allow our students to work alongside wildlife biologist, environmental scientists, ecologist and other experts.  Our students will conduct regular inventory surveys of flora and fauna to track the long term progress of the project as they learn about Indiana’s native species and wetland habitats.

Over the past several months, Jacob Burskey and I were able to make several important contacts and contributors to this project.  Staff from MSN were able to meet with Robert Winebrinner, Environmental Planner and Summer O’Brien, Senior Environmental Scientist from CHA Companies, Inc. to look over the planned site.  Summer and Robert were able to visit the site behind the school and provide some feedback on our project ideas.  We were also able to consult with Donna Jo Smithers, President/Owner of Northpointe Engineering & Surveying, Inc to provide a Phase “A” topographical survey of the desired area.

The existing conditions of the area is a dry detention basin that holds water for several days during high rain events and is dry for extended periods of time. The basin is currently a mowed lawn/grassy area and is flat. There are several storm water pipe inlets from parking lots and roof drains that drain into the area. The basin outlet consists of a large pipe inset with a weir and smaller pipe, allowing a certain quantity of water to be retained for longer periods while larger storm events pass through.7-29-2016 3-09-42 PM

I was also able to make contact with Jim Poyser, Executive Director Earth Charter Indiana and Director of Youth Power Indiana.  Jim  was able to provided some great ideas to increase the student impact on the educational green-space project.  Jim has worked with many students in IPS and Camel Green Initiative to empower kids who want to do more to educate people about global climate change and discover their own voice.  It is our hope to provide our students the opportunity to work together with our community to create significant and lasting change to this area.  We hope to have Jim visit our school to present to our students with an authentic audience and provide some examples of what youth are going around Indiana to grapple with the challenges of climate change.  This will connect perfectly to the new PBL unit on Climate Change we created with Andrea McCoy at the Center Grove Innovation Academy in June.

We hope to have most of the planning done during the 2016 – 2017 school year.  We would like to begin “breaking ground” on Phase “A” in the spring of 2017.  

CHA will provide the following for use in the develop of Phase “A”:

  • Native Restoration Concept design
    • Base Map using GIS Lidar
    • Concept Plan Overview Exhibit
    • Water Control Structure(s) Detail
    • Planting Plan Exhibit
    • Water Budget (depth, duration, frequency)
    • Coordination
  • Specifications
    • Water Control Structure(s)
    • Removal of existing vegetation
    • Soil Amendments/preparation
    • Seed Mixes
    • Tree Species
    • Planting Specs
    • Monitoring well
  • Estimates
    • Quantities of materials
    • Cost of materials and construction of water control structure improvements

Center Grove Middle School North will document existing conditions utilizing students (vegetation composition for mowed lawn and after mowing cessation, hydrology, soil, wildlife, etc.) in the fall. Students will plant material in spring and conduct monitoring and maintenance.  MSN will also develop curriculum for class activities using this educational green-space.  It is our hope with even these small changes to how that area is managed, that area will grow into a area where native Indiana species thrive for class activities and student lead projects.  An example of this can be seen below from Souteastway Park near my house.

It is very exciting to see this project beginning to come together.  I am continuously looking for grant opportunities and hope to share some news soon on that as well.  Please do not hesitate to forward ideas on sources for additional assistance with this project.  For example, we are searching for a local excavation company that might be able to assist with some minor excavation or tilling up the soil to promote wildflower growth.  More to come as we start to change the world starting in our own backyard!

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