“Create a place that inspires children and gives them the opportunity to develop a lifelong love for nature and the environment.” This was the goal set forth by science teacher Mary Servino at the K-8th Grade Discovery Magnet School which opened in 2010 and is a LEED Gold Certified building. By 2015 however, the plantings and landscape surrounding the building had fallen into disrepair and were not welcoming or utilized. Mary saw an opportunity to improve that situation by leading a push to revitalize the school’s landscaping and create outdoor classrooms that would serve to not only enhance the grounds but also educate students.
Engaged on a pro-bono basis, ALS assisted in developing designs and methodologies to implement the vision of creating three areas for the development of outdoor classrooms. Designs identified planting schemes, layout, and strategies for implementation. Limited funding for the project made sweat equity it’s biggest investment – with Mary leading the charge, parents and children both volunteered their time and energy to weed, remove invasive plants, install plant materials, and water all areas until the new plants were fully established.
The updated landscape includes pollinator/butterfly gardens, foot paths, a reading circle, and a welcoming drop-off area that has become a favorite backdrop for first day photos of children and their parents. The outdoor classrooms continue to fulfill their intended goal of providing children (many of whom live in inner-city environments) the opportunity to care for and nurture these outdoor spaces that truly inspire and educate.