Our job now in moving development of an outdoor classroom at Myers Middle School forward is to shift into real planning gear. So here are a couple, among many more, specific tasks and challenges. Also, please know that we have collected all sorts of related reading material — about what others have done, research that informs our thinking and development of schoolyard wildlife habitat.
The notion of an outdoor classroom started with a conversation about building a place where classes could sit and get some shade. Maybe that means a park-like pavilion with some picnic tables. Or maybe it could be something a bit more distinctive. Either way, we are in the market for ideas. See something in your travels that might be a model? Please photograph it and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. See something in a magazine or online that you can share? Have an idea that you can sketch?
Building code requirements
We will need to bring electricity from the school building to any greenhouse that we build to provide a fire alarm. We would dearly wish to bring water from the building to a more central location, for watering our garden and likely to create simple food prep capabilities. The school district facilities folks estimate that an electrical conduit will cost about $20,000 and that extending water will run about $10,000. It appears that we need serious help with this from a licensed professional engineer or architect. We will need to organize our plan into a building permit application to the state Education Department. Know someone who might lend a hand?
Drumming up interest
We are looking for opportunities to talk with folks who might take an interest in this project. Erin Tobin and Roger Bearden will kindly host an open house and dessert for this purpose party from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 11. Their home is at 851 Mercer St. in Albany. Would you consider hosting a similar gathering? Or perhaps know someone who would? Know an organization that might welcome a presentation and conversation? If so, please get in touch.
The space that we use was wide open when we started in 2009, but now is growing rather shaggy. It’s a pretty good example of ecological succession that students learn about in living environment classes. This raises an important question, however, about whether we should leave nature to takes its course or intervene. We would welcome guidance in taking stock of what is growing, whether we are passively encouraging invasive species to do damage and what our options are. For example, should we allow sumac trees to grow and to spread? And the aquatic-looking plants that might be an invasive phragmite, rather than native cattails, Maybe there is a class project here.
Building resources for project
What else will this project entail? Paying for it all, of course, is big. And really, that means more than just funding the physical development. It includes building resources to support the school staff in developing appropriate plans for using the space we create and then helping them actually get outside at times. And it surely includes planning for the long-term maintenance of the facility. We’ll return to these challenges in short time.