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Develop Your Site!

Education outside your classroom makes your students thrive!
To make the most of your site and your time and increase curriculum connections even more, you may need to develop a major project.

Where to Begin?

Education outside your classroom makes your students thrive! To make the most of your site and your time and increase curriculum connections even more, you may need to develop a major project.

This is going to be big, don’t plan to do it alone. Remember to take your time – good education is your goal. Ask yourself (and be honest) if you are really ready for a whole developed project or would a few site enhancements do the trick with less stress? If not, try enhancing your site instead!

If you’re ready to dig in, LEAF’s School Grounds Handbook is an excellent resource to lead you through the process, step-by-step.

Let’s face it. This isn’t going to be easy. One or two people can’t do this alone. You are going to need a broad base of support – interested people committed to seeing the project through to completion. Involving a wide variety of people from the beginning will help prevent burnout and keep interest high. It will also ensure that teachers, students, administrators, facilities staff, and the community feel a sense of ownership in the school grounds project. So get started on creating a School Grounds Committee.

Take time to learn more about your site and the opinions of the school community. By doing brief needs assessments with staff and students and a site assessment, you’ll have all the information you need to create your written plan.

Now that your committee is formed and you are armed with information, you are ready to create a written plan. Your plan should give readers a basic understanding of why your school grounds project is important, what topics the education programs will cover, and how the school grounds site will be developed.

It’s time to put your thoughts and ideas into a visual format. You have all the background work done and know what you want to do. Design your site to encompass as many of your great ideas as you can.

Don’t stop now! Getting everything ready was the hard part. If you’ve cultivated the community relationships, this is the time for them to shine. Does one of your parent group members have landscaping equipment? Are the Master Gardeners anxious to help you find the right plants for the butterfly garden? Does the local tree care business have tree nursery connections to get you large trees at cost? Does the art teacher have student projects planned that would be great in a sculpture garden?

Here are some resources to get you started!

School Grounds Success Story

Berlin High School Native Roots Education Gardens

The Native Roots Education Gardens began as two acres of manicured lawn just outside the Berlin High School doors to the west. Gardens were designed by Paula Hanson (Art Instructor) and Pat Arndt (Environmental Science Instructor) over a five year period. All garden funding was accomplished through grant writing, community donations, volunteer machinery and labor with no school district financial support. Successful grants were obtained from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (WEEB), National Gardening Association, and the local Wild Ones Organization. Berlin High School students were involved in construction of all gardens from digging of the pond, hauling rocks, spreading soil and mulch,
constructing raised beds, to planting of perennials, shrubs, and trees.

The first year garden constructed was a flowering shrub and perennial garden in a circular shape with an open center with Aldo Leopold benches for classes to sit in outdoor study. The second year garden was a memorial lilac and perennial garden with the first two memorial native trees donated from the families of Berlin High School students and teachers who had passed within that year. The third year a Berlin High School senior dug the pond/wetland with his family owned heavy equipment. The liner was placed, soil hauled in, filled with water, and 500 native wetland plants were hand planted. A wind mill aerator was donated by Waste Management to keep the water in the pond oxygenated. The fourth year, the native Wisconsin prairie was created by hauling in top soil, and planting 1500 native grasses and perennials. The prairie is managed by a burn each spring by the Berlin Volunteer Fire Department. The department uses it as a demonstration training grass fire for new firefighters. The final year, six raised bed vegetable boxes were constructed and filled with top soil, and Berlin High School biology students started vegetables in the greenhouse and transplanted into the boxes before school was out. The vegetable are used each fall by the Family and Consumer Education classes at Berlin High School. Throughout all five years, native trees species were added throughout the gardens the current tree arboretum consists of 32 different Wisconsin species.