July 19, 2011 Edit
via Robin Gyorgyfalvy, ASLA
A ribbon-cutting event that took place on June 28, 2011 at the newly-minted Kansas Avenue Learning Garden was one of many steps being taken to make sustainability a part of daily life in central Oregon. Exactly one year ago, a design charrette led by ASLA High Desert Chapterâ€™s Chelsea Schneider and Brian Caldwell, set out to transform a contaminated vacant lot that was formerly an old drycleaning site into a vibrant and interactive living classroom and learning garden. This challenging site is adjacent to The Environmental Center and within walking distance to the Boys & Girls Club and Amity Creek Elementary School. This unique project for teaching sustainability in an outdoor classroom was made possible through a partnership that was created between an environmental center, educators, and local landscape architects.
The main concept for the Learning Garden is to create a place where children can witness the growth of the seeds they plant and learn how gardens require care, hard work, and patience. Contact with the outdoors and making discoveries with weekly observations is a hands-on way to learn more about how communities and the environment can be sustained through growing your own food. Denise Rowcroft, sustainability educator for The Environmental Center says â€œItâ€™s important that kids participate in building the garden so that they feel like they have ownership of it. Weâ€™re trying to get them involved in all aspects of the garden, from building fences, to showing them where food comes from â€“ to teaching them about the health of the environment.â€
The design charrette began with understanding the constraints of the site, its history, and ownership. Amber Hudspeth, an environmental professional explained the pollutants and a decision was made to cap contaminants on site and to build up the garden beds. Educators were an integral part of the charrette describing what elements and features were needed to form a learning landscape to best teach in an outdoor setting. The Environmental Center needed to have this place convey its mission to â€œembed sustainability into daily life in central Oregon.â€ A wish list was composed for what would be desirable on the site, opportunities were discussed for the outdoor rooms and the different amenities in each room, and priorities were determined for phasing.
Chelsea Schneider, ASLA of WH Pacific in Bend developed conceptual images for the group to develop further. Chelsea says â€œWith a personal interest in environmental education, it is really important for me to see that learning landscapes become a reality through a community process such as this one.â€ The results are stunning with volunteers providing their energy and talent, their labor, donations, and materials for construction and planting. Incredible highlights of this project are the garden art mural paintings created by the Boys & Girls Club that decorate garden boxes lining the neighborhood street and the growing plants that were started as seedlings in the Amity Elementary School classrooms. These â€œpick me bedsâ€ are free for the community to harvest, a great way to encourage community interaction and involvement in central Oregon at the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden located at 16 NW Kansas Avenue in Bend, Oregon.
Pictured: Chelsea Schneider, ASLA and the Garden Box Mural Paintings