2015 Honor Award
3,000 Square Feet
Chicago Public Schools, Openlands
Located in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood of Chicago, Keller Elementary Regional Gifted Magnet School attracts a diverse range of students from all over the City. With the growing need for alternative outdoor teaching space, the School worked with Openlands, a non-profit that focuses on conservation and creation of open space within the Chicago metropolitan region.
Through the Building School Gardens program, Openlands utilizes City funding which is set aside to maximize the impact of open space through the design and construction of learning gardens in otherwise unprogrammed areas within Chicago Public School property. The school was identified by Openlands as a vibrant location to build on this mission to help students become environmentally sensitive leaders within their communities. As part of this endeavor, Openlands shepherds school participation through training and hands-on environmental stewardship.
The 3,000-square-foot teaching garden, located on the northwest side of the building provides an alternative learning space for students to individually interact with plants and thereby become stewards of the land. With a 30-student tiered bench classroom area, teachers now have the ability to conduct structured learning sessions while being surrounded by nature. Student engagement continued throughout the construction phase of the project, as children of all ages and abilities helped install the plants within the perennial areas of the garden.
Working with Chicago Public Art Group, a local conglomerate of community artists, the students made unique ceramic pieces that were used to create a mosaic mural along the sides of the tiered bench. In addition to the mosaic artwork, students and teachers worked together to design and paint butterfly houses to create habitat for butterflies and showcase unique art pieces within the garden.
The project removed 2,000 square feet of impervious pavement. Through the use of stormwater best management practices including permeable pavers and native landscaping, the garden provides an opportunity for students to learn about the environmental impact of urban dwellers on the land.