Designer Concepts Landscape Architecture

June 12, 2016
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Recently published in Educational Facility Planner, the professional journal of the Association for Learning Environments,The Evolution of Outdoor Education for Schoolchildren”, by Carol Henry, reflects on the evolution of outdoor education in schoolyards.

While thoroughly embraced by private schools like the Montessori and Waldorf models, the notion of using the schoolyard for outdoor education has been sluggish in adopting by public schools. Although the idea may be accepted, for many school districts the curriculum, maintenance, and funding necessary to support it have been slow to fully develop.

While sluggish in some areas of public education, especially with middle- and high school-level programs, in others outdoor learning environments are making great strides impacting children across the country. In Colorado, Denver Public Schools has provided support and funding to implement its innovative Learning Landscape Schoolyards in each of its 98 elementary schools. Other programs around the nation include the Boston Schoolyard Initiative as well as New York City's and Trust for Public Land’s Schoolyard to Playground Initiative. Like these, many have made breakthroughs in elementary school-level outdoor learning opportunities and reconnecting schools with their communities.

Increasingly, entities such as the lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and The Colorado Health Foundation are stepping in to provide sources of funding for outdoor learning initiatives. Between 2013 and 2016, GOCO offered School Play Yard Initiative Grant that “creates safer, more active play areas and environments for outdoor learning at schools.”

Design Concepts has long been a champion of expanding the boundaries of learning opportunities in the schoolyard.

The 1980s

In the 1980s, we saved one of the last sections of undisturbed native prairie for a Jefferson County, Colorado, elementary school outdoor learning area and created native learning areas to transition between the mountainous forest and a new elementary school in Nederland, Colorado.

The 1990s

In the ‘90s, we turned a potentially sterile detention area for a large middle school into a biodiverse outdoor learning lab with thriving wetland plants and plentiful wildlife. In 1990 in Boulder, we designed the transformation of an elementary school’s concrete drainage swale into a thriving wetland, observation deck, boardwalk, and outdoor classroom. This wetland area survived the massive Colorado floods in 2013, while the surrounding areas were devastated. The floods were described as 1, 000-year rain and a 100-year flood, occurring over 8 stormy days, causing devastation from the eastern side of the continental divide to the Colorado/Kansas border.


Landscaping Tips

Though your home is your castle, there is no necessity to surround it with a moat. Here are 5 tips that will help you to make your landscaping feel more warm, welcoming and cozy.

1. Put some flowers nearby your entrance. Flowers make any area look more welcoming and attractive, so greeting your guests with Petunia, Snapdragon, Lily-of-the-Nile or some other garden flowers is always a great thing to do. What is more, to add some space between your house and the entrance, you can consider adding a little white fence. It will create an illusion that your front yard is bigger than it actually is. What is more, adding fence will create a great space for planting flowers to add some color and coziness.

2. Add rambling vines to make your yard look absolutely lovely. You can not deny that rambling vines always create romantic and even magical atmosphere. So why not to use this tip while decorating your yard?

3. To hide the unattractive driveway, consider adding some color, texture, and height. You can easily do it by adding various sorts of flowers. To start, create an island of green lawn right in the hub of a drive. Then add a couple of low boxwood hedges with flowers toward the back of your island.

4. If you want your yard to blossom and flourish bust still do not have enough time to maintain it, consider planting low-fuss lilies. Such flowers look absolutely gorgeous and come in the variety of rainbow hues, so you can pick the one you love most. What is more, low-fuss lilies do not care about the sort of soil, they love the sun and welcome hot, they do not afraid of drought. In other words, Crinums is an ideal flower for all those who are looking for low-maintenance solutions.

5. The last tip also touches the low-maintenance aspect. To make your life easier, group plantings into beds and islands. This will help you to avoid mowing and trimming around each individual plant, save a lot of time and even money.

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