If you look up as you drive along the High School’s driveway, you may notice that the glass staircase at the far end of the science hallway looks…green.
The greenness is there thanks to the students in my new Urban Landscape Design course, who recently installed a “green wall” as part of their studies.
The curriculum for this class aligns hand’s-on, project-based learning with investigations into the myriad topics that can define urban landscape design. Students have been learning to care for plants while also developing an understanding of the principles of sustainable development. Additionally, students have been studying the benefits of a green environment–from physiological to environmental and economical–thus, highlighting why they are so important to have in our living spaces and integrate them into design.
The stairway installation is the students’ attempt to start greening the spaces at GDS–bringing with it all the positive effects. As a first-time project, students up-cycled plastic magazine holders (left over from the library) as planters, each one becoming part of a bigger whole, but also allowing the option to remove or manipulate individual pods in anticipation of long term care. Most of our “pods” were planted at the Middle School Science Day when the High School students showed the Middle School students how to split or use cuttings from parent plants to propagate house plants like Spathiphyllum and Tradescantia. After preparing about 20 pods, we installed the plants on the window ledge along the second floor landing of the stairwell at the High School Campus.
The next step was to set up an automated irrigation system to sustain the new plantings. We installed a barrel at the top of the stairs with a timed drip irrigation system attached to each plant. Eventually, we hope the barrel will connect to an outdoor downspout and become a true rain barrel, capturing water runoff from the building. Until then, we are all committed to filling it periodically.
When I watch students taking our class discussions and putting them to immediate use, the hiccups and challenges (and there were many!) of the experience have been well-worth the effort and tremendously rewarding for both the students and for me. Their learning has been enriched by working through problems first-hand and in collaboration with others. It was truly a fantastic journey that combined concrete experience and abstract conceptualization with reflection and active experimentation–not to mention, a great deal of fun!