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Design a School Garden with LAUSD (and We'll Build It!)

Update: Submission DEADLINE EXTENDED to June 20, 2010 at 11:59pm PST.

How can better design help teachers, parents, volunteers and students have a vibrant, useful, and meaningful outdoor classroom? Let's make the school garden more accessible and affordable for schools.

Sponsored by GOOD, LAUSD, The USDA People’s Garden Initiative, The Environmental Media Association, The National Gardening Association, The Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, The California School Garden Network, and Mia Lehrer & Associates.

A school garden teaches lessons that only nature can provide. A garden not only helps children understand where their food comes from, it teaches ecological literacy and teamwork, nutrition and problem-solving. Plus, any teacher at any school can use the garden to teach history, math, English, geography, engineering, business, and—of course—science, all within the standards of district-mandated curriculum. Gardens are an amazing resource for learning. Alice Waters gets it. Jamie Oliver gets it. Michelle Obama gets it, too.

?But not all schools have them. In Los Angeles, 100 amazing public school gardens exist. That seems like a good number until you consider that we have 900 LAUSD schools—and most schools have nothing more than depressing seas of blacktop. In more affluent neighborhoods, where parents have the time and resources to design and build them, there are gardens. But for 90 percent of LA's students, there is asphalt, chain-link fence, and lots and lots of room for improvement.

To bring gardens to all schools in all neighborhoods, we need to provide school site teams with innovative, replicable garden designs. If costs, layouts, and materials are clearly shown through good design, it will be easier to fund gardens with support from government, corporate private and foundation partners. The easier we can make the plans for schools and volunteers, the more school gardens will bloom.

What constitutes an outdoor classroom? What does it take to make a school garden grow? It’s a question you, as a designer, can help answer.

We're looking for designers, architects, teachers, chefs, parents, nonprofits, volunteers, and students to create a affordable, scalable, modular school garden design that any school can use.

Design a garden module that can be applied to a 20' by 20' space on any K through 12 campus.

School gardens need: beds, paths, plants, sun, tool storage, water access, irrigation, room for at least 25 students, wheelchair access.

School gardens can have: greenhouses, fountains, benches, class seating, shade structures, trellis, potting tables, habitat feeders, fruit trees, shade trees, BBQs, kitchens, farmstands, whimsy.

School gardens can focus on or combine any of five thematic areas: edible/kitchen, sustainable/habitat, science/learning, literacy/reading, and rooftop/vertical.

For a model we're using Bancroft Middle School in Hollywood, just a few blocks from our offices at GOOD. You can see the location in Google Maps. Bancroft's acres of blacktop, easily seen from the air, are extremely representative of LAUSD schools. If you want to use Bancroft's site as your model, we'd love to see that 20' by 20' module somewhere on their property.

Highly-imaginative proposals are definitely encouraged, but entries will be judged on feasibility, cost, productivity, adaptive reuse, and their ability to effectively educate students.

You do not need to live or work in Los Angeles in order to be eligible to enter.

A jury of educators, city leaders, chefs, architects, urban planners, and gardeners will judge the entries. So far that includes:

Mud Baron, LAUSD
Kyla Fullenwider, GOOD Projects
Casey Caplowe, GOOD
Mia Lehrer, Mia Lehrer + Associates
Astrid Diehl, Mia Lehrer + Associates
Teresa Dahl, parent and school garden coordinator, Carthay Circle Elementary
Emily Green, Dry Garden columnist for LA Times
Meg Glasser, Urban Farming
Jenny Shafritz, Environmental Media Association
Paula Daniels, LA City Board of Public Works

Five designs will be chosen by the jury by July 1. The designers will attend a one-day workshop with landscape architect Mia Lehrer to refine their proposals. Working closely with LAUSD, proposals will be matched to local schools due to site appropriateness, maintenance resources, and available funding. Designers will be encouraged to participate in the building of the gardens. One garden will be installed in a Los Angeles school by October.

Simultaneously, the designs, processes and a best practices manual will be shared widely through GOOD's community, website and magazine, and distributed under a Creative Commons license.

The designers will be invited to attend a one-day workshop with landscape architect Mia Lehrer to refine their proposals. If designers cannot attend, their proposals will be workshopped by the team in their absence.

Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Foundation

Real School Gardens

School Garden Wizard


California School Garden Network

The Learning Garden

Mud Baron, LAUSD Green Policy Chair

Getting Started: A Guide to Creating School Gardens as Outdoor Classrooms

By June 20, 2010 at 11:59pm PST, send us an email at projects[at]goodinc[dot]com with the following:

—A maximum of two images: sketches, drawings, three dimensional renderings, scaled technical drawings, photographs, altered photographs. Your images should be high resolution (they should print at 300 dpi at 8.5 x 11). Please stuff or zip your files, or include a link where they can be downloaded.

—A brief narrative in the body of the email, up to 500 words, that includes materials and details and explains how the design will enable a school to create an effective outdoor classroom.

—Your name, city, and local school.

—Your estimated budget for your garden (including materials and plants).

—Please name all your files with your firm or group name.

Photos courtesy Teresa Dahl at Carthay Center Elementary

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