Thorndyke Elementary School Ecolab

This project culminated the four-year partnership between CEEDS and the Tukwila School District.  It was done In collaboration with UW alumni, Karen and Jeff McHegg, and involved all the first through fifth grades in Thorndyke Elementary School.  It included in indoor design sessions during the week and outdoor weekend building sessions.

The project focused on a piece of land at the rear of the school, which Kas Kincaid, the landscape architect for the new building, had deliberately left undeveloped so children could design their own outdoor space.  Subsequently, participants in the Sites of Learning design charrette had designated the property as an "Ecolab," or a place for learning environmental stewardship.

A leadership group consisting of five fifth graders, teachers, the principal, and the CEEDS team agreed on a “rivers-of-the-world” concept for the project.  Each grade level would design a garden to represent the continent students study that year, with the path through the gardens representing the major rivers that flow through the continents.

After designing the garden, each student painted a 6" x 6" tile to install in the path/river, creating designs to represent the continent of each grade level. The five fifth graders in the leadership group also created two alternative designs for an outdoor classroom, which the McHeggs developed into a buildable structure.

During Saturday work days, volunteer university students, faculty, and design professionals joined Thorndyke children, staff, and parents to install the design.  They dug foundations for the path/river and for the outdoor classroom.  They framed the path/river with 2"x 4" wood studs, and then they tamped down a bed of gravel and sand, which they topped with the children's hand-painted tiles.

After the path/river installation was complete, entire families worked together to landscape the installation with plants representing the ecosystem of each continent, and then the McHeggs installed the outdoor classroom.  In December, the entire school community assembled, including the five fifth graders who had since graduated.  Each grade level applauded the design and acknowledged its continuing responsibility for taking care of one of the continents/gardens in the Ecolab. This project, which was carried out over an eighteen-month period, was funded by Tukwila's Percent for Art and capital improvement budgets.  Laura Bullock (landscape architecture) served as the graduate research assistant.
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