Why build a nature park?
As a school, we are a community of teachers and learners, always striving to improve how we educate children. Running River Nature Park Project was born in an attempt to blend some of the principles of the Expeditionary Learning model with our vision of education that strives to deeply connect children to themselves, humanity, and the planet. The entire school created this project on part of our 3.5 acre property throughout the length of the school year, with each classroom contributing various elements that will all came together to create a space for both people and wildlife to visit and thrive. As the children so aptly put it, the park is "to help people connect to nature." Beginning in science class, the scope of work slowly spread to other subject areas, integrating math, language arts, physical education, and the arts throughout the process. The public opening ceremony was Thursday, May 25, 2017 and included dance, art, singing, drumming, poetry reciting and the student's presentations. Click here to see a gallery of on-going photos.
Click here to see a video of the whole school critiquing the model park they created with their own models.
Here is the video of the children talking about their experience. This was filmed right before the opening day.
The K-1st grade class created a wildflower garden to attract pollinators, a building area, and simple bird feeders.
The 2nd-4th grade class studied local birds, wrote a field guide and built bird nesting boxes to attract more wildlife to the park. In May we had 5 Starlings hatch and were waiting for the 4 American Kestrel eggs to hatch.
Our Middle School designed nature play structures: a wooden foot bridge, log pyramid, animal burrow, teeter-totter and bird watching platform, with input from CU Environmental Design students. They illustrated the park sign and laid the foundation for the trail.
In the end, this project is bigger than any one person, and showcases the power of collaboration, and strength of our community. It was amazing to watch the level of student engagement rise, as they began to understand that this park is not for them, but for everyone else to enjoy, hopefully for many years to come.
Some notes from the process:
All the classes have been very busy with this project. The K-1 class is building bird feeders, the 2nd-4th grade class has made bird nesting box models, met with a birder and gone birding, and the 5th-7th grade class has built models of their play stations. The children are now planning an all school critique session on their work.
The bird nesting boxes are up and we have Starling Eggs in our Northern Flicker box and Kestrel eggs in our Kestrel box! The bird feeders are attracting birds, some Swenson Hawks have moved in to a neighboring tree, bullsnakes are taking care of the mice, and there is a lovely burrow awaiting a homeowner! OSMP came out to help us lay the trail which was generously discounted by Pioneer Sand & Gravel; Post Net helped pay for our beautiful bird guide created by our 2nd-4th grade class, and Urban Garden Renewal Center.