Grandview U'uqinak'uuh Community School Yard
Submitted by Tracy Penner, B.L.A.
January 25, 2000
Location of School:
At Grandview Highway North and Mcleans--between Grandview Highway North and 4th Ave.
Pictures of the School Garden
The Grandview Community Schoolyard project will convert an underused school field to improve the quality of life for children and other community members in an inner city neighbourhood. It will also function as a living laboratory and a model of an urban ecological school yard. This will be a multi-generational place for children and people of all ages in the community to learn to live more sustainably in the urban environment. Cultural references will reflect the neighbourhood population. There are social benefits to each and every part of our project. Ultimately, our mission is to create a more healthy, positive neighbourhood environment and improve the livability of the community as a whole.
The Grandview U'uqinak'uuh Community SchoolyardSchool Ground Revitalization Project
- Project Outline
- Design Information
- Issues and Solutions
- Planting Plan
The Grandview U'uqinak'uuh School Grounds Revitalization project is part of a total plan to provide resources at the school that are not available anywhere else in this community, which is very poor. We intend to make our school a community resource to serve the whole family, thus providing much needed support for children in the area even before they start school. Research shows that neurological pathways for learning develop in infancy. The physical, mental and social health of families determines learning outcomes for children even before they enter school. To provide inner city children with resources where the schools are old and the parents are poor becomes a responsibility of all concerned about the future of children. As part of the overall school program, the educational initiatives of our garden project will help to support healthy child and family development, and will contribute to the improvement of the neighbourhood as a whole.
By combining community programming with the outdoor educational uses at Grandview, the quality of life of the entire neighbourhood can be improved. Studies show that issues such as safety and vandalism are controlled by increasing use of school grounds by the community after regular school hours. This project has the potential to provide healthy activity and education to users from pre-schoolers to seniors. The school gardens at Grandview offer elementary school students an enriched real-life curriculum. Cultural references reflect the neighbourhood population. Please consider the description and benefits of each part of our project:
The Longhouse Outdoor Classroom: a community gathering place for outdoor learning and celebration. Design inspired by the Musqueam traditional longhouse.
The School Garden Boxes: life sciences, applied mathematics, language arts, fine arts, multiculturalism, good health gained by eating the home- grown produce and through the exercise of gardening; self-sufficiency and increased self-confidence.
The Natural Habitat for birds, butterflies, hummingbirds and other insects:
Environmental Restoration, Natural Drainage: shaping one's environment to invite wildlife back into the city, understanding natural functions of the environment.
The Community Garden: families work together for the health and self-satisfaction of growing organic foods.
Skills learned: gardening, nutrition, cooperation, cooking. Site safety improved by adult presence during hours when school not in session.
The Ethnobotanical Garden: cultural and environmental restoration. The First Nations children and families will learn the native names and uses of local indigenous plants.
Salish Patio and Drinking Fountain: a public art project created by youths and managed by local artists; water as the source of life in a place of beauty.
The Bosque: maple tree species from across Canada; observe and learn about diversity.
Every child and staff member, and interested community members at Grandview have participated in envisioning and designing the school grounds to be a place of diverse natural life and beauty. Every child has grown plants from seed and planted them in the garden boxes built by the grade 7 students. Every child has eaten the tomatoes and picked the flowers they grew. The staff has formed a school garden committee; the community has formed a community garden committee. Britannia Community Services Society has embraced the project as part of it's mandate in community improvement. The Vancouver School Board has approved the project.
We have successfully completed Phase I of our grounds' revitalization. Funds have been procured for the next 2 Phases. It is our sincere hope that we can complete all five phases during the next year. Our goal is to break ground on March 9, and to have the Grandview Community Schoolyard completed and functioning in its many educational and social capacities by the end of summer, 2000.
Grandview Community Schoolyard: N-S Section
Project Executive Planning and Advisory Team
- Jock McLaughlan, Principal of Grandview Elementary School
- Sam Fillipoff, Inner City Project Teacher, Grandview Elementary
- Illene Pevec, Masters of Education Candidate, outdoor education curriculum and program
- Tracy Penner, Bachelor of L.andscape Architecture, principle planner and designer Grandview Community Schoolyard project; project construction manager
- Bruce Carscadden, MAIBC, architect for the outdoor meeting room
- C.Y. Loh, Structural Engineering Consultants for the outdoor meeting room
- Douglas Justice, MSc, horticultural consultant
- Leslie Thomas, Manager, Grandview-Terrace Childcare Facility
- The Grandview U'uqinak'uuh School Parents Advisory Society
- Richard Gauntlett, Treasurer, Britannia Community Services Centre Society, accounting and community liaison
Mission statement and a brief history of the project
The Grandview Community Schoolyard project will improve the quality of life for children in an inner city neighbourhood. It will also function as a living laboratory and a model of an urban ecological school yard. This will be a multi-generational place for children and people of all ages in the community to learn to live more sustainably in the urban environment. Ultimately, our mission is to create a more healthy, positive neighbourhood environment and improve the community as a whole.
The initiative of the school administrators to improve the learning potential of the student population by incorporating nature, community and culture into the teaching curriculum brought Masters of Education student Illene Pevec to conduct her action research in outdoor learning environments at Grandview. Illene's quest for a planner and designer for the project attracted Tracy Penner, who was seeking a sustainable community planning project for her graduating thesis in landscape architecture. Public design workshops with the students, teachers, parents and other interested community members informed the final design. The masterplan reflects the programming interests of all these groups, and integrates the school with the community in a 'back yard' setting. The cooperation between the project's executive planning team and the community of parents and students has been excellent.
Grandview Community Schoolyard has incorporated educational, social, ecological and economic criteria, in a project that is highly regarded by students, the community and the school board. Participation by all the young members of the neighbourhood is an essential part of the plan. The Grandview-Terrace Childcare has agreed to become the stewards of the butterfly garden with their preschoolers. Teachers will ensure the school garden remains in good use with students. Parents and other community members will manage the community gardens, while a group of native elders and young adults will work together to plan the ethnobotanical garden. The Environmental Youth Alliance has volunteered to work with school students to keep the native bird habitat maintained. The Vancouver School Board has offered to prune the trees and shrubs on site with the high school students in its' horticulture training program.
Lasting Benefits of the Project
Funds made available by the grant will enable us to build the project so that it can become a vital part of the neighbourhood. Once complete, this project will be the first of its kind in the Lower Mainland, and may serve as a model for others to follow. As crime drops due to greater community participation, there will likely be less transience in the neighbourhood. We believe that this will result in more positive participation of students in school, as several precedents in US cities have shown. The new hands-on aspect of the curriculum enabled by the schoolyard will teach large motor skills and motivate students toward self-sufficiency as they see and taste the fruits of their labour. The variety of activities available to neighbourhood residents will help to compensate for a lack of private yard and greenspace in this high-density area. Joggers and dog-walkers from the community will continue to use the site in a more interesting but controlled way with meandering bark-lined pathways, that leave the central field area free for re-grading and a more naturalistic playground experience.
Measuring the Results
First, if people are making greater use of the site, we expect to see a reduction in crime on the site and the surrounding streets, which at the moment includes use by vagrants, prostitutes and intravenous drug users. This can be measured by reports and statistics from the Vancouver Police Department's Grandview-Woodland police team.
Second, as people feel more comfortable with the neighbourhood, we expect to see a lower transience rate, which will be reflected in the stability of class enrollment. Transience can also be determined by neighbourhood city census every 5 years. UBC social psychology students are doing research this year on students' success and neighbourhood satisfaction, which will be compared by having a follow-up study done in 3 to 5 years.
Next, we anticipate an improvement in scholastic aptitudes in the students of the school. This can be measured by comparing current literacy and mathematics test statistics for grade 4 and 7 students of the school with those in the future. It will also be possible to measure the success of students coming from Grandview as they move on through high school, where matriculation rates can be compared.
Finally, if the entire site will be used by different community members, we will have succeeded in transforming a soggy, barren, dog-soiled field into a vital, neighbourhood 'backyard'.
By combining community programming with the outdoor educational uses at Grandview, we believe the quality of life of the entire neighbourhood can be improved
Grandview Community Schoolyard: W-E Section
Many design solutions will be gathered from the literature of various authorities:
First Nations Design Influence
- on designing places in an Aboriginal context. (Compton1998, Muckle1998, Maud1978, Turner1975)
- on designing children's play areas (Aase 1985, Moore 1987, 1998, Hester 1984),
- on general design solutions: form, ordering principles, etc. (Lynch 1974, Alexander1977, Ching1986, Harkness1996)
- on creating more aesthetic neighbourhoods (Newman1974, Kaplan1982, 85, 98, Jacob, 1996, Lynch1972, Carr 1992 )
- on designing ecologically (McHarg 1972, Lyle 1994, Naturescape 1995)
Improve Community Connections
- Outdoor classroom to resemble the Musqueam long house in architectural form.
- Aboriginal building placement: structure to face the cardinal directions, south door facing natural area for connection to nature.
- Make use of Salish weaving patterns in paving.
- Site the mound where the prospect will be best-- view of water and sunset.
Design for Aesthetic Quality
- Locate the outdoor meeting room at the centre of the crossroads in the site.
- Mark territory
- Allow for a variety of paths: children like to move in a straight line
- Complex but ordered--nature should look tended, the site tidy
- Legible--easy to understand; use pattern to achieve this, i.e. rows of trees
- Individuality--student involved in creating elements for the site, such as creating paving stones, bird bath, bird houses, etc. Uniqueness gives a place character. Mystery--use meandering paths and strategically place vegetation to obscure the obvious; however, do not create dangerous places or places to hide
Many issues have come to light during public planning workshops conducted with school and community members.
- Lack of park space in this neighbourhood (parks board verifies this).
- Need for more programs for parents and children of this neighbourhood, especially literacy and life skills.
- Desire for more community garden plots in this neighbourhood.
- Site currently has some problems with personal safety on weekends and evenings--vagrants and IV drug use due to the lack of use and surveillance.
- Dog defecation on open field impedes use by children.
- Field and playgrounds suffer from poor drainage conditions.
- First Nations culture is important part of this neighbourhood.
- Create a series of 'outdoor rooms' to accommodate diverse programming needs and to respond to the presence of fences for safety and security. Strengthen connections between 'rooms' through design of pathways, gateways, use of a common palette of materials, and borrowed views.
- Create new opportunities for education and play in a natural out door setting.
- Increase security and safety by designing so that no place is visually obscure.
- Ensure pathways and circulation offer efficient connections to neighbourhood.
- Respect existing territories: plan to build around well-used and loved places.
- Include First Nations culture and tradition: in an ethnobotanical garden and in aboriginal architectural styles for built landscape: outdoor classroom, creative play areas, the parent centre, gates and corridors.
- Palette to consist primarily of local west coast materials: red and yellow cedar, local stone, crushed granite, river rock, woven twigs, etc., to promote sustainability.
- Maintain tidiness and aesthetic quality throughout the year through formal arrangement of garden and public areas adjacent to buildings.
- Create a natural edge along the southern perimeter to provide a wind break, and to extend habitat value to Grandview Cut natural area. Connect to native ethnobotanical garden.
- Make places for sitting: -alone or with another - to rest from gardening work - to watch nature - to watch children play - to learn and celebrate with others
- Design to enable visual access to increase safety. Brighten up dark corners and create opportunities for surveillance on site wherever possible. Keep hedging and shrubbery open.
- Create links between buildings and outdoor space; ensure inside/outside connection.
- Remedy existing drainage problems in field and play areas.
The site plan and design details will unite under the theme of reconnecting people to nature and nature to cities. To do this, I will use some knowledge from various sources of First Nations site planning and construction techniques, social design principles and ecological restoration.
These lists have been generated from information gathered during the precedent studies, site analysis, meetings with stakeholders, and public workshops. They make up a 'kit of parts' with which to design the site.
Earthworks marsh, swale, hill/mound/berm dug out
Soft Landscape climbing plants, perennials, orchard fruit trees, living fence, garden plots, vine covered walk, bosque
Hard Landscape formal pathways, deck, patio, cobbled walk, planked walk, trellis, greenhouse, arbor, cedar walkway
Natural Features bog garden, creek, marsh, running water, wild flower meadow, viewing platform, neighbourhood fence, arbor, archway, pergola, tool shed
Special Spaces sanctuary, meditation garden, edible garden, iris garden, herb garden, hummingbird garden, wild bird sanctuary, 5 senses garden, butterfly garden, manipulative play area, world garden
The Design Features of the Grandview Community Schoolyard
- The community garden:
24 plots of 3m by 3m, plus a raspberry patch and plenty of fencing to support kiwi, grapes and espaliered fruit trees. Work tables and storage benches are located along the south edge of the space; a tool shed is planned as well. Gateways should be celebrated with trellis and signage created by the community.
- The bosque:
relaxing in the shade, hiding or playing tag between the trees, the bosque offers transition between the active play area of the basketball courts and the quieter community gardens. It also provides much needed variety in texture and form to the open spaces surrounding it. Trees should be Maple species of Canada as these trees grow well in this climate, and will provide a cultural and historical teaching value.
- The outdoor classroom:
a sheltered place to sit in the rain or on hot sunny days--for up to 40 people; a place to conduct classes for the school and the community, to watch basketball from, watch performances, act in plays, do a dance, hold a drum fest.
- The feature landmark:
may be a totem, a drinking fountain or something else, but --it must be special enough to attract attention from a distance; it marks the entrance to the community gardens and the outdoor classroom, and the 'heart' of the schoolyard
- The school garden:
a place to dig, grow and learn
- The butterfly garden:
beds of shrubs and perennials, radially arranged around a bird bath; covered bench for quiet observation, even on rainy days. Plant list is comprised mostly of native species to provide habitat for some of the more rare butterfly species. See plant list following
- The hummingbird garden:
a less formal arrangement, making use of the existing grove of birch trees to the south (using these to hang bird feeders), and the outer edge of the butterfly garden to the north. Many of the shrub species which attract butterflies also attract hummingbirds. See plant list following
- The Mound:
looking over, huddling under, sliding down--with water in summer, with snow in winter; rolling down, racing carts down, marching up, standing at the summit, sitting at the lookout, having lunch with friends, the mound has a 'maze' pathway formed of stones set in a spiral pattern. Boulders large enough for sitting are located at the summit.
- The dissipation pond:
created of gravel, crushed stone, sand and crushed shell, this alleviates the poor drainage problems by being the lowest point on the site and having fast-draining surface materials. This is a more ecologically sound means of depositing water back into the ground water system, creates new habitat potential and offers an unusual experience for sledders and others using the mound as a slide.
- The ethnobotanical garden:
edible native plants, used by west coast aboriginal peoples, will be cultivated and arranged in a formal planting along the more formal community garden edge, creating a sanctuary area to the north of the Variety Centre, and blending into the naturalized wild bird habitat as it moves to the south. A sunny patio area will be constructed at the south east corner of the Variety centre. See plant list following.
The Grandview U'Uqinak'Uuh Community Schoolyard Plant ListCriterion for selection of plant materials are:
- Plants support native animal or insect life.
- Plants have traditional value to aboriginal people.
- Plants are suited to the microclimatic conditions, particularily with respect to their summer drought and winter wet tolerance.
Native Butterfly Garden