Marshall Lane Elementary School commemorated the phase one completion of its award-winning Outdoor Education Center Saturday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony during its Pumpkin Walk and Carnival.
The center offers a hands-on learning environment that inspires children to observe, explore, and experiment with science and nature, according to school officials.
Designed by architect Hari Sripadanna and principal of Srusti Architects and a school parent, the center also celebrated a design award from the American Institute of Architects Santa Clara Valley in the small design/big impact category for creating a collaborative and innovative learning environment for students.
Marshall Lane teachers, administrators, and parent volunteers shared the common vision of building the center.
Originally conceived as a simple garden and shade structure, the idea expanded to a broader vision of creating a learning space for students and teachers to enable lessons in life sciences, renewable energy, native plants, and protection of the environment.
Sripadanna helped envision a concept with drawings and renderings and a means to achieve it, by creating a master plan that was broken down to achievable, smaller phases.
The physical concepts quickly inspired other parents – Dave Benton (Garden Committee Chairperson) and Denise Garlick (center chairperson), to champion a broader project to fund and create this collaborative learning environment.
The Campbell Union School District also realized that the center would be a tremendous asset and demonstration space for the district.
“Marshall Lane’s new Outdoor Education Center will provide valuable opportunities for all of our students to experience hands-on science experiments within nature at our own school site,” says Dr. Carrie Andrews, principal of Marshall Lane Elementary. “Experiential learning allows students to make deeper connections with the world around them first hand. The staff at Marshall Lane is excited for the unveiling and the unlimited opportunities that the learning environment will provide for our students.”
The school held a variety of activities at the center's ribbon-cutting ceremony including mini pumpkin decorating, complimentary seed plantings to bring home, and an informational garden booth.
Yamagami’s Nursery also featured a showcase garden by bringing in plants, trees, and garden decorations, as well as gave the families an option to purchase, at a discount, the plants and materials for the center.
Several school families and friends purchased most of the plants, trees, and decorative items that by the end of the event the center garden was transformed from just dirt to an abundant garden that was planted by the children.
With phase one completed, the school now has an outdoor classroom for up to 50 students, including an organic garden, shade sail, and paved area, where they will learn hands-on about science and the environment, water conservation, organic gardening, and composting.
The center will facilitate and support school educational curriculum (California State Content Standards) that connects science and the outdoors, such as our natural resources, water cycle, weather and seasonal patterns, plant and insect anatomy, photosynthesis and pollination.
“What is most satisfying about the center project is that we were able to elevate a simple functional idea into a bigger concept,” Sripadanna stated. “It is an honor that the AIASCV has recognized the vision of the center design and its supporting groups. The center will create a big impact not only for the Marshall Lane Community but it could also be a model for outdoor educational environments in the Bay Area. With the opening of the center, students at Marshall Lane will now begin their immersion in learning in a stimulating, dedicated outdoor space.”
Anne Fougeron, FAIA, Fougeron Architecture (one of the jury members) at the AIASCV Design Awards ceremony, said: “We were really appreciative of this kind of grassroots architectural projects that were brought together by the combination of the community and the activism of the architect (involved) to do something that has profound impact on the community and transform the lives of the people that use them.”
Denise Garlick, center chairperson, said, “There was a moment during the site assessment discussion, when the ideas quickly grew beyond the garden into a more life sciences focus. The center would not have been possible without the ongoing support of the Campbell Union School District and the generous donations and commitment from individuals that allowed for creativity and vision in delivering something exceptional for Marshall Lane students.”
A variety of sustainable design elements for the center slated to be completed in the next phases of the project include an organic vegetable garden, sundial, a vertical axis wind turbine, photo voltaic panels, green roof, and rain water harvesting capabilities. The center is devised to be built in four phases in accordance with funding allowances. The funds raised by the Marshall Lane PTA help support the construction of center. Grant funds, in-kind donations, corporate matches and sponsorships are also being considered to defray costs.
To make a donation in support of the center project, please contact the Marshall Lane Elementary School PTA at OEC@MarshallLanePTA.org.