January 2013

For a quick sampling of some of the ways schools are redesigning their outside spaces, see
Schoolyard Revolutions
What a design charrette might look like...NOTE, there is no ONE way to have charrette, but the following one is interesting because it did involve a school community working together...
design charrette

September 2012

Background: September 6th, I visited Tinker Park. Located in Henrietta, the park is maintained by the town of Henrietta and situated on land donated by the Tinker Family. Encompassing some 48+ acres it includes habitats representative of the Upstate New York area and includes a pond, marsh, woodland and fields. It also houses a small educational building, The Hansen Nature Center. The lower school currently makes use of programs offered at Hansen as did I in years past with grade five students. My goal was to photograph areas of this site that are relevant to what we might want to undertake on our campus as well as discuss our campus possibilities with the staff. I brought photos of the Allen's Creek area of our campus. Some of these are included below with suggestions from Tinker Park in RED. Following the photos is a short video of the Tinker Park visit.

Allen's Creek Bank - East End

Approximately 1/3 of the northern banks on our campus are held in place by a row of trees whose roots will not be able to hold them to the land forever
  • these are some of our steepest banks
  • as the trees give way, the banks will be far less protected
Question: should we be thinking about starting replacement trees along this area. Tinker Park felt it was a sound idea to plan for this event, but it was beyond their area of expertise. They suggested we talk to Soil Conservation folks at Monroe Community Extension.

Bank just West of Bridge

The large rocks along the school banks are too close to the area of erosion. In time, they will facilitate the break-up of the bank area and should be moved.
  • It has been suggested that they would find a ready home on our playgrounds with the majority going to the Lower School site, but with some to spare for the Middle School and/or Commons site
  • Tinker staff, after seeing the photo and hearing the description of the site, agreed they should be moved.
North Bank Erosion

Why we have left "weeds" along the bank & Why the strip of weeds should be 2 meters wider---
Look at the dead center of this picture. The brown space visible between green plants is where our bank has eroded and dropped down a foot. The plants right along the water are now a foot lower than those above the brown spot. This difference in time will result in the bottom foot of the bank breaking off into the water.
Tinker staff concurred that the weeds we have left to address this erosion do hold the soil far better than grass, but should be extended another meter or two especially in the area at the base of the hill where there is substantial run-off. Weed plants will take over the site once the area is no longer cut. Their suggestions for how to use the area include:
  • lead student field trips along the weed/bank to explore the habitat
  • students can take pictures and I.D. the plants
  • signs posted along the weed/bank explaining its function will enlighten the community as to the value of the area
  • signs can be mounted in weather proof displays that each year can provide an opportunity for another group of students to update what is growing at the site
​NOTE: the video clip at the end of this page, shows how Tinker Park uses a similar area

Possible "Meadow Habitat"

Looking at photos of our Campus, Tinker staff suggested that we take a no-playing field area (such as that shown above) and let it become a meadow habitat.
  • Grass areas not being utilized for sports, play and/or other school events can provide valuable habitat for many animals, especially birds
  • The area if left uncut will naturally return to a meadow state
  • Once a meadow is established, it is maintained by a rotated cutting to prevent trees from beginning to take over
The video of Tinker Park at the bottom of this page highlights the Tinker Park meadowlands as well as provides further information related to this suggestion.

Possibly an A,B,C Garden

What is an A-B-C Garden?
This is a garden site with weatherproof Letters A- Z. There are many ways to use such a small garden at a school.
  • Plants or natural objects that start with the letter can be placed or planted there
  • Students can visit a particular letter site and try to find as many objects or processes beginning with the site letter
  • Student groups or classes could be assigned the maintenance of a particular letter for the year
  • The entire A-Z garden need not be totally contained at one site, but scattered over the grounds
  • Students in art classes could design and produce the A-B-C letters to designate each area out of ceramics - or other weatherproof materials
Tinker's A-B-C Garden is new and still being developed. The video below has a few clips about this site.
Tinker Park Video Clips
Schoolyard Revolutions