|Children have fervent imaginations and great curiosity. They are consummate inventors and explorers. It is imperative, therefore, that the environment we provide is equally designed with an imaginative creative spirit that allows them to let loose their own free spirits. The immediate environs of the school are designed with a series of theme gardens that reflect and support the school’s curriculum. In addition to the prairie ecosystem, a range of eco-tones is created demonstrating how the natural communities relate to one another. Vegetable gardens, wild edible gardens, sensory gardens, butterfly gardens, music gardens, and math gardens are all possible additions to the prairie theme. Other thematic possibilities include the creation of mythological landscapes based on classic children’s stories. These could be creative projects undertaken by the children. They would be temporary in nature, small and could be replaced as often as the curriculum requires. Other possibilities are only limited by our imagination. These examples are a few of the many ways to demonstrate our design approach of looking beyond the norm.|
Why Native Plants?
- Native plants and bioswales absorb as much water back into the groundwater system as possible to reduce flooding in downstream areas.
- The campus at PCCS features only plants that are native to this region of the Midwest and does not feature any traditional turf grass. Water conservation is critical at PCCS, and turf grass requires significantly more water to survive than do native plants. Grass roots are only a few inches deep so they dry out very quickly, but the roots of native plants can grow up to 12 feet deep and therefore are much more efficient at collecting and storing water.
- In addition to lots of water, regular grass needs fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides in order to stay green and lush. These chemicals ultimately are washed into our rivers, ponds, and lakes. Native plants have grown to adapt to the region and have built up a tolerance to the local pests, the heat and the cold, the times of drought and intense rain. This means they do not need chemicals in order to survive.
Landscaping with native plants is a good investment:
- Native plants save money. A recent study of larger properties estimates that over a 20 year period, the cumulative cost of maintaining a prairie or a wetland totals $3,000 per acre versus $20,000 per acre for non-native turf grasses.
- Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife. Native plants attract a variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife by providing diverse habitats and food sources. Closely mowed lawns do not provide essential food or shelter to wildlife.
- Native plants require fewer pesticides than lawns. Nationally, over 70 million pounds of pesticides are applied to lawns each year. Due to heavy watering and rain, pesticides run off lawns and contaminate rivers and lakes. People and pets in contact with chemically treated lawns can be exposed to unhealthy pesticides.
In 2005, our students used problem-based learning to create custom designs for their classroom gardens. In the process, they learned concepts and utilized skills in mathematics, science, art, and communications. To view their incredible, innovative designs, click here.