An oasis in the middle of a Dust Bowl?
That is just what volunteers, parents and teachers are hoping to create at Reservoir Avenue Elementary School as they aim to transform a large dirt patch in the school yard into an interactive play space that is also designed to offer hands-on lessons in plant science.
Fundraising has been underway for more than a year to raise $20,000 to construct a stage-like platform with an angled roof overhead that will collect and divert rainwater to be used in a student-operated garden.
The platform will be located on a 20’ x 35’ patch of dirt known by the school community as the Dust Bowl. Rainwater is directed from the angled roof through support poles to collection bins located on two sides of the platform. Using a hand pump, students can drain the rainwater from the catch bins into basins and use it to water plants in the school yard.
Daniel Smith, principal of Reservoir Avenue Elementary School, stands in the “Dust Bowl” that will be transformed into a play space that also benefits the local environment.
The design for the new play space at Reservoir Avenue Elementary School that will also collect rainwater.
This system will offer hands-on lessons about plant life, the water cycle, storm water runoff, water pollution and ecosystems.
The platform itself has multiple uses as an outdoor classroom, a reading area, performance space or a shady and quiet spot to play during recess.
The project developed through a partnership between fourth and fifth-graders at Reservoir Avenue with community partners Urban Pond Procession (UPP) Arts and DownCity Design landscape architects. UPP is comprised of volunteers who collaborate to promote the health of urban ponds including Mashapaug Pond, located just five blocks from the school. At a PTO meeting in the fall of 2012, founder Holly Ewald of UPP explained to parents how storm water runoff negatively impacts our ponds and lakes by encouraging the growth of harmful bacteria and algae. It was decided that students would design their own play space while keeping rainwater in mind.
A group of 17 students met weekly with landscape architects and artists to learn about the causes and effects of storm water runoff while brainstorming ideas for what to build on the dirt patch in their school yard that would be meaningful to them and the surrounding environment.
So far, the school has raised $7,000 in donations, grants and online fundraising for the Oasis Project. To contribute, donations can be made online at either the Rekindling the Dream Foundation at http://providenceschools.org or http://www.razoo.com.
Volunteers are needed on Sunday, October 19 to help pour cement for the support poles and, on October 26, 20 volunteers are needed to assemble the poles and pieces of the play space with DownCity Design. To volunteer, donate or ask questions, contact Principal Daniel Smith at (401) 456-9406.