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Berkwood Hedge School

About Us » Multi-Use Side Yard

Multi-Use Side Yard

In 2010, the Blue Sky Committee of Berkwood Hedge met to re-envision the sun-soaked
south side yard. The committee dreamed of integrating garden plots and planters, lunch
seating areas, and a space that could serve as an outdoor classroom for our Environmental
Science program. There, they saw the possibility of worm composting, vegetable
gardening, hatching and raising chicks, and learning about renewable energy sources as
integral parts of this unique curriculum.

As the committee tackled these ideas and others, it began to visualize a more beautiful,
organic, green area where students could gather for eating, talking, playing, and learning.
As part of the Blue Sky Committee, former Director Jane Friedman, fourth grade teacher
and Environmental Science Specialist, Erica Ryan, and fourth and fifth grade math
teacher, Vera Balarin, worked together to define the various uses of the side yard. The
committee also consulted with parent and architect Evan McDonald, who produced a
scale drawing of the area and made some practical suggestions for integrating design and
function.

The committee was also inspired by the ideas of Sharon Gamson Danks and her book
Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation. Integrating
children’s art into the environment; vegetable garden and composting areas; a modular
chicken coop; seating areas integrated with planter boxes; redwood logs placed together
in clusters and organic lines as informal benches; tiered platform seating areas; an
attractive and functional composting/recycling center; and garden nooks for imaginary
play were some elements that emerged in the design meetings.

Berkwood Hedge parent, Matthew Gibbs, was hired as the contractor. He listened to the
ideas of the committee, took their simple sketches, and articulated the vision with various
overhead and sectional elevation drawings that conveyed the plan.

In September, with the return of students and the beginning of a new school year, the
reimagined, renovated south side yard was ready for use! There were new planter
boxes that doubled as benches and two tiered platforms for lunch seating and outdoor
classroom gathering spaces. A short section of fence was pushed back to add space to the
art courtyard, and a new gate provided access to the street and the trash/recycling area.
Recycling/composting centers were placed on both ends of the side yard. A wood and
wire fence replaced the cyclone fence above the concrete wall.

The next phase of the project included a chicken coop built for chicks to be hatched in
the spring. Student artwork began to adorn the shrubs and trees. Rooftop gardens were
added to the recycling/composting structures and to the chicken coop so that lots of
gardening activities could be integrated into science classes.
The fruition of the visions of the Blue Sky Committee affirmed Berkwood Hedge’s
commitment to beautifying our campus while using sustainable materials and multi-
use designs that demonstrate to students and the community what it means to put our
environmental values into practice.