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Friends of GR Parks, BL2END help elementary school toward goal of creating an outdoor classroom

It only took four hours on a Saturday for 35 volunteers to give an estimated $3,100 of pro bono labor to North Park Elementary School and move it a step closer to having an outdoor classroom.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (FOGRP) and young professionals from BL2END worked alongside members of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to clean up the school's playground – property that's also a city park.

"Two of our faculty, Jennifer Schpiro-Hall and Dave Huyser, want to create an outdoor teaching facility for all the students," says PTA President Matthew Patulski. "They've been working on a master plan with an architectural firm to do tree planting and connect with organizations throughout the city to make it happen."

Part of the outdoor teaching plan includes a 3,000-square-foot flower garden created by third graders. Volunteers constructed a new brick pathway through the garden so students have a path to the flagpole.  

"The school is looking at a more sustainable landscape with native plants, so we weeded beds and moved plants," says FOGRP Executive Director Steve Faber. "Long term, they're looking at sustainable forestry to teach students about growing pine and oak trees, so Saturday they cast that vision to a larger group and identified where that might happen."

Volunteers replaced fencing and prepared the playground's asphalt surfaces for sealant. Those surfaces will be stenciled with hopscotch and four-square games and a U.S. map, and the basketball court will be relined. Students raised $4,000 through a penny drive and other means to help allay costs.

"Twenty-five percent of our city parkland is in the hands of Grand Rapids Public Schools, so a quarter of our work is in the school system," Faber says. "It's a great way for parents and teachers to come together and see what they want to do with these green spaces."

Source: Steve Faber, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks; Matthew Patulski, North Park Schools PTA

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

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