“Here’s where you can study outside and look closely at the earth.”
Second-grader Sonya Lynch was giving an informal tour of the new Outdoor Learning Center at Seth Boyden, a community-wide project that has been nearly 20 years in the dreaming and planning stages.
Now — thanks to the generosity of friends, families, local business owners and school administrators — this dream is becoming a remarkable reality.
Last week, the final round of construction got underway, when Evergreen Landscaping carved out three intersecting circles that will comprise a classroom, an art nook and a performance space.
Then the volunteer community got into the action — digging, weeding, hauling loads of gravel and dirt. The efforts were led by Glenn Klein Of Glenn’s Landscaping in Maplewood, who donated his Saturday, his crew and his machines to the task of planting 31 trees in and around the school yard that will become a New Jersey Native Tree Arboretum (thanks to a grant from the Maplewood Open Space Trust Fund).
“I wanted to give back to Maplewood,’’ Klein said. “I’ve had my business here for 30 years.”
While on the scene, the crew dug ditches for an underground irrigation system – the components of which were donated by Dig Corporation. Klein also cleared the way for a Habitat Garden, designed by local landscape architect Bill Scerbo and funded by a grant from Sustainable Jersey. The Habitat Garden will include plants and trees that are beneficial to the native insects, birds, and small animals. It will also have a Story Trail that guides visitors through the space in creative ways — informing them about what they are seeing and challenging them to think about their role within that ecosystem.
What was once a patch of mud and struggling grass will soon be an incredible resource for the entire community. The yard also has a flourishing school garden, an apple orchard, a fitness station, a walking track and several climbing structures and climbable rocks. There are activities for all ages and abilities, promoting a connection to our natural world and engaging in its preservation.
Seth Boyden families have done all they can, over years of effort. Now, this project needs the entire South Orange/Maplewood community to help finish the work. Let’s come together as one community to show love for our children. The Outdoor Learning Center needs donations — only $7,000 to go! — and helping hands. The Outdoor Learning Center has been an incredible process spanning generations of students, parents, and community do-gooders. Please join in making this amazing green space come alive.
Click HERE to donate to the OLC on paypal.
SIGN UP HERE for the two remaining planting days – May 21 and June 4.
Abby Sher and Tia Swanson are members of the Seth Boyden Demonstration School community.
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