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Aldo Leopold Green Schoolyard Project

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1000 Friends is working with the community at Aldo Leopold Elementary School to develop a safe and welcoming green schoolyard there. Because Leopold School is in two watersheds (Lake Wingra and Lake Monona) this is also an important watershed protection project in south-central Wisconsin. 

Abe Lenoch at Leopold

Abe Lenoch, Community Project Coordinator, speaking with families at Leopold’s 2018 Fall Fiesta

We are working with Leopold parents, staff, and community partners as part of the Leopold Green Schoolyard Committee. The leadership and planning committee is spear-heading the green schoolyard efforts at Leopold Elementary.  While 1000 Friends is coordinating the project, the Green Schoolyard Committee serves as the leader within the community and will ultimately be responsible for final decisions regarding development and implementation.

Leopold students will be involved throughout this project- during the planning phases and through an environmental education curriculum. There will also be community work days as projects are implemented, so Leopold students, families and staff can help by getting their hands a little dirty in the process.

Project Goals/Ideas

  • Increase Leopold students and families’ access to healthy and creative outdoor learning and play
  • Connect children to nature through outdoor classrooms and an environmental education curriculum
  • Create living laboratories such as rain gardens, stump gardens, and natural paths to:
    • Solve flooding issues related to excessive storm-water runoff (see pictures below)
    • Soften and beautify hard landscapes around the school
  • Design and install a community gathering space – the Green Team has discussed clearing a wooded area towards the back of the school for this purpose
  • Help foster existing school/community partnerships and facilitate future sustainable relationships between the school and its surrounding community
  • Soften and beautify hard landscapes around the school

Watch the slideshow below to learn more about the project:

The new stump garden at Leopold Elementary. The stumps provide an interactive and creative play space for Leopold kindergartens.

The new stump garden at Leopold Elementary. The stumps provide an interactive and creative play space for Leopold kindergartens.

The stumps came from a Leopold family. Thanks to them and the Leopold Green Schoolyard Committee for making this possible!

The stumps came from a Leopold family. Thanks to them and the Leopold Green Schoolyard Committee for making this possible!

A volunteer pine seedling made this stump it's home.

A volunteer pine seedling made this stump it's home.

The Leopold School Garden, Summer 2019.

The Leopold School Garden, Summer 2019.

Leopold Before

The Leopold Green Schoolyard Committee held a workday in October to clear brush and lay mulch for an outdoor staff break area. This is what it looked like before the work day started.

The new stump garden at Leopold Elementary. The stumps provide an interactive and creative play space for Leopold kindergartens.

Leopold volunteers

Leopold families and 1k Friends staff had to remove large stumps from the soil after the top layer of brush was removed.

The new stump garden at Leopold Elementary. The stumps provide an interactive and creative play space for Leopold kindergartens.

Burlap bags and mulch

The crew laid burlap bags (from one of the parents’ workplace) and mulch where tangled vegetation once ruled.

The new stump garden at Leopold Elementary. The stumps provide an interactive and creative play space for Leopold kindergartens.

Bird nest at Leopold

This bird nest was found in one of the cedar trees (which are still there!). It shows how opportunistic birds can be when searching for nesting materials.

The new stump garden at Leopold Elementary. The stumps provide an interactive and creative play space for Leopold kindergartens.

Leopold project finished for the day!

Our crew with the finished product for the day. Eventually this space will have picnic tables and plants for Leopold staff and community members to use.

The new stump garden at Leopold Elementary. The stumps provide an interactive and creative play space for Leopold kindergartens.

Getting Kids Outside

Increasing children’s exposure to the outdoors is important for their mental and physical health and academic performance. Research compiled by the Children and Nature Network shows that children have better academic outcomes, more creative options for active play, increased occurrence of beneficial/cooperative play, and greater mental health from exposure to green schoolyards.

Leopold Community School Logo

About Leopold Elementary School

Leopold Elementary School is one of four designated Community School’s in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Leopold is the largest elementary school and has the most diverse student population in MMSD. To find out more information about Leopold, head to their website or go to their Facebook page.

What is a green schoolyard?

Green schoolyards bring learning and play to life. They split the schoolyard into different worlds that kids can explore through outdoor learning and healthy and creative play. These hands-on, multi-sensory landscapes benefit users and the surrounding environment. Learn more at: https://www.greenschoolyards.org/living-school-grounds.

A common scene on Leopold School’s blacktops following a rain storm

Both sides of this path are proposed locations for a rain garden at Leopold School to reduce storm-water runoff.

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