The Nature Explore Classroom at Our Lady of Perpetual Help
The original design ideas for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Nature Explore Classroom were developed by the 2010 8th grade class.
Teams were assigned and students developed and presented their ideas to the class. These ideas were then incorporated into the overall design of the space.
The activity areas are all located around a central open space which brings a unity to the space and helps provide visibility to the entire outdoor classroom. Signs and distinct features help define each of the activity areas. The Entry Area, Messy Materials and Building Area are each adorned with a trellis while the vegetable garden is bordered with a low fence.
Plantings include Black-Eyed Susie's, Oak leaf Hydrangea, and Purple Coneflower, which are all native perennials for the Chattanooga area. Blue Berry bushes are used on either side of the Entry Trellis with plantings of Sweet Shrub, Carolina Jessamine and Copper Iris used throughout the space. Apple trees have been planted on either side of the stage to add balance and beauty while raised planters, filled with Strawberry plants, bear fruit that is enjoyed by all. Native Oats, Switch Grass, and River Birch have also been included. Rain Barrels, painted by the children, have been installed at the downspouts to help keep plants looking their best.
High traffic areas, such as the Entry and Gathering areas were paved with brick pavers. In addition, the area around the planting beds and stage area were covered with gravel from local sources. Natural pine nugget mulch and tree cookies were also used. All areas received a layer of weed barrier below the mulch to minimize weeds and maintenance needed.
Regional, native building materials of cedar timbers and oak planks were used for the construction of the various trellises', back drop for the stage, and raised planters.
The design and construction of Nature's Place has been a collaborative effort between staff and students since the beginning. The classroom is actively used for class projects which include planting of raised gardens, painting rain barrels, and mulching and watering the garden areas. In addition, over the past two years there have been numerous Saturday work days where families and other volunteers have come to help maintain and improve the space.
A recycling grant award presentation was held on the stage and central open space of Nature's Place, which was a perfect place! The Pre-K class celebrated their end-of-the year with a joyful family picnic in Nature's Place. The children had a special performance on the stage, using the musical instruments from the Music and Movement Area. This added to their lively presentation. Strawberries from the garden were used for their dessert and flowers from the garden were placed on the tables for decorations.