Outdoor classroom, playscape project taking shape in GR

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some Grand Rapids teachers will soon get to take their classroom lessons outside.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and other city leaders gathered at Plaster Creek Family Park Tuesday to unveil a portion of the newly improved grounds.

Crews broke ground on the project in June. They’ve since completed a couple of key components of the nature-based playscape called “The Meadows,” including a log tangle, log jam and a rainwater garden area that will eventually include log bridges for visitors to cross.

Perched atop of the hill closer to Burton Elementary School will be “The Nest,” which should be finished later this year.

Burton Elementary School Principal Allison Woodside says any lesson can be taught from the new space.

“We’re even going to have an outdoor classroom, so even, any lesson, whether it be science, social studies, literacy whatever it may be, we can take advantage of this space. Even just having a different space to think is really going to open their minds to their learning,” Woodside said.

The Nest will be used by Burton Elementary School and feature raised planters for a vegetable garden, a meadow of native plants and a community picnic area.

“It’s remarkable, it’s exciting and it’s something brand new for this city,” said David Marquardt, director of the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department.

Students of Burton’s elementary and middle schools helped create the plans, with six fifth-graders leading park audits and surveys and providing recommendations to the project team.

Bliss says the playscape project moves the city a step closer to its goal of having a park within a 10-minute walk for all residents.

The project was made possible by a tax millage approved by Grand Rapids voters in 2013, as well as funding from The Wege Foundation.

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