Oregano Pesto! How one D.C. school is using its green schoolyard

Engineering in the sand pit.jpeg

Nancy Striniste, founder and principal designer at Earlyspace, is a landscape designer and former teacher. In the guest blog below, she gives us a peek into how one public charter school is using their green schoolyard.


Yesterday I got to visit Creative Minds International (CMI), a public charter school in Washington, D.C. The school serves about 500 students from preschool to middle school.  It's a uniquely beautiful and historic site in the city. The one-acre playground sits on the grounds of the Armed Forces retirement home. The school's neighbor is Lincoln's Cottage, which was the summer white house for Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd, and his young son, Tad. It's where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, and where Tad played with ponies and peacocks as a child.

The playground, which I designed, was built over the last two summers. On the schoolyard is an assortment of active natural play elements including a constructed hill with a slide on one side and a tunnel through the middle. There are logs for climbing and balancing, loose parts for building, a big sand and water area, and a whole bunch of different kinds of swings. A sensory trail leads children around the perimeter of the space. There are also several outdoor classrooms including an art studio, a theater, and an edible garden with an adjacent classroom area. 

I visited the space for the first time since last fall and got to meet the new garden teachers from Urban Adventure Squad, a D.C.-based nonprofit. Watch the videos below to hear how teachers and students are using their new green schoolyard for play, projects, and lessons!

From cooking to science class - Urban Adventure Squad describes different ways they are using the garden to engage students of all ages: https://vimeo.com/271388618?utm_source=email&utm_medium=vimeo-cliptranscode-201504&utm_campaign=29220

Listen and watch as a third-grade teacher shares the ways her students use the space, while they play in the background. Includes a great panorama of what the playground actually looks like: https://vimeo.com/271386549?utm_source=email&utm_medium=vimeo-cliptranscode-201504&utm_campaign=29220

 Sixth graders examining newly planted vining vegetables.

Sixth graders examining newly planted vining vegetables.

 A bead project in the art studio.

A bead project in the art studio.