5th Graders Inventory World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park

One hundred and five 5th Graders from Westside Elementary visited the World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park to inventory and learn about the site through the soil, current designs, conditions, observations.

5th Grader inventory the site at World Garden Commons through a "square-foot" activity where the students learn about scale.

Students inventory the site at World Garden Commons through a “square-foot” activity where they experience scale.

The site activities followed The Fargo Project design principle “to experience nature and ecology.”  The activities gave kids permission to recognize that the World Garden Commons is not a park, yet enjoy the natural environment, and get dirty and wet. In fact, one of the students, Cloe, lost her shoes in the mud.  Her and fellow students’ experience was much closer to that of taking a hike through a prairie rather than walk down a manicured city park pathway.

5th Graders experienced first hand the World Garden Commons is not a park, yet enjoyed the natural environment, and acknowledged it's o.k. get dirty and wet.

5th Graders experienced first hand the World Garden Commons is not a park, yet enjoyed the natural environment, and acknowledged it’s o.k. get dirty and wet.

The leaders of the guided exploration included professionals in engineering, landscape architecture, soils, conservation and natural resources management plus volunteers. The goals were for the 5th graders to identify with the scale of the space, locate and name the basic features of the World Garden Commons, understand the role of a stormwater basin, engage children in experiencing the natural world, and identify opportunities for natural play.

Heather Dose, PhD guided students in activities to identify soils.

Heather Dose, PhD guided students in activities to identify soils.

While the frigid prairie winds moved the activities back to the school where it was much more comfortable, the students seemed deeply engaged in the activities. At the end of the day, Dwight Mickelson, artist and sculptor, invited the kids to dream about the site and imagine features for natural play in preparation for their design work the next day.

Artist and sculptor, Dwight Mickelson, invited the kids to dream about their experiences at World Garden Commons and imagine features for natural play.

Artist and sculptor, Dwight Mickelson, invited the kids to dream about their experiences at World Garden Commons and imagine features for natural play.


Students Lead ‘Natural Play’ Design for the World Garden Commons

Dwight Mickelson, artist and sculptor, led a multi-disciplinary group to develop activities to introduce fifth grade students to the World Garden Commons, the pilot site of The Fargo Project.  Professionals in engineering, landscape architecture, conservation and natural resources management plus volunteers will lead 105 students in a guided exploration of the site on April 21, 2016.

The fifth graders will inventory the environment, explore concepts of ecological restoration, stormwater management and natural play. Eight on-site activities provide the needed background for students to participate on Earth Day in the WeDesign Charrette which will engage the students’ creative forces.


Click here to play with your creativity and design your own restored stormwater basin 


The WeDesign Charrette is a collaborative participatory process where students envision and design to transform and revitalize infrastructure in an effort to provide beauty, play and creative exploration, specifically natural play.

According to The Learning Landscape, natural play is intuitive and unstructured, constructive (or deconstructive), and timeless, encouraging interaction with natural materials, features, indigenous vegetation, and creative landforms.

The WeDesign Charrette is modeled after another that took place in 2012 with over 100 community members.  The resulting World Garden Commons represents the community’s desire to transform an urban storm water basin into prairie, wildflower and wet meadows with environmental learning labs, walking trails, gathering places for celebrations and cultural festivals, and nature observation areas.

The Fargo Project incorporates community involvement through creative place making, the creative process, the arts, culture and community to enliven and enrich the community, for the ecological restoration of a functional storm water basin.  World Common Gardens, the pilot site of The Fargo Project, is underwritten by ArtPlace, the Kresge Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Plains Art Museum and the City of Fargo.

In preparation for the 5th Grade WeDesign Charrette, students design stormwater basins using the interactive design template created by MSUM students.