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.
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.
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.
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.