On the evening of April 8th, 2019, Alameda Unified School District staff invited interested parents, PTA members, school staff, and garden educators to a presentation by the Oakland-based landscape architecture firm Keller Mitchell & Co. related to garden designs on AUSD properties. The purpose of the meeting was to provide basic ADA-compliant garden (or ‘outdoor classroom’) components in a kit-of-parts such that interested schools can develop garden plans that are in line with District-approved specifications. This was intended as both a draft effort to outline these specifications, as well as laying out what would be required in any design based on existing regulations.
AUSD staff present offered that they had received multiple requests for garden expansion from schools in the District and that they felt ill-equipped to evaluate these requests given the often complex and interacting requirements of state and federal regulations, campus layout, materials choice, student and educator needs, and other factors. Keller Mitchell representatives present at the meeting mentioned that they have over a decade of experience developing school gardens and have the necessary experience to provide support for the District in developing campus-appropriate garden designs.
Maya Lin School was well-represented, with the largest contingent of attendees, including Principal Goodwin and five members of the Garden Expansion committee. We were able to provide our impressions of the overall approach, add input on potential design elements, make note of where the process needs to consider additional components, and share our already well-developed plans for a revamped Maya Lin Garden. It was clear that the other schools present were not as far along in the planning process as Maya Lin. In fact, it is probably fair to say that the work Maya Lin has done to refine multiple iterations of garden and green space plans – along with the financial commitment of the PTA – played a significant role in the District initiating engagement with Keller Mitchell and the development of these specifications.
This effort is centered on gardens specifically. It does not include campus greening efforts outside of a typical vegetable garden footprint – with raised beds, irrigation, a tool shed, etc. Green space outside of the garden was not addressed at this meeting except in passing.
The basic ideas presented focus on the space between raised beds in the garden and how that would affect overall garden size, what types of materials might be used, and what kinds of components would be part of the garden (see photos from the presentation, above). Keller Mitchell representatives presented three versions of prototype gardens: small, medium, and large. These were to give a basic idea as to how a garden might look given the suggested dimensions. Note that in a kit-of-parts approach, any of the individual elements can be used in a site-specific approach at Maya Lin, similar to the plans we already have in place.
By way of comparison, the “large” garden presented represents a 1518 square foot footprint, and Maya Lin’s current garden is ~1,800 square feet. Under the draft garden plan put together by Maya Lin’s Garden Expansion Committee, space dedicated to the outdoor classroom Maya Lin garden would expand to roughly 3,600 square feet (excluding surrounding green space). So, we would use the components of the provided kit-of-parts and incorporate them into Maya Lin’s design. It is worth noting that in drafting the existing plan for Maya Lin, ADA-compliant access was incorporated, so there should be very little adjustment necessary from that standpoint.
Keller Mitchell and the District will be reviewing the input from the meeting and incorporating that feedback into a draft garden design handbook for the District. District staff have agreed to put this draft handbook out to the public for comment and further input and will provide a Survey Monkey link for this purpose when the draft is prepared. We hope to get a large response from the Maya Lin community to this draft handbook so that the vision of an expanded garden at Maya Lin can sufficiently meet the needs of the students and staff at the school.
If you have further questions about the meeting or about Maya Lin’s garden and green space design, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.