VBC Project: Madison H.S. Outdoor Classroom

Madison High School is well on the way to becoming an oasis on NE 82nd Avenue. I pulled off the highway, with its multitude of strip malls and fast food joints, into the circular drive of the 52 year-old school. I saw a couple of staff members busily covering a concrete bench with a multi-colored mosaic, I watched several skateboarders practicing at the Glenhaven Skate Park adjacent to the school, and I observed several volunteers moving mounds of mulch from a pile on the side of the building onto paths that led to the back of the building. I followed them in, knowing they must be leading me to my destination. I rounded the corner to see it there—a corridor of green. There were raised beds being prepped for planting, then further out a veritable kitchen garden—rows of kale, peas, herbs, potatoes—flanked by fruit trees and pole beans and edible flowers. In the middle of all of this prolific plant growth stood the outdoor classroom. A wood and cob structure, it is both earthy and other-worldly. The cob, still in the final stages of drying, has been molded into subtle wave-like patterns and is interspersed with colorful glass bottles creating a look reminiscent of a river bottom—water lapping over rounded stones. Getting a bit closer I realize that there are actually two structures, with a different type of roof covering each. One is metal and tilts slightly backward in a way that suggests it will be used as part of a rainwater catchment system. The other, tilted at a slightly different angle, is covered in live plants and features a downspout chain at the corner, so that the excess water from the roof can be diverted to a nearby garden bed. I see right away how well thought out the entire garden is, and I’m excited to learn more.

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