GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools have partnered to create an outdoor classroom and natural playscape at Plaster Creek Family Park. 

Six fifth-grade students at Burton Elementary and Middle School helped create plans for The Nest and The Meadows by leading park audits and surveys, as well as offering recommendations to the project team.

The Nest will be an outdoor classroom with seating, raised planter beds for a vegetable garden, a rain garden, native meadow planting and community picnic area. The Meadows will feature a stump forest and log jam play feature made from local trees harvested and stored by the City’s Forestry Division. Other features of the project include accessible pathways, a picnic area with tables and grills, athletic field improvements and restroom improvements.

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City and district officials held a ground breaking ceremony Monday, June 17 at school playground at the end of Darwin Ave. SW.

outdoor classroom at plaster creek park
Improvements at Plaster Creek Family Park will connect Burton Elementary and Middle School students with nature through education and play.
Courtesy rendering

“This project is truly a community effort,” GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal said. “Burton students played an important role in this planning effort, and we are looking forward to bringing their ideas to life. This project is an example of how connecting children with nature can help develop future environmental stewards and leaders.”

The outdoor classroom and natural playscape are part of the Connecting Children to Nature initiative, a partnership between the City and GRPS that is committed to environmental education, parks and schoolyard activation and sustainability.

Burton School is one of four sites in park-deficient areas of the city that will benefit from green schoolyard projects over the next three years, going beyond that of serving the students but providing health and wellness opportunities to the community and surrounding environments. 

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