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City, GRPS announce completion of green schoolyard, natural playscape

The Nest is an outdoor classroom overlooking the park near Burton School. The Meadows natural playscape features a stump forest, log jam and other play features.
Credit: Courtesy photo

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) announced Thursday the completion of the green schoolyard and natural playscape at Burton Elementary/Middle School and Plaster Creek Family Park. 

Students and families at Burton Elementary/Middle School helped to create plans for the new nature and learning space. 

The Nest is an outdoor classroom overlooking the park near Burton School, according to a press release from the city. 

The Meadows natural playscape features a stump forest, log jam and other play features made from local trees harvested and stored by the City’s Forestry Division, the press release continued.  

The Meadows also includes a rain garden, native meadow planting and community picnic area. There is also a new park space that has accessible pathways, and improvements were made to the athletic field as well as the green infrastructure, the city said.  The park is located at 2401 Buchanan Ave. SW. 

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said connecting children with nature is a priority, and the Plaster Creek Family Park project is one way the city is carrying out that goal.

“Creating wonderful outdoor spaces is essential to being a healthy city that offers the opportunity for a high quality of life for everyone,” Bliss said in the press release. “This is a fantastic project that will help educate and keep our children physically active in unique and fun ways. It is a testament to what can be done when community partners come together to build and enhance a park for generations to come.”

Burton School is one of four sites in park-deficient areas of the city that will benefit from green schoolyard projects over the next two years. Other sites include Brookside Elementary, Buchanan Elementary and Sigsbee Park.

“The new outdoor classroom gives students and teachers the opportunity to broaden their educational experience through exploration of our natural world,” GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby said. “The benefits of green schoolyards go well beyond serving students. The spaces provide countless benefits to the health and wellness of the community and environment.”

In addition to the City and GRPS, project partners include Our Community’s Children, Wege Foundation and the City’s Environmental Services Department. The project was funded through a $270,000 grant from the Wege Foundation, $786,000 from the City’s 2013 parks millage and $101,000 from the Environmental Services Department. Grand Rapids also was among seven U.S. cities to receive a $25,000 planning grant from National League of Cities and Children and Nature Network to enhance connections between children and nature.

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