I was approached by Carrie Eccleston, science teacher, at McCracken School in Skokie, Illinois to help with two projects. The projects were more a joint project that involved taking a broad open space of turf grass that fronted various existing plantings bed both raised and ground level at the school’s main entrance, and converting it to a more user friendly space.
Eccleston’s hope was to create a hardscape patio space that could serve as both meeting area and potential outdoor classroom space where teachers and students could learn amidst the student tended vegetable and flower gardens. As a corollary to the patio project was an issue of an extremely soggy and wet depression in the existing landscape grade.
The solution proposed by Eccleston and her science class was a rain garden planted with native perennials. The rain garden would be twofold in its utilitarian nature. One, it would remediate rainwater and storm water runoff and two it would be an environment that attract local wildlife: butterflies, dragonflies and birds.
One of the more unique aspects of the garden and patio project was the true collaborative nature of the endeavor. At my initial meeting with Ms. Eccleston, she and I came up with a general spatial area to be covered by the work. Then, the students brainstormed shapes and design ideas for the proposed space. Next, my stone contractor Larry Asimow and I came up with a trio of design renderings that incorporated the student plans. After a final decision was made work began on a patio and garden that fleshed out the student designs in conjunction with the workable space and chosen plants and materials.
The final installation was an inviting space that blended the tumbled clay pavers of the the patio, river rock for drainage, native perennials of the rain garden and even a decorative stone centerpiece designed and created by the students.