Hamilton Early Learning Center, La Crosse
GROW La Crosse had a great vision for developing an edible schoolyard at Hamilton Early Learning Center in La Crosse. They asked La Crosse Urban Stormwater group to collaborate by adding sustainable water features. Together, we created a hands-on, water-friendly urban landscape that mimics a forest edge, provides outdoor learning space, and connects humans to healthy food and nature.
Students and community members played a role in this project from beginning to end. The edible schoolyard includes fruiting trees, edible shrubs, an asparagus area, a raspberry patch, a willow arch, and a seating area. Water friendly landscape features include native pollinator and soil-enriching plants, a biofilter rain garden, water harvesting barrels, and permanent educational signs.
The school entry was flanked by hundreds of square feet of compacted soil and grass, non-functional grading, and dying ash trees.
Students, staff and volunteers measured, shoveled, raked, hauled, planted, sweated, and learned….a lot. Thousands of pounds of earth was moved, and hundreds of native plant species were put in the ground to build soil that will absorb water like a sponge.
Already, in year one, plants are putting down deep roots and growing tall. Water is soaking into the ground rather than going in the street drains. And students and passers-by admire a place with interesting features and something to teach.