The Soak it Up! Project with GROW La Crosse

A group of kids listen intently during the Seeds for Success event.

Hamilton Early Learning Center, La Crosse

Grow La Crosse and the La Crosse Urban Stormwater Group have teamed up to help construct an edible schoolyard and water-friendly urban landscape at Hamilton Early Learning Center and School of Technology and Arts in La Crosse. An edible schoolyard is a space that is created intentionally to provides a hands-on learning environment incorporating native edible plants. This space mimics a forest edge and provide students, families and the surrounding community with an outdoor learning space that will connect them to healthy food and nature.

The edible schoolyard includes multiple fruiting trees, edible shrubs, an asparagus area, a raspberry patch, a willow arch and a seating area. The water friendly landscape includes native pollinator and soil-enriching plants, a bio-filter rain garden, water harvesting barrels and permanent educational signs.

Our Goals

1) Provide a living, hands-on learning experience for children, their families, and the neighborhood.

2) Create a low-maintenance, sustainable ecosystem that produces food and absorbs stormwater runoff.

3) Model a sustainable, practical, water friendly urban landscape while inspire others.


The Design


Pollinator Garden: The Northern corner of the school property will be changed into a low-growth pollinator garden. A fifth grade class is looking forward to designing, planting and maintaining this area.

Bio-Filter Rain Garden: The neighboring space will be transformed into not just a rain garden, but a bio-filter rain garden. This type of rain garden is constructed with engineered soil and natural rock, then planted with deep rooted, native plants. A bio-filter rain garden will naturally filter runoff, providing cleaner groundwater.

North Food Forest: The space up against the building will be planted with multiple fruit trees and pollinators. It will also include a food pantry to be utilized by the neighborhood.

Large Food Forest: The larger front, central space will incorporate fruit trees, shrubs, pollinator plants, a willow arch, asparagus patch, and a large raspberry patch.

Outdoor Classroom and South Food Forest: The Southern corner will include a maple tree, edible shrubs, and pollinator plants and an outdoor classroom area. This space will provide students a space learn, parents a place to sit to wait for their kids and the neighborhood a beautiful resting place.

Water Harvesting Barrels: Two large rain barrels will be place at both the main and side entrance of the building. Water that collects here will be used as the main water source for the edible schoolyard.

Educational Signage: Three beautiful, permanent, outdoor, educational signs will be installed throughout the edible schoolyard. This interpretive signage, will be a resource of information for anyone who wants to connect with healthy food and clean water. Hamilton will become part of a network of creative, water management areas with interpretive signage.

We are still acquiring funding for the completion of this project. If you can help, please let us know.