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 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 created to provide a hands-on learning environment incorporating native edible plants. The space mimics a forest edge and provides students, families and the surrounding community with an outdoor learning space and connection to healthy food and nature.

The edible schoolyard includes multiple fruiting trees, edible shrubs, an asparagus area, a raspberry patch, a willow arch, and seating area. The water friendly landscape includes native pollinator and soil-enriching plants, a biofilter 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 has become a low-growth pollinator garden. Fifth graders designed, planted and will maintain this area.

Biofilter Rain Garden: The nearby space will be transformed into not just a rain garden, but a biofilter rain garden. This type of basin is constructed with engineered soil and natural rock, then planted with deep rooted, native plants to naturally filter runoff, producing cleaner groundwater.

North Food Forest: The space near the building will be planted with multiple fruit trees and plants that attract pollinators. The area will include a food pantry for 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, pollinator plants, and an outdoor classroom area. This space offers students a space learn, parents a place to sit and wait for their kids, and a beautiful resting place for neighbors.

Water Harvesting Barrels: Two large rain barrels will be located at the main and side entrances of the building. Water collected here will be used to water the edible schoolyard.

Educational Signage: Three beautiful educational signs will be installed as a resource for all who want to connect with healthy food and clean water, and Hamilton becomes part of a network of creative water management areas in the La Crosse urban area.

We are still seeking funding to complete this project. Contact us to help.