early-childhood-learning-community-2Early Childhood Facility, northwest Columbus Ohio

Our services:
2005-Present. Collaboration on visioning session; site layout, design, budget, and implementation oversight; volunteer coordination; funding research.

Project partners:
Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Franklin Park Conservatory’s Growing to Green Program, The Columbus Foodshed Project, Scott’s Urban Garden Academy, The Rodale Institute, The Columbus Foundation, Knoll’s Garden Club.

The Outdoor Learning Environment at ECLC has provided a multitude of opportunities for creative natural play for children of all ability levels for the last 8 years, and continues to develop and grow. This project was designed to provide a variety of imaginative, sensory-based ‘green’ outdoor activities and experiences to infant, toddler, and preschool-age children with developmental delays and those with more typical levels of development. The location of this school in a well-established residential area also allows neighborhood children and their families the opportunity to experience these unique multi-sensory outdoor gardening activities.

ECLC-16-e1349662694813Families, the neighborhood and the community are also encouraged to engage with the outdoor space. A local organic farmer provides weekly summertime fun in the edible garden for school and neighborhood families. The neighborhood garden club has enjoyed accepting a leadership role in keeping the edible garden watered during hot summer months. Several corporate groups such as Anthem and Whole Foods have participated in volunteer service work days, and the garden has provided enjoyable annual Earth Day opportunities for many local residents.

A 5’ tall ‘mother monkey’ of reclaimed native maple and her babies were carved (with assists by the children!) on-site by sculptor Adam Bradley. Other unique existing features include dry creekbeds of local pebbles and boulders with natural spring-like water features, low grass ‘serpent’ mounds, a ‘council-ring’ sand pit, meandering permeable gravel pathways, and lush, low-maintenance native plant communities including woodland, meadow and prairie plants indigenous to central Ohio. The water features and the edible garden are maintained with rainwater from a 1000-gallon cistern that harvests roof runoff. A ‘tree cookie’ patio fashioned from reclaimed log slices is one of the newest additions to the garden.