Heights students present sustainable ideas for Taylor school property
Cleveland Heights High School seniors Evan Lanese and Tamar Atwell hope to transform the former Taylor School property into a sustainable learning lab. The advanced placement biology students presented their plan to fellow nature studies students in December, hoping to inspire them to form an environmental club to work on the project. Science teacher Steve Warner invited community experts to provide technical and funding advice and ideas about community involvement.
Last year, students in Warner’s class studied the local water cycle and sewer system. “This work led to the idea of making a rain garden and field study at Taylor School,” said Warner. “Later, the idea of community gardening or urban farming was developed.”
Warner began thinking of how the school could provide students with learning projects that might also benefit the community when Laura Stuart-Lilley, transition coordinator at Heights High, proposed the idea of service learning projects.
Taylor School is currently used to house Family Connections, a technology center and other programs and is a seven-minute walk from the high school.
Lanese, Attwell, and fellow student Nick Negenborn worked on the plan for Taylor School on their own time. The students believe that rain falling on the building’s large roof and substantial parking lot could be used to water a garden, instead of flowing into the sewer system. They say the garden could be a model for best practices for storm water management.
The students envision an urban farm on the building’s ample lawn, where students and the community could learn about organic farming and healthy food. They hope to use produce from the farm in school cafeterias, local restaurants and food banks.
Dugway Brook passes behind the school’s parking lot. The students imagine using the farm, rain garden and surrounding area as a field laboratory to study the area’s biological makeup and how it changes over time. The facilities would provide hands-on learning opportunities for students working across several subject areas.
The students say that the environmental club, which would be open to high school students of all abilities, would focus first on the Taylor School project.
Both Atwell and Lanese would like to see other students become involved and get started on one of the three ideas before they graduate in June. Lanese plans to attend Case Western Reserve University in the fall and would like to continue his involvement in the project.
“We have had many offers from all kinds of groups and organizations to help. It has been at times a little overwhelming figuring out the best people to work with on the project,” said Warner.
Warner is proposing a service learning class for the next school year, developing a curriculum and seeking funding for the project. For more information, contact Steve Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights.