Northwest NEWS

March 12, 2001


Endless possibilities seen for Cottage Lake Elementary project

by Deborah Stone
   Features Writer
   A series of discussions following a successful program of after school garden enrichment classes at Cottage Lake Elementary led to the decision to create an Outdoor Classroom project at the school.
   According to Chris Berry, parent volunteer coordinator of the project, the idea evolved out of a desire to have a permanent space to do various outdoor environmental activities.
   She says, "The children were so enthusiastic about the after school garden classes and there was this feeling that it would be great to be able to have a special area to use year round, both during and after school.
   "The idea snowballed and more people got involved, including teachers, other parents and community members."
   The garden space will be about four to five thousand square feet, separated into two connected areas near the newly constructed gym and a new pod of classrooms.
   The south space will be the larger of the two areas and will contain butterfly and salmon habitats, seating areas for two classrooms and wheelchair accessible raised planter boxes.
   The north space will contain a compost area, raised planter boxes, a trellis and seating for one classroom. Berry, a master gardener and past Molbaks' employee, envisions multiple uses for the spaces.
   She says, "I see both the school and the community using these areas to hold classes, forums, seminars and even theatrical presentations. The teachers are already talking about how creative they can be with the space's possibilities in regards to the existing curriculum and adapting it to an outdoor setting. It's easy to envision core science and environmental projects being done in the space, but also you can easily tie in language arts, music, math and other subject areas. The possibilities are endless."
   The entire school will be involved in the project, along with members of the community.
   A design committee comprised of teachers, parents and students have worked with landscape architect Jeff Varley, of ESM Consulting Engineers, on a plan for the space.
   According to Berry, Varley has donated well over 50 hours of his own time to create a wonderful design based on input from the team.
   "Jeff works for Ron Guest, ESM's head in Bothell, who was approached by his office project coordinator, Sara Artley, a parent at Cottage Lake," said Berry. " Sara spoke with Guest about the project and he got Jeff to assist the school with the design.
   " Jeff is not connected to the school in any way and he is this young guy with no kids who just wants to give something back to the community. He's been unbelievable in his devotion to this project and his design has gotten us into all sorts of doors.
   "He's listened to what our needs are and processed all our input to create this great plan."
   In addition to Varley's assistance, Deborah Rannfeldt from the Woodinville Water District is helping with grant writing and is on the advisory board for the project.
   In-kind donations have come from the Cottage Lake PTA, the Redmond Garden Club, a local scout troop and the Law Firm of Davis, Wright and Tremaine.
   The project will be completed in several phases over the next few years, depending on success in securing the necessary funding.
   The first portion of the garden will be done at a volunteer work party on Saturday, March 31, on the school campus.
   Several area businesses (who are donating time and materials) as well as a Boy Scout Troop and Timbercrest Junior High School volunteers will work with Cottage Lake volunteers to build raised planter boxes, storage units and a composting area.
   An engraved paver fundraiser will be launched on Friday, March 16, at the Cottage Lake Elementary School auction which will be held at Timbercrest Junior High.
   The total cost of the project will be approximately $40,000.
   "If we meet our funding goals," explains Berry, "then we will be able to complete the south space hopefully over the summer. We are taking this one step at a time, as it's a grassroots operation. We hope to generate lots of enthusiasm for the project and bring many people into helping achieve our goal.
   "It's so important to have a space tied to our environment as we're in such a natural setting here at Cottage Lake and it's something that everyone can benefit by and appreciate. With the school's remodel completed, it seems like the perfect time to launch this project and make our dreams a reality."