Transformation Of James Denman Middle School Rear Yard From Gray To Green Expands OMI/Excelsior Living Library & Think Park

Barren concrete Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

What does it take to transform a barren concrete desert into a vibrant garden of colors? It took a Master Plan developed by Bonnie Ora Sherk, a  SF Community Challenge Grant from the San Francisco City Administrator’s Office, a great contractor to remove tons of asphalt and concrete, and teams of enthusiastic students and volunteers to move soil and start planting an ecological wonderland, transforming the formerly barren, dull, and lifeless Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School, in just a couple of months. 

Masterplan of California Native Learning Zones by Bonnie Ora Sherk

Masterplan of California Native Learning Zones by Bonnie Ora Sherk

Life Frames, Inc., led by Bonnie Ora Sherk, has created a series of California Native Learning Zones filled with native trees and understory plants at this site while also expanding the existing prototype Bernal Heights Living Library & Think Park Nature Walk to interconnect more schools, parks, streets, public housing, and other open spaces throughout the Islais Creek Watershed, the largest in San Francisco, that interconnects eleven neighborhoods.   

Digging up asphalt and concrete at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

Digging up asphalt and concrete at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

In August this year, tons of asphalt and concrete were removed from the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School with new soil added underneath with the help of volunteers from Salesforce. By September, the site started growing slowly with young hands (6th to 8th Graders) planting, mulching, and watering California native trees and colorful understory plants. Following are some images documenting the ecological transformation at the site in the past few months:

At the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School.

At the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School.

Tons of asphalt and concrete removed at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School.

Tons of asphalt and concrete removed at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School.

 

Salesforce Volunteers at Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

Salesforce Volunteers at Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

In August this year, tons of asphalt and concrete were removed from the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School with new soil added underneath with the help of volunteers from Salesforce.

A Living Library works with all 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade Science Classes during the school day in hands-on learning by doing

A Living Library works with all 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade Science Classes during the school day in hands-on learning by doing.

For the students and others volunteering with A Living Library in their new California Native Learning Zones of the OMI/Excelsior Living Library & Think Park, it is a unique opportunity to understand issues of flood mitigation, rainwater harvesting, sustainable development, climate change, urban forestry, pollution, water quality, and other related issues. The A.L.L. Green Futures Paid Internship Program— a hands-on creative, interdisciplinary learning after school program based here — helps Middle School and High School students to gain real-world experience in green job skills, ecology, sustainable business, science, and gardening. Additionally, A Living Library works with all 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade Science Classes during the school day in hands-on learning by doing.  The ongoing work at the site aims to enhance the way of life for students as well as the whole community, while creating expressive and resilient ecological landscapes.

Young hands planting California native trees and understory plants at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School.

Young hands planting California native trees and understory plants at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School.

Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

The A.L.L. Green Futures Paid Internship Program helps Middle School and High School students to gain real-world experience in green job skills, ecology, sustainable business, science, and gardening.

Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

For the students and other volunteers, it is a unique opportunity to understand issues of flood mitigation, rainwater harvesting, sustainable development, climate change, urban forestry, pollution, water quality, and other related issues.

A Living Library works with all 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade Science Classes during the school day in hands-on learning.

The ongoing work at the site aims to enhance the way of life for students as well as the whole community, while creating expressive and resilient ecological landscapes

Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

A slow transformation from grey to green at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

Watering the newly planted California Native trees and understory plants at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School.

 

Developing new Rain Gardens will allow water to permeate into the aquifer, while creating new habitat for diverse species, all linked with integrated hands-on learning for PreK-12 students.

Developing new Rain Gardens will allow water to permeate into the aquifer, while creating new habitat for diverse species, all linked with integrated hands-on learning for PreK-12 students.

Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

A student watering the plants at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

Salesforce Volunteers

Sweaty and smiling volunteers from Salesforce after a day’s work at the Rear Yard of James Denman Middle School

With the addition of the future transformation of the adjacent Seneca Avenue Streetscape to be developed next year and funded by the California Natural Resources Agency, this total environment of adjoining properties, and the situation it provides, creates an exceptional flood mitigation opportunity, for developing new Rain Gardens that will allow water to permeate into the aquifer, while creating new habitat for diverse species, all linked with integrated hands-on learning for PreK-12 students.  Seneca Avenue borders three other schools in addition to Denman:  Balboa High School, San Miguel Early Education School and Leardership High School. The plan for Seneca, is to create new Rain Gardens as new native landscapes on Seneca to divert stormwater from the sewers and use it to water trees and understory plants as well as to educate the students and community and improve the quality of life for all species.

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