Thursday, February 18, 2010

Our Immediate And Extended Community

One of the key principles in Woodland Park's playground overhaul is that we are hoping to acquire as much of our materials as possible from within our immediate and extended community. Another of our guiding ideas is that we want to use naturalistic and "real" objects whenever possible.

For instance, I got the ball rolling by bringing in a dozen rounds from a hemlock we had removed from our yard a few years ago, which are currently being used as the basis for our Little World:

Right on cue, Woodland Park parent and proprietor of the fantastic blogs Floor Pie and TykeGeist, Toby, is having a large horse chestnut tree that is somehow threatening her garage (as I understand it) removed this week and we're scrambling to get a pick-up truck over to her house to claim those rounds. Several other parents have mentioned logs, rounds, and rocks that they are able to donate to the cause as well, which has made us increasingly confident that we can build our new full-body sandbox from them. 

I've also tried to get folk's creative juices flowing by contributing some "real" materials, like wooden pallets, window screens, garden fencing, and scrap wood to get our new carpentry/tinkering station underway:

We'll probably have to spend a little money on child-sized "real" tools (e.g., 8 oz. hammers, saws, drill bits, measuring tapes) to finish up this station, but who knows? Once people start thinking about what they have available around the house, we may not have to spend as much as we think.

Many parents have already offered plants and plant starts for our garden, as well as planting containers of all shapes and sizes.

As we've begun to reach out to our extended community, we're finding people willing and able to help us out. Toby's tree guy, for instance, Roger from Apical Tree Services (I can't find a website) said he might even be able to hook us up with some larger logs that we could use for clambering.

As many of you are, I'm sure, aware, Seattle is the home to Starbucks, Tully's and dozens of other coffee roasters. My friend and fellow Superhugger David Ruggiero has recently started a business called UpCycle Northwest which works with these large coffee roasters to reclaim, recycle, and reuse good materials that might otherwise be sent to the landfill. He has generously offered to donate some of his wares.

For instance, our garden walkways are getting awfully muddy as the thin layer of bark chips we laid down last year has washed away:

David has suggested that we use either over-roasted coffee beans . . .

. . . or unroasted coffee beans . . .

. . . as a kind of "pea gravel" for our paths, to create a look something like this:

Apparently, these beans compact well and will eventually decompose in the soil. As an added benefit, they won't attract squirrels or other urban critters, like some "foodstuffs" we've used in our garden. I'm wondering if we shouldn't go with a combination of the rich brown and green beans.

David has also offered us "coffee roaster chaff," which is a bi-product of the roasting process and can be used as an organic mulch, a soil amendment, or chicken coop "duff," although I'm thinking we're most likely to want to use it as worm-bedding.

He's also donated some reclaimed burlap bags:

Most people want to use these in their garden as a natural weed block or erosion control material, but David suggested we might want to experiment with employing them as a kind of "fabric whiskey barrel" planter for tomatoes or potatoes, or as weather resistant fabric for our construction area. Or maybe we'll just need some large sacks to fill up then empty out in the sandbox. We'll probably just let the kids show us how to use them.

The most unexpected thing David sent me home with from my visit to his warehouse on Tuesday was this stuff:

At first glance I thought it was a giant roll (2 ft. in diameter) of toilet paper, but apparently this is what is leftover from the process of stamping out coffee filters. In other words this looks to be hundreds of yards of "lacy" coffee filter material. I can imagine stringing this up all over the playground, giving the kids squirt bottles full of liquid water color and turning it into rainbows!

Thanks David! Thanks everyone!

If you can't tell, I'm excited. It's fun to be part of this community.

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Deborah Stewart said...

I love how you are drawing in the interest of your community and keeping an open mind about how the resources they offer can be used. You may want to do a little lesson on not sticking beans up the nose if you decide to use the beans on your paths - I wonder if it will smell like morning coffee? :)

Teacher Tom said...

The over-roasted beans do smell like coffee, but the unroasted have no appreciable odor.

David and I spent some time plunging our arms up to the elbows into bags of the beans. It was fun. I'm going to see if I can get a little extra to use in our sensory table.

Fortunately, I've never had an issue with kids sticking things in their noses, but thanks for the warning, Deborah!

Noah said...

HOLY MOLEY - Tom, your playground plans kinda makes me want to move back to Seattle.
I am so juiced to hear about the revamp - kids so need a flexible outdoor space. Thanks so much for sharing the evolution - fairy gardens, little world and the upcycle ideas.
rad rad rad
Can't wait to see how it's going - look forward to the updates!

Floor Pie said...

Ugh. I feel guilty about taking that tree down after all these years, but it had to happen. Glad to know the wood will become a part of our new playground.

Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

I am drooling. What a wonderful opportunity to have this much freedom to dream and create with your community. Sigh, the downside of working at a public school. You must be thrilled with all the possibilities. I have not given up on my outdoor space, but understand that progress is in baby steps. Looking forward watching the transformation.

Launa Hall said...

Coffee beans is the coolest landscaping idea I have ever heard! Wow! Can't wait to see this take shape.

I regret to tell you that there is a bean-up-the-nose story in my family's lore starring, um, me. Look out, we're out there!

Unknown said...

How exciting.
How very, very exciting.