Edison Language Academy in Santa Monica, a Spanish-language immersion program within the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, has transformed its concrete courtyard into a fully functional green space.
The courtyard had been plagued with drainage problems, school officials said, and the new space reduces the amount of water runoff that goes into the Santa Monica city drains and into Santa Monica Bay.
Parents, children and friends of the school viewed the new design Saturday, October 7th, for the first time since renovation began three months ago.
The courtyard was designed to establish the link between infrastructures and effects on local ecosystems, officials say.
Serving as an outdoor classroom, the courtyard is a representation of how to build infrastructure that protects fragile marine life, school officials add.
With the help of local artist David Legaspi, a kelp forest, a rocky shore, deep ocean zones and painted marine animals and fish from Santa Monica Bay swim on the walls.
Images of the Santa Monica Pier and the coastline of Malibu adorn the top of the surrounding cafeteria building.
Under the pier, seals and fish swimming among the pilings are portrayed in colored cyclorama murals that surround the courtyard.
Benches, tables, umbrellas, planters and boulders in the courtyard provide a lunch area for the school’s 400-plus students.
“We wanted to communicate to the students that their education is important and that they deserve to go to a well-tended school,” said Edison principal Lori Orum. “This courtyard belongs to all of us because everyone here did something to make it happen.”
Orum jump-started the courtyard project with the help of Grace Phillips, a landscape designer and parent of an Edison student.
To fix the courtyard’s chronic drainage problems, dry wells were created below each of the eight downspouts emptying into the courtyard.
A large infiltration pit was located in the center of the courtyard.
Most water is now captured in these wells and the infiltration pit to filter gradually back to the underground water table.
School officials believe that only overflow in big storms will end up in Santa Monica Bay.
Low-water-use irrigation systems, drought-tolerant plants and trees and a reduced lawn are designed to soften the courtyard’s environmental impact.
“This project should have cost about $175,000 but, thanks to the contribution of everyone involved, the cost was closer to $75,000,” Phillips said.
The project was made possible by contributions from the school district, the City of Santa Monica, the Good Works Foundation, local Realtors, local businesses, parents, students and associated friends.
In addition, school officials say many individuals who provided goods and services donated or significantly discounted those goods and services.