Back to School, Back to Nature

Posted by Nicole Bradley on Aug 29, 2016 11:48:54 AM

The outdoor learning center at Lukancic Middle School gives teachers a tool for connecting the classroom and nature.

Nature nurtures learning. Being outdoors gives children a healthy dose of “green” that fosters development and supports growth in every way: intellectual, emotional, social, and physical. Simply getting outside can deliver measurable benefits, and schools like Lukancic Middle School in Romeoville are providing teachers a tool to take advantage of all that nature can offer with an outdoor learning center.

The Romeoville, Ill.-based school is the first in the Valley View School District to have a dedicated outdoor learning center designed to connect children with nature, and to promote effective learning outside of the classroom. “Two of the biggest concerns today with students are attention-related learning issues and obesity, and these outdoor learning centers address both and give teachers a platform for teaching in a natural environment,” says Nicole Bradley, Marketing Manager at Sebert Landscape.

The outdoor learning center at Lukancic Middle School was a natural extension of Sebert Landscape's corporate commitment to giving back and sheer passion for plants and nature. This year alone, Sebert Landscape hosted a number of community events, including a Come Alive Outside event at the Huntley Park District that drew more than 750 people who were interested in reconnecting with the outdoors.  Next year they will host three Come Alive Outside events, and by 2018 they plan on hosting at least five. 

“To us, the outdoor learning center goes beyond construction,” Bradley relates. “We don’t just go in and put in a learning center and leave. We are providing resources for teachers, staff, students and the community guiding them on ways to use the space.”

The project goes far beyond design-and-build, she explains. Sebert partnered with the school district to: dream it, design it and create. “The project will be a true success when we use it and integrate it,’” Bradley says.

With the outdoor learning center at Lukancic, teachers now have a valuable teaching tool right outside their classroom doors. “It’s about getting children outside, and in the society we live in today many times kids are not going outdoors,” points out Principal Tricia Rollerson, who was instrumental in this project. “The outdoor learning center is a calm area—a very focused area. Our teachers are very excited about the opportunity.”


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Topics: Outdoor Learning Center, Sebert Landscape, community partnerships


Posted by Nicole Bradley on Feb 9, 2016 10:30:43 AM

Experiential, themed courtyard playgrounds at Community Consolidated School District 59’s new Early Learning Center provide preschoolers with four safe, engaging environments that enhance outdoor time.  

There’s no better place to play and learn than the outdoors. Children can run sand through their fingers, splash in water, dance around, dabble at art easels, whoosh down slides, and take a break on tree stump seats. They can experience native plants, and dig around in raised beds, too. It’s all there at multiple themed courtyard playgrounds designed for ages 3 to 5 at the Community Consolidated School District 59’s new Early Learning Center.

Sebert partnered with construction manager Nicholas & Associates to complete the landscape installation for the 57,000 square-foot center, which is an addition to the Holmes Junior High School. The center accommodates up to 600 pre-kindergarten students and more than 50 teachers from five districts.

The new site provided a fresh palette for the school to plan the ideal outdoor space for children. At their previous schools, preschoolers had outdoor time at shared school playgrounds that were also open to the public.

At the new center, three small themed courtyard spaces and one larger courtyard provide different, safe settings for play. The courtyard design offers a great sense of security, says Gary Stofcheck, construction manager at Sebert.

 “Now, the students can play in the protected courtyard spaces so teachers don’t have to worry about the security—the courtyards are enclosed, so no one is going anywhere,” Stofcheck points out.

Sebert’s charge: collaborate with Nicholas & Associates to bring the landscape design to life, while working within the complexity of confined courtyard spaces. “The most challenging aspect of the project was the limited access to courtyards,” Stofcheck says of installation logistics, noting that execution required careful planning.

The ultimate reward: “Seeing the kids enjoy the playgrounds,” Stofcheck says.

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Topics: community partnerships


Posted by Nicole Bradley on Nov 11, 2015 9:55:34 AM

The Natural Prairie & Community Garden at Advocate Sherman Hospital produces a bounty of benefits.

When Advocate Sherman Hospital constructed its new location in Elgin, Ill., an expanse of land on the property was a blank canvas. Master Gardener Patsy Hirsch, a regular volunteer at the hospital, saw more than empty space. She asked then CEO Rick Floyd, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to put in a community garden?”

That conversation seven years ago planted the seed for Advocate Sherman Community Garden. “We make people healthy here through our services in the hospital, but it really starts with what we ‘put in’ and ‘take out’ of our bodies through food and exercise,” Hirsch relates.

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Topics: Sustainability, Company Culture, master gardener, healthy habits, grow your own food, community gardens, garden, where does our food come from, community partnerships