Students at Horizons K-8 have lots of ideas about how the city of Boulder could improve the adjacent Admiral Burke Park, from play structures to treehouses to open grassy areas.
But they're also coming up with ideas that might appeal to the larger community, including residents at the neighboring Frasier Meadows senior housing complex. Those ideas include a community garden, wheelchair-accessible paths and a wildlife viewing area.
"I hope that a lot of people can enjoy the area," said sixth-grader Grace Conroy.
Horizons K-8, design classes at the University of Colorado, Growing Up Boulder and the city Parks and Recreation department are working together to design improvements to the park.
"It's been a really good partnership," said Jeff Dillon, Boulder's park planning superintendent. "There will be a lot of changes at the park."
Along with improvements to the park, the school also is updating its playground. The plan is to have the playground better connect to the park and be available for community use when school isn't in session.
Horizons students in the school's "Make a Difference" community service class worked in the fall on creating their vision for the playground and park.
They explored the park's ecosystem and documented wildlife, photographed the site, interviewed community members, drew basic models of their ideas and then built more elaborate ones. They've also presented their ideas to classmates and the community, including presenting Wednesday at Frasier Meadows.
"It ended up becoming this big collaborative project to look not just at the playground, but the whole park," said Horizons lead teacher CeCe Schehl.
Students have proposed hammocks, tree swings, a zip line and big rocks for climbing, along with a place for outdoor art and a pier out onto Thunderbird Lake.
"I was amazed at how much wildlife there is," said sixth-grader Claire DeHart. "I hope we can keep the wildlife at the park."
Added fourth-grader Leo Sundstrom: "I hope we can make it greener."
Along with helping with the design, Schehl said, the plan is for the students to continue with service learning projects in the park. They can weed, clean up trash and help out in other similar ways, she said.
"Our students can become stewards of the land," she said.
Once the design phase is complete, the school needs permission from the district to blur the lines between school property and the park, as well as agreement from the city. The school plans to apply for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to help pay for improvements to the playground.
For the park, the city plans to make improvements as funding is available. The first improvement planned, an outdoor classroom, will be designed and built this spring by two CU studio classes.
CU instructor Brian Cook said his environmental design classes have created three site models so far based on ideas shared by Horizons students and community members. They'll get more feedback, then choose a final design to build later in the spring.
"We're thinking of it as a space not just for students, but where the whole community can come together and engage in multiple activities," he said. "We want to keep the design really simple and make it work with the elements of the park."