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liberty corner school outdoor classroom aerial shot

We Built an Outdoor Classroom for Liberty Corner School!

Castle Point Gets High Marks!

Here at Castle Point Landscape Design, we consider ourselves lifelong learners who are passionate about education. So, when Liberty Corner Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization reached out to us about their plans to build an outdoor classroom, we couldn’t say yes fast enough! This was a passion project that was spearheaded by the school’s principal, and we were thrilled by the opportunity to become involved. The concept was simple: a small outdoor learning space that would provide ample opportunities for open-air educational experiences. The school had a clear vision of what the end result would be—they just needed Castle Point’s expertise in
NJ hardscape design and installation to bring their idea to fruition. School was in session, and we couldn’t wait to get our hands dirty!

From Concept to Funding

As you can imagine, a project of this type was filled with necessary regulations and procedures that needed to be closely followed every step of the way, because the safety and security of Liberty Corner’s children was of the utmost importance.

While it took a while for those protocols to pass the all-important checks and balances, we were fortunate that there was already a location earmarked for the outdoor classroom. And we have to say, it was a prime location! The proposed spot was located at a corner between two buildings, providing easy access for the students while also offering a bit of protection from Mother Nature’s windiest days. The last step needed to get the project going was funding. Now, no one is more resourceful than a mom, but a group of PTO moms? Unstoppable! They put their heads together and came up with an energetic, student-friendly idea to raise the necessary funds: a Glow Dance! A good, light-filled time was had by all, and Liberty Corner raised all the money they needed to get this project off the ground.

A Labor of Love

It was finally time to get started, and we were pumped! Both we and the school’s administration decided the best course of action was to commence construction during spring break, since the first step was going to be excavating the area and moving all of that dirt across school grounds. Once the students returned, our number one priority was maintaining the safest, cleanest and most contained work area possible. Special care was taken to secure the site so that curious youngsters couldn’t make their way into the construction zone. In addition, most of the project would employ the use of paver stones that would need to be cut to varying sizes. Reducing the amount of dust produced was paramount, especially with tiny lungs in the vicinity, so we took extra steps to ensure safety by using special equipment such as dustless paver saws. Everyone could breathe easy—Castle Point was on the case!

We also took great pains to keep the noise at a minimum, both for little ears and so student and teacher concentration wasn’t affected throughout the school day. Another safety measure that was nonnegotiable for us was that there would be no skinned elbows or knees on our watch! We made sure that smooth-finish block caps were installed on the edges of the structure in the final stages. All of these precautionary measures really paid off: This project was one of very few anyone at the school could remember that resulted in zero negative comments or concerns from beginning to end.

At the Finish Line

The result of months and months and months of planning, designing and construction culminated in a lovely three-tiered amphitheater that was everything Liberty Corner had envisioned and then some. However, once we had a chance to step back and admire our handiwork, we decided something was missing. While the structure was flawless, the area surrounding it was a bit sparse. So, we rolled up our sleeves and started brainstorming. With the help of one of our talented designers, we concluded that adding perennial plantings with rotating flower blooms would be a great way to bring the outdoor classroom to life. We chose fall and spring showstoppers of various colors and textures since those seasons are when the outdoor space will be used the most. Oh, and did we mention we focused on choosing plants that were also pollinators, offering myriad opportunities for science-related outdoor lessons? We did, and we can’t wait to see the results!

When Giving Back Gives Back

We love giving back to the community that has served us so well, and sometimes a full-circle moment is the result. Our fearless leader, Steve Graul, put his kids through Liberty Corner Elementary. So, when he had the opportunity to both support the school that has meant so much to his family and show his own children the importance of paying it forward, it was truly a special occasion. Castle Point donated all of the plantings and built the amphitheater at a discounted rate, and we are ecstatic that our work will not only aid in education, but that it will leave a lasting impression on the community.

In June, Liberty Corner held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the new outdoor classroom. School administrators, Steve and members of Liberty Corner’s student council gathered to celebrate the space, and members of the student council spoke to the various ways in which the outdoor learning area could be used. The kids came up with so many inventive ideas for outdoor learning, such as quiet reading time, arts and crafts, performances and concerts, a meeting place for the kindergarten buddies program and, of course, snack breaks. And when New Jersey’s gorgeous weather is calling out to them, they probably wouldn’t even mind holding math class in the sunshine! At the ceremony, Castle Point and Steve were praised for how communicative and helpful they were throughout the whole process and how they were integral in the project’s completion and success.

We were honored to be a part of the Liberty Corner project, and it fills our heart to have been able to donate so much of our time and resources to a worthy cause. If you have a similar project in mind or are trying to achieve something similar in your community, we’d love to hear about it!

With more than 25 years of experience, Castle Point is the premier choice for landscape design in New Jersey. Contact us online or call Castle Point Landscape Design at 908.512.2267 to request a free consultation for your NJ home today!