ACE Legacy Project
The Liberty Elementary Story:
Special thank you to Ebru Ozer for her commitment and dedication to the ACE Legacy Project. For those of you who don’t know, Ebru has championed this initiative for the ASLA Florida Chapter and with the help of her committee and volunteers, she is in the process of creating something magical for the students at Liberty Elementary.
It all started last year. Ebru began by visiting 10 public schools in Liberty City, evaluated their schoolyards, and met school principals in order to identify potential schools for the ACE Legacy Project. She, along with Emily O’Mahoney (ASLA 2020 Conference Co-Chair), Tzu Chen (ACE Southeast Regional Director), Andrew Gotschall (ACE Miami Affiliate), and Charlie DeLahoz (Engineering / Construction / Architecture Magnet Teacher at Coral Park Senior High) selected Liberty City Elementary as the ASLA 2020 ACE Legacy Project Site.
Existing conditions of the schoolyard and the principal’s willingness to work with us were instrumental in decision-making. The schoolyard is very large and ultimately an empty canvas waiting to be transformed into a beautiful schoolyard. Ebru then connected with the existing ACE Chapter in Miami, Miami Coral Park Senior High and met students and faculty, and introduced them the Legacy Project. 11 ACE students in the classroom and their teacher (Charlie DeLahoz) were very excited about the project. They loved the idea of designing a schoolyard. They were full of ideas from day one.
Ebru then put together an academic schedule for the ACE students and started volunteer-teaching at the school on Mondays and Wednesdays to educate students about landscape architecture and schoolyard design. One of her first lectures was about site analysis, observation and site documentation.
She then planned a site documentation activity called “see my campus through my eyes,” which focused on actively engaging both the elementary school students (clients) and the high school students (landscape designers) with the identification of site problems and also potential solutions. She paired one high school student with one or two elementary school students and asked them to walk through the schoolyard and discuss and document existing site conditions. Elementary school students pointed out problem areas and the high school students photographed and documented them. “We have a playground but no shade!” ACE Legacy student.
After the site documentation activity, the ACE students presented their idea boards to the students and faculty of the Liberty City Elementary. Ebru then lead the ACE Legacy Team on a field visit to the Shark Valley portion of The Everglades National Park. This was the first exposure to the native South Florida ecosystems for the nine members of the eleven-student ACE team. Through short, on-site lectures, Ebru and Dr. Susan Sprunt (FIU adjunct professor) taught students concepts related to regional hydrology, plant communities, and native ecology. All day long, the students fully immersed themselves into the "River of Grass," at the very heart of the Everglades. They observed alligators, wading birds, and other wildlife right in their natural habitat. Thanks to the donations of ASLA Florida Chapter members, the students were also able to take a tram tour, and learn about endemic flora and fauna, not easily observable by just walking near the front entry trails. A park naturalist narrated the tram tour and quick stops allowed students to observe nature at work.
On March 4, the ACE Team presented their schoolyard design ideas to the stakeholders of the Liberty City Elementary. Presentation boards were organized based on thematic ideas emerged during “see my campus through my eyes” activity held on Nov 25 Design Charrette. The ACE students first reported on their site inventory findings by utilizing the photographs they took with the help of elementary school students and then elaborated on their design approaches. They proposed ideas related to improving shade, providing elevated planting beds, new active play fields, fence improvements, new playground elements, and exercise equipment. They also introduced their “tropical themed” murals and patterns to be embedded into the design.
The elementary school students, their teachers, and the landscape architecture and construction professionals of our region, including representatives from Kimley-Horn, Curtis and Rogers, Studio Arth, 2GHO, Turner Construction, Cadence Living, Witkin Hults, and Savino & Miller, provided feedback.
Now that the vision and design are in place, Ebru is working with the Students, ACE Volunteers and Landscape Architecture and Construction Professionals to implement the plans and bring the schoolyard to life! If you are interested in being involved or donating materials for the project, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Ebru, Emily, Tzu, Andrew, and Charlie and the many volunteers and students for your dedication and hard work brining this blank canvas to life!