At BAVPA the courtyard is in the center of the school. Each morning rain or shine, sleet or snow students walk through the courtyard to enter the cafeteria to have their breakfast. Nearly half of the classrooms look out onto the courtyard as well as the main student & faculty entrance and cafeteria. It is the heart of the school.
The courtyard in its present state of a swath of turf is an educational opportunity to transform not only the physical space into functional instructional areas but also to transform students’ ideas about nature, beauty and the environment.
Instead of the drudgery of the daily walk through the courtyard, students can experience the serenity and delight of a garden throughout the changing seasons and watch it grow and mature year after year as they themselves grow and mature. There is something wonderful about planting a tree and tracking its growth year after year. Many alumni return to visit former teachers, soon they will also visit the trees and gardens they help plant and care for.
Biophilia, the love of life or living systems, coined by Edward O. Wilson, who argued that all humans have an innate affinity with nature. Many inner city students lack experience with nature. During a recent fieldtrip to Springville’s Griffith Sculpture Park, students were amazed seeing cornfields for the first time. The enjoyment of nature is a universal connection to the environment that is important to the development of all students.
"To arouse biophilia, science is not enough. Money, for all its power, is not enough. Culture--literature, drama, music, painting, filmmaking, the humble activity of learning itself--may be the way to engage the heart." Edward C. Wolf
Wolf’s approach to developing biophilia through the Arts relates directly to the school’s approach to learning and holds true throughout the history of the Arts. Nature, gardens and the environment have been inspiration for all the Arts, Music, Literature, Theater, and Dance for centuries and throughout the world.
There are many potential benefits to developing biophilia in the student body, faculty and community.
Biophilia, which promoting natural lighting and ventilation, the use of plants and natural materials, and in general, blurs the lines between buildings and landscape, is a design methodology that dovetails well with green building. While the latter has typically focused on resource and energy efficiency, biophilia supports the growing body of research in health, medicine and psychology indicating that patients recover more quickly, students learn better, retail sales are higher, and workplace productivity increases in spaces that offer an interaction and a connection with nature. http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoasthomes/story.html?id=80606332-50e8-42d7-bb11-9f92a2dc3045
Ultimately this garden is a social experiment seeking to answer the question, do gardens matter? Can a garden change students’ attitude about their school, nature and life? I think walking through the garden each day will communicate to each child that they are in a special place and that they are important and worthy of beautiful surroundings. It will create a connection to nature and the school community as the students see the garden develop, care for, create art and create memories in its venerable and verdant space.