Sustainable Learning Space - Fisheries Courtyard

Executive Summary:

Our campus is beautiful. But to what degree does it reflect our values of education, sustainability, restoration, conservation, cultural celebration and natural history?  Can we forge a path where outdoor spaces connect to indoor spaces and learning is everywhere?  Can we create multi-use landscapes that attend to views and scenery, and also to sustainability and culture?

In 2013, a proposal to build an outdoor "sustainable learning space" for Environmental Studies (Program on the Environment) students on the north lawn of Wallace Hall was born out of the tragic loss of Tikvah Weiner, then PoE Administrator, to breast cancer. At the end of her life, Tikvah spoke to the PoE community about her desire to see this area used for the benefit of students, as a demonstration of sustainable practices; a place where experiential learning extended out of the classroom and into the adjacent green space.

Following Tikvah's passing, a gift fund was established in her honor to help create the garden. In 2016, students as well as faculty and staff from Landscape Architecture, PoE, UW Grounds, UW Farm, Intellectual House (wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ), and College of the Environment Dean's Office came together to create an exciting plan to bring Tikvah's garden to fruition. Located on the east Fisheries lawn (immediately west of Parking W35), the proposed 9,000 ft garden will:

  • create an outdoor classroom allowing discussion sections of up to 20 students to use the space for learning "in the green," and more broadly as a place for the PoE community, and the UW community, to assemble, interact, socialize and learn from the space and each other.
  • showcase (including interpretive signage) a series of sustainability features, including the use/creation of:
  1. "green" (e.g., local, recycled content, natural, sustainable) materials throughout,
  2. a rain garden to handle on-site water management from all hardscape, and with the potential to handle a portion of roof run-off from Wallace Hall
  3. a "pocket ecosystem" featuring native and pollinator-based plantings providing habitat for native pollinators (e.g., bees) and songbirds,
  4. the use of culturally significant native species through collaboration with wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ staff, students and faculty working to highlight indigenous connection to and use of native natural resources,
  5. edible elements will also be considered, based on input from the campus Landscape Architect, the Grounds Manager, and the UW Farm Manager.
  • begin the intentional connection of spaces across campus (including the Mercer Court UW Farm, the "Drug Garden," and culturally-significant gardens at wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ) that allow visitors to interact, learn from, and engage in multi-use, multi-benefit sustainable landscapes.

Impacts will be measured by area conserved as openspace; increased avian and insect habitat; on-site stormwater control; hours of active student engagement in the design, maintenance, and construction of the site; as well as a formal tracking of use once the project is completed.

This proposal is seeking $71,610 in funding from the Campus Sustainability Fund (CSF) to complete the estimated $135,722 total cost for the project (augmented with funds from PoE $26,750 and LA $37,362). 

Student Involvement:

The Sustainability Learning Space is a collaborative project between PoE and LA, incorporating input from wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ and the UW Farm. It involves students, staff and faculty; alumni and donors. We are a collective with a vision of sustainable landscape across campus. We start with the "backyard" of the Program on the Environment. Students have led, and continue to lead, in design of the project. Students will also lead in building the project; and ultimately in its use. Finally, students will work cooperatively with staff in site maintenance. Once built, the garden space will be used by Program on the Environment classes meeting in Wallace Hall, Landscape Architecture studios focusing on sustainable design, and experienced by hundreds of people daily as they circulate through the space during class changes, and serve as part of the "western gateway" onto the campus.

Students involved in this project include:

Landscape Architecture (LA): Under the direction of Professor Daniel Winterbottom and Teaching Assistant Victoria (Tori) Shao, 14 undergraduate and graduate students have enrolled in a two quarter (Winter-Spring 2017) design-build studio (LA474/475) focused on this project. The LA students will take the lead on design and construction with input and support from students in PoE and other collaborators. Tori will lead the presentation of this project to the CSF.

At present, the LA students are in the initial stages of design and have only just (26 January 2017) presented their first round of designs to the PoE community. Strong elements from these initial designs will be brought forward into an integrated design plan, to be presented to the PoE community on 10 February 2017. (Prior to that design review, there is a planned feedback session for CSF, to make sure that sustainability element is beyond those highlighted by PoE students can be strengthened, if necessary).

Program on the Environment (PoE): With support from Director Professor Rick Keil and teaching faculty Sean McDonald, Beth Wheat and Kristi Straus, 10 PoE students have been meeting with the LA students to help deepen the sustainability and ecosystem services aspects of the project, as well as provide direct input on how PoE students would use the space for learning activities. In total, we estimate a minimum of 12 PoE students will interact with this project in the design phase, with additional involvement during the build phase. In particular, Tessarae Mercer, Franny Olson, Jenna Duncan and Kate Vachon have already attended the LA Design-Build studio class to provide feedback on garden uses. Franny is an active UW Farmer who wants to integrate edible elements to create better connectivity to PoE. Tessarae is also active with the UW Farm. She sees interesting opportunity to incorporate permaculture practices in the Wallace garden. Jenna and Kate are interested in environmental education. They see the Wallace garden as a demonstration space to focus on mindfulness activities. At the first Design Review (26 January 2017), these PoE students as well as staff, faculty and alumni, attended and provided feedback. These students, and others, will be involved in refining the sustainability elements of the final garden design. Crucially, PoE students and staff will also identify, develop, and implement a maintenance plan with support from students in LA and the Grounds Services program through UW Facilities Maintenance and Construction.

UW Farm: Under the direction of Farm Manager Sarah Geurkink and with support from teaching faculty Beth Wheat, students involved with the UW Farm (and particularly with the Mercer Court facility, and secondarily with the native pollinator project at the UWBG Urban Horticulture site) will provide input on edibility and pollinator habitat functions of the garden, and help LA student designers realize larger landscape connections to the UW Farm, especially including the Mercer Court gardens, which already provide visitors with learning and gleaning opportunities.

ɫǝbʔaltxʷ: Under the direction of Ross Braine and with support from Emeritus Professor Tom Hinckley, students will work with the LA student designers to help realize extension of culturally significant plantings and garden spaces begun around wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ to highlight and celebrate culturally significant plants and habitats, and the connection of local indigenous peoples to native flora.

This garden has been many years in the making, and many students who have played key roles have graduated. We mention a few here:

LA Studio (LA504): Led by Ken Yocom in the weeks before the passing of Tikvah Weiner, these 14 students worked with the entire PoE community to bring Tikvah's wishes for the creation of a garden celebrating students and sustainability to life. Working from lists of attributes created by PoE students, staff and faculty, initial designs were presented to the PoE community and friends/family of Tikvah. These designs were later coalesced into a single conceptual design by then students Patrick Pirtle, Mafida Takkeidine and Keising Yu, working with Ken Yocom and then PoE Director Claire Ryan, with RA funding from both CoEnv and PoE. It is this design that has formed the starting point of the current Design-Build Studio effort.

Future students involved in this project: The garden will be integrated into the educational curriculum of PoE and LA to facilitate formal learning opportunities (see below). In addition, the garden will act as a literal gateway to the Fisheries buildings, providing many students with the opportunity to learn "along the way." This function will be augmented as the South and West Campus plans are fully implemented, and this garden grows to incorporate a much larger green space extending to the water. It is our hope that pre-emptive design of this sustainability showcase will provoke a similar e?ort across this larger space, allowing us to truly realize the "stacked functions" of water management, native habitat and ecosystem services, cultural use and celebration, edibility, education, and most honestly - joy.

Finally, the LA students have already reached out to the new childcare facility located adjacent to the Brooklyn Parking Garage (less than one block from the garden) to speak with caregivers about potential uses of the garden to preschoolers. 

Education & Outreach:

This proposal and the project described are primarily geared toward education and outreach for the UW community and the greater public. Specific educational goals will be to provide an outdoor educational landscape that informs the UW community and public on sustainable landscape strategies including on-site water management; native plant identification, community ecology and habitat features and characteristics of ecosystem services; edible landscapes; and culturally significant plantings. On-site, these design strategies will be articulated through interpretive signage and offer the opportunities for formal and informal learning by offering a gathering space to host instruction.

Landscape Architecture: Within LA, this garden will act as an anchoring point for demonstration of sustainability features and environmental signage related to same, allowing future generations of students to visit a site on campus that features sustainability elements.

Program on the Environment: Within PoE there are many opportunities to directly integrate the garden into ongoing courses. It will become a teaching classroom for ENVIR 440 - Environmental Pedagogy, will be integrated into The Natural History of the Puget Sound Region (ENVIRO 280) as a long-term monitoring site, and most importantly will be used as a site for the Environmental Studies Capstone (ENVIR 494, 495, 496), a three-quarter independent project each student must design and complete that focuses on integrating classroom learning (content, concept, skill) into a "real world" project with well-defined deliverables. Through the capstone process, we envision deepening the sustainability and outreach features of the garden, and ultimately connecting the garden to the larger planned green space (see above).

Outreach will be completed through employing several strategies including online resources and curriculum integration. The project will be featured on the websites and blog postings for PoE, LA, wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ and the UW Farm, will be featured at the UW Sustainability Fair, and the annual OUT / in / FRONT gallery hosted by the College of Built Environments. We will also invite UW Today, UW-TV, and the UW website to cover the project.

Environmental Impact:
  • Food
  • Living Systems and Biodiversity
  • Water
  • Environmental Justice
Project Longevity:

In collaboration, students from PoE and the Grounds Services program through UW Facilities Maintenance and Construction will develop a long-term maintenance plan for the site. The site will become the joint responsibility of PoE and UW Grounds for maintenance, and may also be attended to by students associated with the UW Farm (depending on the degree to which the site reflects edibility) and/or wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (depending on the degree to which the site reflects cultural plantings and use). The PoE program will conduct seasonal work parties to provide major maintenance needs while UW Grounds will provide regular maintenance services.

Environmental Problem:

Recent research in the environmental sciences and education has shown that as we become a more urban society opportunities for building greater environmental literacy across all age classes has been decreasing. This project seeks to offer an opportunity for students and the public to gain a greater understanding of how environmental systems can be designed and incorporated at the site scale. As discussed above, we envision a future campus where all of the functions of the landscape are integrated and showcased, allowing the UW community and the public to engage in experiential learning - literally – as they walk across campus.

For many, the functions of the land are hidden: habitat for native species, pollinator refuges, the slow collection and dispersal of stormwater, air filtration, carbon sequestration, food and resource production, cultural grounding, physical and mental well-being. Within the current campus, landscape is well-used for transit, for views and scenery, and for the provision of spaces to gather and play. Ecosystem services are less well articulated to the point where some landscapes are completely non-native, non-edible, non-cultural, and may even contribute to species invasion.

We seek to use the Fisheries Courtyard Sustainability and Education Garden to accomplish two functions:

  1. creation of sustainable landscape elements, including storm-water management, habitat creation, cultural celebration and potentially edibility.
  2. showcasing of these elements within an intentionally designed outdoor learning setting so that formal and informal experiential education regarding sustainable features of landscape design and function can take place.


Explain how the impacts will be measured:

The Sustainability Learning Space will conserve and improve local insect and avian habitat through the development and implementation of a native planting plan that is focused on locally significant plant community structure to provide foraging, nesting and/or migratory stop-over habitat. Shifts in the visiting bird community will be monitored as part of an ongoing effort to track wildlife use on the University of Washington campus by the course The Natural History of the Puget Sound Region (ENVIRO 280).

The rain garden will be designed to accommodate all of the stormwater runoff generated from impervious surfaces on the site. The garden may receive water from sources adjacent to the site such as the Fisheries Science Building roof, or sidewalks surrounding the site.

Project impact will also be measured through student on-site work hours, through all phases of the project and subsequent use. Formal events in the garden will be monitored through an online reservation calendar hosted by PoE. There have also been suggestions to have an on-site book for visitors to reflect on the space of the garden and their visit for a more informal catalog of use.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $71,610
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


Note: See attached Final_Budget.pdf for final reported expenditures
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Rental Equipment$2,500 (includes use of truck, front loader)1$2,500
Concrete$1,7502 (concrete pours)$3,500
Native Plantings$8,0001$8,000
Informational Signage$1,5004$6,000
Steel Bending$2,0001$2,000
Steel Fabrication$4,5001$4,500
Contingency (5%)$3,4101$3,410

Non-CSF Sources:

Unit/DepartmentDescription of ExpenseAmount
Program on the EnvironmentGift Fund$26,750
Department of Landscape ArchitectureSalary for Professor (2 quarters)$29,062
Department of Landscape ArchitectureSalary for Teaching Assistant (2 quarters)$8,300
Project Completion Total: $135,722


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Project Design1 monthearly February 2017
Construction Documents, Site Survey, and Material Procurement1 monthMarch 2017
Site Preparation and Construction3 monthsJune 2017
Interpretive Signage Design, Fabrication, and Installation2 monthsJune 2017