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Increase Miller Unveils New Outdoor Classroom

GOLDENS BRIDGE, N.Y. – Thanks to the efforts of volunteers, parents and local businesses, Increase Miller Elementary School now boasts an outdoor classroom in its courtyard where students can not only go to study and learn about nature, but relax as well.

The school held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this week to unveil the new area, which has water features, all types of flora and a paved walkway.

One of the driving forces behind the project was Increase Miller parent Tom Dieck, who owns TRD Design, a landscaping company. He met with the students before the ribbon cutting to explain what they were about to see.

“It’s an outdoor classroom,” he said. “The movement of the water in the water features creates a nice, relaxing sound and a good place to read a book or do some homework. You’ll see a lot of wildlife coming into the environment, like butterflies and all kinds of insects. The science classes will have a field day.”

Dieck explained how the courtyard was redesigned to be environmentally friendly by placing a liner underneath the soil to capture rainwater, which is sent to a 1,250 gallon storage container and then used to water the plants.

Four trees were planted at the center of the courtyard and Dieck explained that in a few years, the entire space will have a different feel to it as the trees grow together to create an overhead canopy and provide shade.

Dieck said the project was created by a “community of people working together.” Besides TRD Design, other area businesses that contributed to the project included Marvin Masonry, Bedford Hills Nursery and UNILOCK of New York, which donated the pavers. Dieck noted that the pavers were permeable, allowing rainwater to pass through to the liner and be re-used, rather than create puddles that would eventually evaporate.

Dieck also cited Rebecca Gordon, wife of Katonah-Lewisboro School Board Trustee Michael Gordon, as a major force behind the project.

“She’s really the one who spearheaded it,” he said.

Kerry Ford, principal of Increase Miller, said before the project could begin, the courtyard had to be cleared and readied.

“We had volunteers from the community, parents and students,” she said. “It was pretty overgrown.”

Ford said the school wanted the courtyard garden to be different from the vegetable garden it maintained, so to get some inspiration, officials paid a visit to a school in Dobbs Ferry that had taken on a similar project.“It helped us to think a little differently,” she said.

The new courtyard space, which has been two years in the making, will ultimately provide synergy with the school’s science programs.

“It will be a great instructional space for the science classes,” Ford said. “Each grade level will be able to use it to make a connection to their science curriculum.”

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