Renovation/Revitalization of Middle School Courtyard

The Problem

My Eagle Scout Leadership Project was the renovation/revitalization of our community’s middle school courtyard. I previously attended school there, and students were very rarely allowed inside the courtyard. The courtyard was not inviting and the land was not being used to its fullest potential. It was a poor use of space and was not stimulating to this educational environment. Land and space is so valuable and so limited – it was a shame to have it sit there unusable. The Cafeteria side of the courtyard had overgrown, mostly dead shrubs lining the full length windows. The Library side of the courtyard also had the same overgrown, mostly dead shrubs, along with uneven slate tiles. I spoke to the Middle School Assistant Principal about renovating the courtyard. He was very happy to discuss this, as the school budget does not have room for any extras. The school was on an austerity budget at the time. Even if it was not, there is no way that improvements like this could come from the school’s budget. The Assistant Principal gave me some ideas that he had, and I worked on them, in order to come up with the final project proposal. He agreed to the project that I outlined, and then I obtained the additional approvals needed in order to start this project. This goal was broken down into smaller manageable steps. First, I needed to have an initial budget from which to start. I compiled a list of supplies that completing this project would require. I went to Home Depot and priced the supplies and this was the beginning of my budget. While I did this, I needed to start fund raising for this project. I sent many, many donation request letters to local businesses. I followed up and met with many of the business owners and discussed my project in detail. When sufficient funds were raised and supplies were purchased, I needed to recruit volunteers. I asked many people if they would donate time to work on this worthy cause. Many people volunteered; teachers at this school, boyscouts, friends and family. The actual completion of the project went smoothly, with only a few setbacks that we quickly overcame. All of the shrubs were cut down and the roots were dug out. The Cafeteria side was lined with 2 long banks of custom crafted solid mahogany benches, set in concrete. Large mahogany planters were placed on the bench ends and mums were planted in these planters. The benches and planters were handcrafted by my father. New boxwood hedges line the window area and new hosta plants line the opposite side of the benches. Throughout the entire area, red cedar mulch was laid. In the center of the area, was a drainage grate. We put red rock surrounding this grate, so that it would drain properly and not clog or overflow. The Library side was more labor intensive. Shrubs were removed, tiles were lifted away and stacked temporarily in another area. The pond area was dug and (after consulting with a waterfeature expert) and a 2 level waterfeature cascading down to the pool area was installed. The kit that we obtained based upon the recommendation included most of the supplies needed – pond liner, circulating pump, etc. After this was installed, the entire pond was systematically lined in rock from a local park that was being constructed. We were permitted to take as needed, and many of the rocks looked like granite with flecks of mica throughout. The water from the top area of the fountain cascades down to the pond area, hiting the re-cycled slate in a dramatic pattern. The entire surrounding area was planted (giving enough space to permit adult plants to have room to breathe) with perennials that will bloom at staggered times of the seasons. The layout of the plantings were designed for my specifications by a landscape architect. The entire area was mulched and we installed solar lighting to brighten up the area for the library students and faculty in the winter months. The effort required to do this work was huge. It was accomplished due to the combined effort of all the local businesses with their donated funds and the volunteers who donated their time. This project turned a previous eyesore into a main focal point. As a result of this project, the students are now able to spend more time in the courtyard. They can have occasional classes outside and have the ability to use this stimulating environment. In the nice weather, they are able to open the library doors and listen to the soothing sounds of the waterfall. This courtyard has become a source of pride, that the school, faculty and students have benefited from. Approximately 20 people volunteered their time and just as many businesses have donated funds. This project is completed and is considered a success. It generated over 500 community service hours for all participants involved. My hours alone were 110. I started this project in order to obtain my Eagle Scout rank. What I did not expect was the feeling of pride and accomplishment when I look at the finished project. In doing this project, I learned about fund raising, budgeting, building benches, mixing concrete, installing a waterfeature, planting shrubs and acquiring volunteers. In fundraising, I learned to meet with people and discuss my ideas. In recruiting volunteers, I learned how to make them feel appreciated and valued. At my own expense, I provided water and refreshments each working day, and if the day would be especially long, also provided lunch. I figured, this is how I would like to be treated as a volunteer. The most memorable part of this activity was the first time that the waterfeature was turned on. I could hear the water gurgling up to the top level, then I heard it gushing down the fall into the pool below. It was a great feeling and was really something to see. It worked! The sound that the water made was peaceful and beautiful. Another important moment was when I looked at the project as the areas were being cleared of dead brush. There were so many people working! It was a great feeling knowing that I was responsible for this. It was also a little scary. I enjoy working on this project. I have volunteered on other projects, as well as other community areas (i.e. Clean Sweep). Volunteering is not a requirement to live in a community. Sometimes it is not good timing or the weather is not great. But it feels good to see that one person can make a difference. It feels rewarding to give back to your community. That makes it worthwhile.

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