When children arrive for their first day of school at Forrestal Elementary School in North Chicago on August 15th, they will see a dramatic improvement in the appearance of the school. New trees, curb paint, plants, playground mulch, drainage and sidewalk improvements enhance the front of the school, while an outdoor learning lab where children can learn about environmental issues has been constructed in the back area of the school. On Saturday, July 30th, 80 members of Scott Byron & Co. completed this well orchestrated event in under 8 hours as part of a “Hearts in Harmony” volunteer project.

Forrestal, a K-2 school in North Chicago’s School District #187, is supported in part by North Chicago Community Partners (NCCP), a foundation formed to address academic challenges facing local children. Earlier in the year, Scott Byron representatives reached out to NCCP to learn about how they could offer their assistance, and a project was identified.

Landscape architects, project managers, site foremen, laborers, managers, office workers and others came together to build a project where students can learn about horticulture and the growing and caring of plans. By learning about plants, kids can begin to understand the role they play in daily life. The learning area transformed an underused area of the school property, taking advantage of a rectangular outdoor space between connected buildings bound by classrooms.

This is the second volunteer project in as many years that the company focused on early education. Last year, Scott Byron & Co. rehabilitated an outdoor play area at Hyde Park School in Waukegan.

Company founder Scott Byron promotes the importance of education, and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to create an area that will allow instructors to teach about the environment. While the company produces award-winning landscape designs, it also engages in construction projects that address environmental issues like rehabilitating ravines, and building natural barriers that inhibit lakefront erosion. Previously, Mr. Byron also directed the construction of The Children’s Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Scott Byron stated, “I am really pleased with our Day of Caring project. Hearts in Harmony. Helping a school in North Chicago and their kids. Trying to make difference in their lives. Making the school look better and feel better for the students. Maybe by creating a more positive learning environment, the kids will be inspired to work harder and learn more. Maybe some of the kids will emerge as future leaders who will inspire their communities and help make the world a better place.”

Scott Byron & Co’s mission is to create “Art in Harmony with Nature”, and the learning lab achieves this by creating an experience that flows dynamically through three separate “rooms” within the space being rehabbed. These areas will engage the children’s imagination and provide different experiences that highlight the world outside.

Kids enter the area through Clematis covered archways, and then transition from “Pollinator Patch”, an area designed with native plants like Joe Pye Weed and Butterfly Weed that attracts birds, bees and other pollinators, through “Hidden Haven”, an imaginative and fun area lined with tall Cup Plants that birds use to eat seeds and drink from cupped leaves. Kids continue to “Sensory Circle”, an area designed to show how plants heighten our senses. Here, children smell Lilacs, see blossoms, taste Chives, and feel Lambs Ear.