SOS: Save Indian Hill School’s Outdoor Classroom

Dr. Frances Smith, District Administrator of the Maple Dale - Indian Hill School District, has not heard any objections to the planned March 1, 2004 destruction of the wildflower landscaping surrounding Indian Hill School in River Hills, Wisconsin. However, she has received a request from the Citizens Natural Resources Association (CNRA) to return the $3,500.00 they contributed to the establishment of this outdoor classroom. Dr. Smith needs to hear now from people who have supported, used, and enjoyed the area. It is also important that she seek professional advice about how to save the foundation of the school from water seepage, a problem that teachers noticed was occurring before any natural landscaping was added around the school.

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The outdoor wildflower classroom at

Indian Hill School is especially important

because it is the model for similar projects at schools across the United States and was featured in a video seen in England, Italy, Japan, Israel, and other countries throughout the world. There are plans in the works to photograph the school’s native landscaping for national media presentations.

This landscaping was begun fourteen years ago as a children’s garden. Children spread the newspapers, covered them with sand, planted potted native flowers, and then mulched them. Today’s children could repeat this process. What cannot be duplicated is the thirteen years of growing diversity. It has become a tight mesh of roots sucking up moisture far into the ground, especially in the prairie section. Over the years it has become an adults' garden as botanists have added special plants.

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Last summer, two men drove over from I-43 and stopped at Indian Hill School to change drivers. One ran over to the front entrance calling out the names of plants as he sank to his knees to get a closer look. Then he exclaimed, “Where am I? Who created this special place? Is this a private college?” Too bad Dr. Smith wasn't there to tell him that it is a K - 4 public school. Too bad that she also is not there during a  summer shower to watch the water spurt out of the downspout which has been disconnected for fourteen years.

She could also watch the swale under the leaking elbow which catches the rain allowing it to soak into the foundation. And perhaps she would also see overflowing eave troughs which are seldom cleaned by maintenance staff.

For thirty years I've been educating weed commissioners and maintenance workers. At Indian Hill School, it is taking more time than I can give. Former teachers, students, and people who love nature, please help by writing a letter to or calling: Dr. Frances Smith, District Administrator, Maple Dale - Indian Hill School District Offices, 2600 West Mill Road, Glendale, WI 53209 (414-351-7160)

Lorrie Otto




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