We are Ripple Effect, a New Orleans based organization that brings together designers, water experts and teachers to establish water literacy programs at schools. We're redesigning a New Orleans public elementary schoolyard into a "water literacy campus." Rain gardens, large cypress trees, and a giant play mound will not only solve the school's flooding issues, but create a joyful and fun environment that teaches students about their place in the Mississippi River Delta. Construction starts this summer. We need your help to get this built!
The Campus Today
At the heart of New Orleans and in the shadow of downtown and the Superdome, KIPP Central City Primary (KCCP) sits just above sea level. Of the 527 students, 98% receive free- or reduced-price lunch, and 98% are minority. The campus takes up an entire city block and is organized around a central courtyard. Today, this hard patch of dirt, concrete, and asphalt floods each time it rains. There are few trees that provide shade and even fewer amenities for active play and learning. Yet all outdoor activities at this school take place in this environment.
New Design & Curriculum Connections
This campus redesign builds directly on the innovative Ripple Effect “water literacy” curriculum that science and ELA teachers at KCCP are implementing this year. Using their own courtyard as a microcosm for citywide flooding issues, students are learning about flooding, erosion, soils, and local ecology as they propose design solutions to reshape and re-imagine their courtyard.
At the same time, Ripple Effect designers are actually redesigning the courtyard to curb flooding and use water in playful and enriching ways. Rain gardens planted with native irises and cypresses will teach students about local ecology; a grove of trees will offer quiet spaces for reading and shade; a giant play mound will give students a new vantage point and illustrate the interplay between the flow of water and topography.
Your tax-deductible donation will ensure that we can break ground this year and make a difference for every child that passes through the school’s front doors this July. Your impact will last for decades, and be seen in the contributions of the scientists, architects, engineers, policy makers, and ecologists that start who careers here in this courtyard.
Companies like Waggonner & Ball Architects, Spackman Mossop Michaels, and OPA Signs & Graphics are already contributing their services. Both the Meraux Foundation and the Kabacoff Family Foundation are contributing funding as well. But we will only be able to reach our $150,000 goal with your contribution.
Here’s what various donation levels would mean for this project:
- A $100 donation will help us demolish asphalt.
- A $250 donation will buy us one cypress tree.
- A $500 donation will allow us to buy 40 Louisiana irises for the rain garden.
- A $1000 donation will allow us to bring in fresh soils, mulch, and other surfaces to replace asphalt and concrete.
- A $2,500 donation will allow us to build 100 square feet of the rain garden. We are planning a 2,000 sq. ft. rain garden that holds over 20,000 gallons of water.
- Donations that help us surpass the $65,000 mark will allow us to build a play mound, and provide outdoor furniture, and educational signage that will further enrich the courtyard as an environment for learning and play.
We live in the Mississippi River Delta, a dynamic environment with distinct patterns of water flow, soil formation, and erosion. The region and the city are characterized by flowing water, unstable ground, and also abundant natural resources. Learning about water resources, water management, and ecology are especially critical in an era of climate change, sea level rise, uncertain weather, and diverse environmental stresses. Nowhere is that more important than in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, levee failures inundated the city with brackish water from the Gulf of Mexico. This school, KIPP Central City Primary, was flooded with over 4 feet of water.
Spurred by the tragedies of 2005, planners, designers, and engineers working on the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan and related projects have started to shift the regional paradigm from fighting water with pipes and pumps to a more sustainable and resilient approach in which we reshape the urban environment to reduce flooding by safely storing stormwater in green spaces, balancing groundwater levels, and enhancing local ecosystems. None of this work, though, will be possible without an informed and water literate citizenry with a deep understanding of natural resources, ecology, and infrastructure, and with the ability to work collaboratively towards stronger, safer, and healthier communities.
In 2012, one teacher and three designers in New Orleans created a water workshop for 30 fourth graders at KIPP Central City Primary, as part of a three-week study of the city’s geography and topography, subsidence, flooding, infrastructure, and international “water cities.” Students then proposed design-based solutions to the flooding they regularly experienced in their own schoolyard.
Today, that same teacher and a designer from the original team have formed Ripple Effect, which consists of teachers, designers, and water experts, all working on "water literacy" curriculum for grades K-4 at this same school. Next year, we are expanding to schools across Greater New Orleans, and building upon partnerships with the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board and Waggonner & Ball Architects to improve the quality and the reach of both our curriculum development and our site remediation programs.
As we expand to additional schools in the coming years, the curriculum we develop will always be paired with an actual built project on that campus. Doing so will allow us to connecting learning in the classroom to what the kids experience and can learn from the school environment themselves.
Risks and challenges
This Kickstarter campaign comes at a critical time in the life of this project. In January 2015, we began design and fundraising. With seed funding from KIPP New Orleans, and through private donors and foundation grants, we have been able to raise $70,000 to help cover fees for professional designers working at reduced rates, as well as some construction costs. Kickstarter funds will allow us to continue the project through July, completing construction before school is back in session in August.
This construction schedule is ambitious, but thanks to our experienced and talented design team – including our Project Manager, who hails from Auburn University's Rural Studio, and whose background is in design/ build projects – we feel confident that we can build all major elements this summer, in time for the start of school.
In addition to our Project Manager, the team consists of an Art Director from Ralph Appelbaum Associates, an Urban Designer from Waggonner & Ball Architects, and a Landscape Designer from Spackman Mossop & Michaels. Combined, they have over 20 years of experience in designing and building client-focused, innovative, and sustainable projects.
Additionally, all team members are part of the larger organization of Ripple Effect, which began one year ago, funded by the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans. With that program, we have brought together 9 designers, 7 teachers, and 7 water experts, to create curriculum for over 300 students at this same school, KIPP Central City Primary. Ripple Effect will expand to additional school communities throughout New Orleans in the 2015-2016 school year.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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