The Anchorage Schools on Trails group, along with the project champion teacher from Nunaka Valley Elementary School Jessica Nesset, was awarded $21,500 in matching funds by APF to create learning labs at Russian Jack Springs Park. The Schools on Trails group operates under the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation’s Live.Work.Play. campaign’s Trails Initiative focus area. The group has a vision of “engaging Anchorage schools with their nearby trails, parks, streams and natural habitats so that students and staff in those schools learn about community assets in their neighborhoods, and these neighborhoods are enriched by this increased local awareness.”
Mrs. Nesset’s 2nd grade class takes regular walking field trips to the park to use the natural space as inspiration for their learning. When the class surveyed the student body of Nunaka Valley Elementary and found that only 36% of students were aware that Russian Jack Springs park was located just across the road from their school, they decided to work with design professionals to improve the accessibility and awareness of the park.
The project includes construction of three learning labs, installation of interpretive signage and a welcome sign at the entrance to the park at the Boniface tunnel that connects the school to the park. They also installed way-finding signs to help students find their way to the park and the learning labs. The group raised their match through volunteer labor and in-kind donations.
Two learning labs have been completed! Next steps including adding wayfinding signage that will correspond to new park standards, as well as interpretive signs.