Land Restoration for Nature-Based Education

Anna Kong

Discovery Park

This capstone discusses the design of the Fort Lawton Outdoor School. 

The future of sustainability depends on the next generation of change-makers. Through an education whose pedagogy is centered on sustainability and that provides first-hand, daily interaction with nature, students will have the opportunity to develop a strong sense of stewardship for the environment. This is implemented through intentional design decisions that demonstrate environmental stewardship and encourage close interaction with nature.

The main priority for creating an outdoor high school is to create a learning environment that is more beneficial to high school students’ mental and physical health than the average public school. Research has shown that spending time outdoors for schooling improves overall health and wellbeing, as well as greater job satisfaction for educators. 

The site is located within a 534-acre park on the Puget Sound. The Magnolia neighborhood, where the park is located, is on the peninsula of Seattle, surrounded by Elliott Bay, the Puget Sound, and the Salmon Bay Canal. The neighborhood is composed almost entirely of housing, besides a small, two-block commercial area, a school, and the park itself. The entire park was previously owned by the military, which established the base in 1897, but in 2005 ownership was given to the city of Seattle.

Currently, the park has 7 miles of beach on the Puget Sound and several miles of trails for public recreation. The main part of the park sits on a plateau that is 325 feet above sea level, which creates incredibly steep bluffs down to the beach. The area, about 8 acres, underwent the most change from the military presence through the clearing of trees and still has several buildings remaining. 

Given the site’s natural diversity and potential for adaptive reuse projects, I have chosen this site to research how nature can be used both for education and to create a healthy learning environment. The site is currently being used for low-density, single-family housing. I propose that the landscape design be integral to the outdoor high school curriculum. By turning the selected area into an outdoor school, the site will utilize the resources to educate students about sustainability.