LaSalle II Celebrates It’s Global Emphasis with New Playground and Mural
WICKER PARK, Chicago: – LaSalle II World Language Magnet School will celebrate its newest globally- inspired playground and mural with a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 19, 3:15 p.m. on the school’s Wolcott Street-side playground. This phase II construction of the school’s overall “Campus Re-Imagination Plan” includes the completion of new playground equipment, raised vegetable garden beds and a landscaped courtyard with an internationally themed mural.
Chicago-based urban design firm, Site Design Group, looked to LaSalle II’s world language emphasis for inspiration. The designers created a story time concept with four popular children’s tales that represent the school’s languages and cultures taught daily. Don Quixote in Spanish, Arabian Nights in Arabic, Journey to the West in Chinese, and Le Petit Prince (Little Prince) in French are all loosely incorporated into the playground scheme. Also included are multilingual quotes from the stories, providing further awareness of cultures beyond the playground.
A sizable portion of the renovation’s funds were granted from the Department of Planning and Development’s impact fees. Secured with the assistance of Alderman Moreno and OpenLands (one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation) these dollars can be used for projects that replace hard scape with permeable surfaces, as achieved in the LaSalle II design.
“As a world language academy, the goal is for our students not only to learn another language and culture, but to gain wider acceptance, understanding and concern for all parts of our world. The new playground and mural provide an extension of this cultural experience that the kids receive in the classroom,” explained Principal Lauren Albani.
“In addition, with the new learning gardens, our instructors will teach the kids about nutrition and respect for the land. This dual outdoor experience is a powerful combination for emphasizing the LaSalle II philosophies”, she continued.
OpenLands also installed multiple raised garden beds for planting edibles. Last fall, OpenLands and students installed an outdoor classroom on the Division and Honore side of the school as Phase I.
Christy Webber Landscapes (CWL) was another early partner, donating the time of a landscape architect who helped parents lay-out the overall space and participating in an extensive weekend design charrette.
“It was important from the beginning that the families have their voices heard in the design process,” explained Infrastructure Committee Co-chair, Ronda Locke.
“All parents and students were invited to complete a playground survey and give feedback. Beside the intensive design charrette,” she further explained, “we even held an after-school brainstorm session with just students. Their ideas were awesome and we helped them feel part of the solution.”
LaSalle II families helped to establish the entire campus renovation vision by earmarking it as a goal over three years ago. They have been raising funds via an annual Capital Campaign ever since, bringing in close to $100,000 to date.
“The families rallied for the school and this caught the attention of Alderman Moreno, who then donated $50,000 toward our project. We have been truly blessed in the myriad of support from the city and our community”, commented Capital Campaign Chair Kristin Drutchas.
In the courtyard, a 12 foot tall and over 65 foot wide mural crafted of mosaic tile, paint and over 1,000 pounds of clay sculpture, completes the new space. The mural was designed and installed by artists Julia Sowles-Barlow and Alfonso “Piloto” Nieves Ruiz of Chicago Public Art Group (CPAG), a not-for-profit organization with over 40 years experience in making public art.
CPAG spent over 70 hours teaching and ensuring that all children literally had their hand in a piece of the mural. Every LaSalle II student grades K-8 (population of 500+ students), was involved in designing clay tiles woven into the mural. Through historical symbols and characters mixed with images of modern day children, the mural tells a story of play rich in heritage, cultures and connections. Key words in a variety of languages floating throughout the mural: “Teamwork”, “Goals”, “Respect”, “Connect” and “Cultures” complete the piece.
With Phase II complete (phase I was an outdoor classroom installed on the school’s Division Street frontage), LaSalle II is now setting its sites on a new athletic field for the third and final phase of the campus plan.
The celebration will have refreshments donated by Milk and Honey Café.
For more information, contact Kristin Drutchas
LaSalle II World Language Magnet School, 1148 N. Honore Street, Chicago
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