Project Overview

Project Overview

The Morse Elementary School houses the first and second grades of the Tarrytown Union Free School District. Located on Beekman Avenue in downtown Sleepy Hollow, the grounds of the Morse School are being improved to meet the needs of students of the 21st century. Part of the site is owned by the Village of Sleepy Hollow and also serve as a public park.

The reconstruction has involved the school district, the Sleepy Hollow Downtown Revitalization Corporation, the Sleepy Hollow Community Garden Association, the Village of Sleepy Hollow, the Village of Sleepy Hollow Environmental Advisory Council, and the American Youth Soccer Organization. Together, these organizations, have built a community garden, a new playground, and a soccer field where there was once only a broken landscape of parking lots and decaying asphalt walkways.

In building the vegetable garden, the community has shown its commitment to the importance of food in our children’s education. How our society practices agriculture has implications for both human health and the health of our land and water. Children who grow their own food will make good decisions about food as adults.

Bringing Nature to School

Beautiful and functional landscaping will complete the space. Natural systems are our most basic infrastructure. Therefore, the definition of landscape function must mean more than just supporting the site’s various human uses: It means returning a part of nature to downtown Sleepy Hollow. By modeling an upland early successional ecosystem, the Morse grounds will support wildlife for the first time in decades.

This has numerous benefits:

(1) Ecological literacy. Even young children can learn the vocabulary of nature. As an example, children can learn what a milkweed plant looks like, see the Monarch butterflies they attract, and understand the relationship between them. Seeing a variety of tree species at school will give children the ability to engage in any natural landscape they visit.
(2) Building a Sense of Community. When children work together to start plants from seed, watch them grow, and see them planted in a public space, they are learning that they are an important part of our society and that their efforts have tangible benefits.
(3) Functioning Natural Spaces. For the Village of Sleepy Hollow, landscaping in support of nature at Morse will fulfill the Board of Trustees’ stated goal of using native plants in public projects to promote biodiversity.

The Space

There are five beds to be planted. All receive full sun and would be considered subject to extreme fluctuations in moisture.

  1. [shaded pink] Beds 1 and 2

    Two beds, new high-quality Stone Barns Center soil. These beds can be planted by the students with perennial flowers and grasses, either started from seed or from plugs. These will demonstrate a rich variety of ecological principles, which the school’s teachers can incorporate into their curriculum. Perennials are also resistant to snow damage.

  2. [shaded purple] One bed, 15% slope, average soil.

    Distant from the parking lot, so snow damage is unlikely. Therefore, plant with shrubs.

  3. [shaded blue] Triangular bed, slope varies from 20% to 5%. Heavy, compacted soil. Evidence of erosion from surface runoff.

    This bed is larger than the others that border the playground and soccer field. If the snow plowing pattern includes this area, perennials, especially grasses because they are so drought-resistant, can be emphasized. If snow plow damage is less likely, then shrubs can also be used. A tree, carefully selected for drought-resistance, could also make this a more interesting, shady place in time, and provide a contrast to the site’s only existing trees, which are all red oaks.

  4. [shaded green] Narrow bed, 25% slope, heavy compacted soil, evidence of significant erosion from surface runoff.

    This bed is problematic. It exhibits signs of heavy erosion, which should be addressed if any planting is going to be successful. Otherwise, it is also highly exposed and tough plants should be used. If snow damage is likely, perennials, especially tough grasses, should be used. Otherwise, shrubs may also be used. Aesthetically, a small tree here would enhance the space by providing some visual separation from the unwelcoming parking lot.

Plant Species

The following is a list of suggested perennial herbaceous plants organized by flowering season. They each represent strong aesthetic and botanical interest.

Spring/Early Summer
Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf tickseed)

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan)
Echinacea purpurea (Purple coneflower)
Asclepias incarnata (Swamp milkweed)

Solidago speciosa (Showy goldenrod)
Aster novi-belgii (New York aster)

The following is a list of suggested trees and shrubs

. These provide a definition of space, with aesthetic benefits, as well as having various ecological traits and benefits that can be used in science lessons.

Acer rubrum (Red maple)
Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud)
Prunus serrotina (Black cherry)
Ulmus americana (American elm)
Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar)

Corylus americana (Hazelnut)
Rosa virginiana (Virginia rose)

Each of these plants has a particular landscape use, wildlife value, and educational aspect.

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