Habans has always envisioned itself as a gathering place for the community that would provide outdoor play and learning space for its scholars as well as children from the surrounding Algiers area. Recently Habans learned it is being awarded a grant of more than $375,000 to build an Educational Stormwater Center as part of its outdoor masterplan. The grant is federally funded through the Sewerage and Water Board’s Green Infrastructure Grants Program.
The grant application was submitted In partnership with Spackman Mossop Michaels (SMM), an international landscape architecture firm that designed the Habans playground – the first playground in New Orleans that incorporated sustainability and water management into its design. “Every school should have a place like this for students. We are very excited to continue the work to help improve the Habans campus, not only for the students but for the surrounding community as well,” said Emily Bullock, project manager with SMM.
The need for the new Educational Stormwater Center is two-fold: to provide much-needed green learning space and to address the acute flooding that occurs in the streets and undeveloped land surrounding the school.
Once the grant funding is approved, the project will include a detention pond, native plantings, and the introduction of variations in elevation to create a natural outdoor amphitheater.
When asked about flooding around Habans, Isaac, a 7th grader said, “When it rains hard, it keeps us from being able to use the green space around the school. Building something to help with flooding would give us more opportunities to play after it rains.”
Dry play space is important, but for educators at Habans and neighboring schools that will be welcome to utilize the center, it offers real-life learning opportunities. “In order to understand a lot of concepts in science, we need to see them in the real world. A lot of our students don’t get to see a lot of real world science. They don’t understand what kind of infrastructure needs to be in place here in New Orleans to protect the city and help it live with water. The Educational Stormwater Center would allow students to make connections between what they are learning in the classroom and real life,” said Steven Bliss, a 5th grade science teacher and Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Science at nearby Harriet Tubman Charter School.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to educate the next generation about what it means to live with water. The Sewerage and Water Board is at the center of this effort, and so we are more than happy to partner with Paul Habans Charter School to promote green infrastructure,” Executive Director Ghassan Korban said. “It’s one among a number of similar projects we’re supporting around the city, and the next step toward what we hope will be many more.”
“We are excited to receive funding to support construction of this invaluable education resource for Habans and the community,” shared Elisabeth LaMotte- Mitchell, Principal at Habans. “This partnership will improve safety for our children and neighbors during heavy rain events.”
Habans hopes to hear soon from the Sewerage and Water Board about when funding will be distributed to allow this project to commence.