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Jena Piacenti

Anchorage, Alaska, United States


Kids at Sand Lake Elementary have been making a difference in their neighboring green space, Sand Lake Park. SLP is nestled between Sand Lake and Sand Lake Elementary school on west end of Anchorage, Alaska. The park offers 5.1 acres of green space, two docks, and a paved trail. The school wishes to increase outdoor learning opportunities for students and the community by improving access to and building a Lakeside Learning Lab.

6th graders have been busy all year designing and building partnerships to achieve their goal of a Lakeside Learning Lab. The Anchorage Park Foundation’s Schools on Trails program has officially selected this project for the stewardship and civic leadership students are showing.

The Lakeside Learning Lab that the 6th graders are in the midst of designing sits on the southern end of Sand Lake Park on a hill just above the paved trail providing an extension to their classrooms. The hill has an approximate 50 ft. by 50 ft. open space surrounded by birch, cottonwood, and spruce trees. The students selected this location because of its outstanding westward view of the lake, it is relatively flat and clear of many trees.

Two School’s on Trails design professionals have been working with students to design the space including pathways, seats, tables, rocks, and plants. They will also help select native plants to provide a range of adequate food sources, places for nesting and secure areas against predators or bad weather for birds and small mammals.

Ensuring that our project is benefits the greater public is a strong focus.  Improving SLP with a dedicated learning space with improved trail access is beneficial to the neighborhood, school, Anchorage Rowing Association, the broader community and the variety of plant and animal life that utilize habitat.

On our winter walks around the perimeter of the lake, we have observed moose sparring while ravens and eagles fight over local ice fishermen’s catch. We have partnered with Kids Don’t Float to replace the kiosk sign, cleaned out nest boxes and the whole park area. We also have been actively seeking partners and have created a Friends of Sand lake website, Facebook page, and Instagram account. Whether we are eating lunch on the dock, cleaning, participating in bird counts like Great Backyard Bird Count, or watching muskrat swim by, students are learning about their SLP so they can later care for their larger world.

Find out more about the improvements we have made in Sand Lake Park below and our lakeside Learning Lab visit the following sites.

Sand Lake Park Makeover Project by Sand Lake Elementary


Lakeside Learning Lab

Replacing Kids Don't Float Sign

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