The Nature Explore Classroom at

Brown Street Academy Elementary School

Brown Street Academy Nature Explore Classroom is a project of the Center for Resilient Cities.

C2010_53205_Brown Street01
The Center for Resilient Cities works with citizens, nonprofits, and government partners to create healthy, high-quality environments. They provide training and tools that give urban communities the ability to improve their natural environment, citizen health, and local economy.

This classroom incorporates seven different types of surface materials that vary in color, stability, and visual pattern from turf, three types of mulch, concrete pavers, asphalt and flagstone. A sizable turf-covered berm is centrally located in the classroom space and serves to separate activity areas through variance in terrain. Materials are natural in substance, color and texture.

The gathering area consists of twenty indestructible granite boulders. Native flagstone is used as hard-surface paving material. All wooden items, including an arbor, climbing platforms, storage and stage have been sealed, but left in their natural condition.

An area for dirt digging is provided and facilitates activities that include vegetable and flower gardening. This feature is characterized by three flower box gardening beds constructed at differing heights.Trees and plants are primarily native or native-cultivars. The classroom includes 7 species of trees, 8 species of shrubs, 15 species of perennials and 6 species of ornamental grass. A total of 12 trees and 370 understory plants have been planted.

To maximize beauty and visual clarity in the over-all design, color variance was emphasized. A color palette of earth tones and green hues were incorporated to include red (asphalt and pavers), blue-green (ornamental grasses), and secondary colors (flowers). Deciduous trees, shrubs and perennials display vibrant fall and winter foliage.

To deal with the issue of storm water runoff in the classroom, a series of perforated drain pipes and dry wells located beneath the gravel subsurface were incorporated.

The Brown Street Academy playground has been transformed from a barren concrete and asphalt surface to a green space where children can connect with nature on a daily basis.

The school decided to create trails leading throughout the courtyard from area to area creating special places to explore beside and off the path. For the beauty of a children’s garden, which they came to understand as the children began to explore their garden during its development, comes from the opportunities of secret

places-spaces between the elements adults put so much time and energy into. Understanding this fact, they found that putting a little time into a well-placed plant, rock, log, or a small feature just outside of a main area, can provide just as much interest to a child as the overall garden plan.

The site was personalized by adding all kinds of different grasses and wildflowers from natural Iowa, attempting to bring a wild feeling into the garden. The creativity and ideas of many children, staff and community members truly make the centers rich and interesting, each with their own special touch.


2029 N 20th Street
Milwaukee, WI

Classroom website


C2010_53205_Brown Street02

C2010_53205_Brown Street05

C2010_53205_Brown Street04

C2010_53205_Brown Street03