11 Jul


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1- Students meet Bernie who will run the backhoe for the day.

2- Clearing the north side of Turlington Hall.

3- Kyle, Gabe, and Antony work together to make forms.

4- Our greatest champion, Robert (far right), helps to clear the site.

5- Site excavation in preparation for hardscape, BMPS, and planting beds.

Student Observations

Today was a big day at the site. Bernie showed up with his backhoe and started digging out the rain gardens. It was one of those moments where everything begins to seem real. While we’ve already torn out bushes and trees and staked out pathways and rain gardens, this – for me – was the moment of no turning back. As soon as Bernie took out the first bucket of dirt, I knew we had no choice but to proceed forward and do our best to build an awesome project. It was an exciting moment, and I know that despite the site looking like a mess at the end of today, in just a few weeks it will be something we all can be proud of.

-Jon Blasco


Monday, the first day of what will be a dreadfully hot week.  Humidity sat like a wet blanket on the site, and caused sweat to drip from our noses and sleeves before work even began.  Today, our major task was to grade the site and dig out the bioretention cells.  Assisting us with this was Bernie, an expert machines operator working for the university.  For most of us, the digging was hard going.  The dense, dry clay soil was reluctant to release its grip from the earth, and we felt as if we were chipping away at rock flake by flake.  After several shifts of digging out areas to accommodate concrete formwork, the class was relieved to step back and allow Bernie to position the backhoe in the center of the design where he could scoop out the bioretention cells.  The backhoe roared to a start, and more than one of us silently cheered to ourselves as Bernie began to scoop giant bucketfuls of earth from the site.  It would have taken us days to do what Bernie did in 30mins, and I couldn’t help but notice a collective sigh of relief for both the work break and the assistance from Bernie.  

Work began to divide into two camps by mid-morning.  There were those of us actively carving the design into the earth, and those who were re-engineering the plan to account for the dozens of tiny adjustments that were popping up all over the site.  The grading and layout team continued to stake out project areas, direct labor, and calculate the digging efforts to ensure that the landscape was developing according to plan.  Assistant teachers, Barry Duncil and Leslie Moorefield, acted as liaisons between the layout crew and the digging crew.  Both Barry and Leslie had to simultaneously assist with the labor, translate the needs of the layout team, and anticipate the next move.  By lunch the ground had completely transformed.  What was simply a two-dimensional map drawn on the ground in green spray paint had become a three-dimensional model of our plan.  Now the grading needed one more day of refining before it was ready for formwork.  With concrete expected by the end of the week, we would have to hustle.  

– Preston Montague


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