Berkeley, CA, USA
MLK Middle School
Outdoor Classrooms for East Bay Students
SUGi partners with schools across the globe to plant ultra-dense, biodiverse forests closer to the classroom. Berkeley, California will be home to the first three Miyawaki School Forests in the United States.
Students at MLK Middle School will not only benefit from the direct health effects of urban forests, but learning in nature improves a child’s behaviour, helps them build stronger relationships, reduces stress and anger, and heightens curiosity.
Even seeing nature from a school building fosters creative thinking and expands the imagination.
Today’s kids spend a whopping 44 hours a week in front of a screen and less than 10 minutes a day playing outside. Access to nature is not equal; it’s too often dictated by where you live, your race and income level. These forests will be a big leap forward in resetting the balance.
Forest Maker Ethan Bryson
Forest Report: 1 Year
Survival Rate: 96%
Average of Tallest 3 Trees: 401cm
This pocket forest is giving every student something wonderful to experience on campus every day and it feels truly magical. The arroyo willow trees (Salix lasiolepis) are now so dense that we can’t walk through. If we do, it’s like being transported into another world, since you’re literally surrounded by leaves and green. It’s hard to believe that just a few feet away lies a busy residential street which hundreds of cars pass by daily.
One of the sustainability goals of the forest was to provide shade and natural cooling to the southern facing classrooms in the three-story main building of King Middle school. On frequent occasions, the classrooms got so hot that students had a hard time concentrating, which impacted student learning. Now, at least the ground floor level of classrooms has been provided with a storybook view of greenery and feels as though it’s in a forested area. There are classrooms on the second floor which can already see tree canopy growing. The tallest willow tree is already over 6m tall.
“Before we planted all the trees and the forest, it was just a plain area. And now that we have all the trees and plants, it takes in more carbon dioxide and emits more oxygen for us to breathe, and it just looks so much better as well. Before, there were only 3 trees and a dirty, grassy area.”
- MLK Middle School Student
We have observed lots of bees, flowers, elderberries, white butterflies (species unidentified), and ladybugs.
“It’s been a dream to begin creating SUGi Outdoor Classrooms at schools in the United States. Berkeley, California has always been a birthplace of social action, so it feels even more powerful that a movement for urban rewilding and strengthening Nature-Community connections begins here in my own backyard.”
— Tamsin Smith, SUGi Team Member
Forest Report: Planting