Menlo Park Academy (MPA), a Cleveland, Ohio-based non-profit community school for gifted students, has been awarded a $250,000 Green Infrastructure Grant (GIG) from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District for the construction of the MPA Green Infrastructure Nature Lab.
The Nature Lab will enable the school to not just improve environmental stewardship of its campus and incorporate green infrastructure on campus, but also provide enhanced, hands-on learning opportunities for its students.
Green infrastructure is a different approach to stormwater management that collects, absorbs, and filters stormwater where it falls, mimicking natural processes (as opposed to collecting water in drains/gutters and piping it to treatment facilities). It helps alleviate stress on aging pipes/infrastructure, helps reduce runoff and “overflow” events, which are major sources of urban water pollution, and is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution.
Features of the Nature Lab that will add green infrastructure on MPA’s campus include permeable pavement to reduce water runoff to sewers; multiple gathering spaces with integrated bio-basins, plantings, and trees to facilitate infiltration; and the collection of all roof runoff into underground rain storage chambers for infiltration. The grant also provides for site work prep for additional projects, including natural play areas.
Features that will enhance education on campus include a terraced amphitheater built into an existing hillside that can be used for outdoor learning, as a performance space, and more; outdoor tables and seating areas for gathering, games, and learning; equipment and materials for hands-on learning opportunities; and student-researched and designed signage to educate others about green infrastructure.
As important as the addition of green infrastructure is to MPA’s stewardship of the environment, it’s the opportunities this grant will provide current and future MPA students that most excite the school. Says Jennifer Ingraham, Menlo’s Director of Marketing, Enrollment & Engagement, “This GIG grant is going to allow us to dramatically improve our ability to teach our students about our role in the environment. We’re going to be able to bring indoor learning outside, integrate the outdoors, the environment, green infrastructure and water management into our curriculum, better connect “real life” and schoolwork, and provide hands-on, place-based examples as the foundation for learning in any subject.”
Construction is anticipated to begin in the summer of 2023, with completion sometime in the 2023-24 school year.
About Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District
The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District protects public health and the environment by leading effective wastewater and stormwater management. As the largest wastewater treatment provider in the State of Ohio, the Sewer District spans 380 square miles, serves 62 communities and one million residents, and treats 90 billion gallons of wastewater a year.
In addition to its award-winning treatment plant and laboratory performance, the Sewer District’s Project Clean Lake construction program will reduce annual Lake Erie pollution by 4 billion gallons by 2036, while its Regional Stormwater Management Program addresses widespread inter-community problems like flooding, pollution, and erosion.
About the Green Infrastructure Grants Program
The Sewer District supports the strategic implementation and long-term maintenance of green infrastructure that protects, preserves, enhances, and restores natural hydrologic function, including funding green infrastructure projects through the Green Infrastructure Grants Program. Typical applicants for these grants include cities, non-profits, and private businesses that partner with their communities. Grants are open to the cities in the sewer district’s service area that have combined sewers, which include parts of Cleveland, Lakewood, Brooklyn, Newburgh Heights, Cuyahoga Heights, Garfield Heights, Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, and all of Linndale. The Sewer District has awarded $1.5 million in GIG funding for 2023.
About Menlo Park Academy
Menlo Park Academy is Ohio’s only tuition-free K-8 school for gifted children. MPA is a public, non-profit community school, with an economically and racially diverse student body of approximately 512 students from across northeast Ohio. The school is located on a renovated seven-acre campus that was formerly home to the abandoned Joseph & Feiss Clothing Co. on Cleveland’s near-west side.
The school is dedicated to providing exemplary, rewarding experiences that promote both learning and whole-child development, offering a curriculum with innovative acceleration and differentiation options.
It is also consistently ranked as one of the top schools in Ohio. Niche, an organization that provides school rankings at the national, state, and local level, ranked MPA as the No. 1 Best Charter Elementary School and Charter Middle School in Ohio in its 2023 rankings, and the top 3 of all public elementary and middle schools in the state.
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