Welcome to the Dr. Robert L. Pura Outdoor Learning Laboratory at Greenfield Community College. Students, staff and visitors can ascend the gentle slope through the seasons, starting at the geology path whose specimens traverse millions of years in time. Next they encounter a wetland of cattails with an accessible boardwalk. Soon the permaculture gardens emerge, across from raised vegetable beds and curving botanical gardens, complete with accessible pathways, teaching nodes and benches. The wildflower meadow is visible on the far slope. An observer is struck by the dynamic diversity of the natural and physical world.
Many activities go on in the OLL. Students from a wide variety of courses across many disciplines engage in hands-on learning. Some conduct research, while others work as interns, learning while they help build and maintain plantings. Students from area schools come to study forests, plants and rocks. Residents from Greenfield and the wider community come to learn, enjoy and relax.
Greenfield Community College cleared this acre of trees in 2013 to create solar access for the energy innovation greenhouse, now integrated into the south end of the building. To compensate for losing this forest ecosystem, the college partnered with a local company, Arkose Design, LLC, to create a vibrant, diverse site that would enhance learning in multiple ways. The community-informed design process, site work, construction and garden plantings have taken more than six years, and the gardens will continue to change. In June 2018, GCC celebrated President Robert Pura in the opening ceremony of the OLL, which is named to commemorate his 17 years of service and visionary commitment to sustainability.
We hope that a visit to our varied and ever changing spaces will enrich your experience and perhaps influence the design of your own garden. Enjoy!