PRO: Natalie Tecimer, Senior
A big, green lawn is full of potential. Birds can nest in its trees, plant life can grow abundantly, and microorganisms beneath the soil can assist in the natural carbonic processes of life.
Chadwick’s Main Lawn has many other important attributes as well. It is a bonding place for students. Senior Paulyne Lee says, “In terms of the campus structure of Chadwick, the Main Lawn is a significant part” and is a place of “many of Chadwick’s traditions.” Starting as early as the Village School Halloween parade, even the youngest of Chadwick’s students get to experience a quintessential aspect of Chadwick culture. The Main Lawn is the place where all of Chadwick truly becomes a community.
What would happen if we took away the Main Lawn?
Math teacher Bill Park explains what he feels would be the major differences. “For most people, an expansive green lawn with trees interspersed is a visual delight.”
When one sits in this splendor, one becomes tranquil and relaxed. Contrast that with schools that have brick, mortar, and concrete only. There’s no place where one can easily become relaxed. Throw in the benefits of Vitamin D from the sunshine, fresh air, and companionship, and you’ve got the makings of a very therapeutic experience.
I cannot even imagine what Chadwick would be like with concrete instead of grass. Not only would the school lose its visual appeal, but also students would be so much more stressed. A gray “lawn” would take away the cheery and happy atmosphere that is currently at Chadwick.
If I were given the choice to sit on the grass or to sit on a bench in a concrete area, I would choose the grass every time. I would choose the grass even in the rain because being surrounded by life makes me feel better about everything. Concrete is dead. Grass is alive. Concrete, or even fake grass does not invite warm and friendly feelings that students feel on the Main Lawn.
Freshman Andres Valencia says, “I get to spend time and enjoy the companionship of my friends while enjoying nature.”
The Main Lawn is also a melting pot of grade levels. Other than during my activities, I would have no opportunities to go talk to my friends in younger grades if I didn’t have a comfortable place to do so. On the Main Lawn, age and gender barriers are broken, and every Chadwick student is on the same level. Circles of friends can be found on any given day eating lunch and doing homework. Clusters of people often sit under the shade of the beautiful trees on a hot and sunny day or even sunbathe on a cooler one. On rainy days, I know that I gaze longingly at the lawn and wish that it weren’t too muddy to sit down and relax.
There is something to be said for getting in touch with nature. The earliest human beings relied on their environment for everything, but do we? When was the last time any of us took a benefit from our surroundings and then gave back to it? With Chadwick’s Main Lawn, we can do these things. I will acknowledge that from a sustainability standpoint, the Main Lawn is costly and uses a lot of resources. However, the Main Lawn allows students to appreciate the simple beauty of nature. It teaches us not to litter because why would we want to ruin something so perfect? It teaches us to step out of a world of constant technology and stress.
Most importantly, the Main Lawn teaches us to look inside ourselves, and it gives us a unique and rare opportunity to do so.
CON: Martin Byhower, 7th Grade Science Teacher
Humans probably have an innate affinity for lawns. Human physical and societal evolution might have been spurred, at least in part, by the existence of extensive grasslands in much of the world between and during past ice ages.
From the Middle Ages through Elizabethan times, particularly in England, having a lawn in one’s yard was a status symbol. Nowadays, most Americans keep lawns out of habit and tradition.
Unfortunately, due to changing rainfall patterns, deteriorating water supply systems, competition for water sent over vast distances, disappearing groundwater supplies, and an ever-thirstier population, we are about to experience an unprecedented water crisis in Southern California. In many arid or highly populated areas of the state and country, it is actually now illegal to even have a lawn (or at least to use the amount of water required to maintain a lawn). In just a few years, we may be told to get rid of our lawn, whether we like it or not!
From an ecological and economic standpoint, lawns are a disaster; they are the antithesis of sustainability. Most lawns are water-hungry monocultures, composed of a single, non-native grass species. They greatly reduce biodiversity, especially when the lawn covers a large area. Lawn grasses typically require extensive maintenance, not to mention the addition of fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. The energy cost due to the petroleum that is burned in order to pump water to So CA (and to make it drinkable) is huge, as is the ecological impact to the areas from which we take our water.
We have site-specific “lawn challenges” as well. The clay soil that underlies our lawn is impermeable, meaning the lawn requires constant aeration, irrigation, and reseeding. Instead of sinking into the groundwater table, rain floods the lawns into a muddy mess. Constant foot traffic overwhelms our Main Lawn, so that much of the time we can’t use it anyway, navigating our way around it while we wait for portions of it to recover. I wonder how much money we could save and how much important work the school’s limited and overworked Maintenance Staff could accomplish without the hours and resources spent on trying to keep the Main Lawn emerald green, let alone alive?
What to do? First, let’s figure out how we use the lawn, and if there are alternatives. If we need a pretty, sunny place to sit and converse, let’s do what truly sustainable campuses are doing–coordinating groups of handy and creative students to use locally available materials (cut trees, stone, clay, and even mud) and/or recycled plastic and lumber to construct a large number of benches and seating areas that are naturally integrated into the surroundings. Native plants and trees can still provide structure and shade, while beautiful native bunchgrasses and shrubs can accent areas containing local rock, woodchips generated by trimming our trees and shrubs, and other permeable surfaces. Excess water can drain into natural-looking channels and then be captured and stored for later use.
We should keep our athletic fields, of course; the water we save by getting rid of the Main Lawn can help irrigate them! But the Main Lawn should go. Sometimes to be truly green you need to remove some green. Think about the message we send when we demonstrate that we are willing to take some chances and make some sacrifices in order to come up with new, sustainable ways of living—ways that we might even come to appreciate as much as we currently appreciate our lawn! As an educational institution and as members of both a local and global community, we have an obligation to do no less.