Creston, Iowa EAST Presents: An Elementary (School) Idea


Creston, Iowa EAST Presents: An Elementary (School) Idea
8/14/2013 4:39:04 PM

Students plan to convert abandoned school grounds into park and city library site.

Most high school students spend their summers trying to stay away from school. However, a group of nine Creston High School EAST students are a little different from their peers.  Instead of trying to stay away from school, they spent their summer meeting with a landscape architecture professor from Iowa State University to discuss the feasibility of converting an abandoned elementary school and surrounding area into a “pocket park” including a new site for the Creston city library. 

Their weekly meetings in the EAST room were in preparation for their two week intensive design camp hosted by Iowa State University in July. A donation from Iowa State Savings Bank (ISSB) provided support for the group of students to attend the camp.

“We hope the EAST students’ design results in a great adaptive use of the playgrounds of the former school property. We also hope their participation in the ISU design camp enables them to mentor their EAST peers in design concepts and principles and to be better able to apply EAST lab technology in future projects,” said Karl Knock, ISSB chairman. “Finally, we hope the experience of the ISU design camp opens their eyes to new possibilities in their lives as it empowers them to make greater contributions to their community, however they define that.”

The donation also allowed for Carl Rogers, ISU associate professor of landscape architecture, to work with the group during the design camp. At the camp, the students learned about all elements of design, including basic design principles, applying design technologies and basic public project budgeting.

“While at camp, students developed design options for the park and trail project, including study models investigating how landscape elements create space,” Rogers said. “Students worked hands on developing their design ideas and generating representations of their ideas.”

Some of the elements included in the students’ design include a splash fountain, multi-sport court, quiet sitting and reading space, tree house, playground, parking lot and garden plantings.

During the camp, the students also received some specific training in geographic information systems (GIS) and computer-aided design, thanks to the ISSB funding. Chris Seeger, associate professor of landscape architecture and extension specialist, and Alan Jensen, extension community development and geospatial specialist, coordinated the GIS component of the training and mentoring.

All of the skills and knowledge will aid the students as they finalize a park and trail plan that will be presented to and ultimately adopted by the community and that can be built within the resources and funding available. Rogers and other faculty will continue to work with the students as they finalize their plan.

In their project concept statement, the students said, “We designed our park to encompass the wants and needs of every age. It is to be a place of community gatherings and events, quiet areas for relaxation, calming places for readers and energetic spaces for young children and teens. This park will offer Creston citizens their own spots of enjoyment, either peaceful or lively. We feel that this park will benefit Creston in a tremendous way by providing a safe environment for our library as well as our city.”

The nine EAST students involved in the project include Sean M., Dylan H., Darren W., Allison W., Bre’ H., Logan A., Lanae R., Emma J., and Alex P. 

At the conclusion of the camp, the College of Design hosted an open gallery viewing for the general public to showcase the myriad of projects that students ranging from Nebraska to Illinois had created over the two weeks.  During the gallery viewing, the Creston contingent was able to show their design ideas ranging from rough sketch ups done in May on drafting paper to their final three-dimensional model completed in Ames.  The final proposal included trees on the grounds, a tree house on the west side of the property, a play area and public parking on the southwest corner. A brown spiral spherical structure with high exterior walls tapering to short walls and a central space, along Adams Street, represents the central feature of the park design. The front of the library is along Jefferson Street, at top.

The efforts of the group landed them on the front page of The Creston News Advertiser as well in the summer newsletter for Iowa State Extension.  The group has since met and discussed their work with members of the city council, the park board, the library board, and other special interest groups and is awaiting the approval of a government grant to further proceed with the project. 


3D representation of the proposed location.


EAST students building their 3D model.


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