Is clean air an environmental issue, or a social issue?
How about water? The truth is that in many communities, environmental conditions pose well-documented challenges to young people's health and success. In response, The UNITY Lab is joined by our Harmony Garden Laboratory, an outdoor learning area that will explore the interrelation of environment and human relations. The Harmony Garden Lab will help participants re-discover their neighborhoods through urban ecology, take ownership of environmental issues that affect their communities, and apply practical, forward-looking conservation tools to benefit both human residents and the ecosystems we call home. Fusing high technology with environmental studies for urban youth, The Garden will not only be unprecedented in the Sacramento area, but one of only a few such centers in the nation. View plans of the Harmony Garden.
The Harmony Garden is an “urban oasis” amid the busy streets of downtown Sacramento. After a day of intense experiences inside The UNITY Lab, The Harmony Garden provides a tranquil haven for personal reflection, social networking, relaxation and repose. Stretching from the N Street sidewalk toward the north end of The Lab, The Harmony Garden will combine service learning with urban greening and environmental justice education to help participants address the intertwining environmental and social issues that affect their communities.
Improving the environment we all share is a cornerstone of building community. Each of The Harmony Garden's educational features has been designed to meet the unique challenges of reaching urban youth, through engaging technology, hands-on interaction, and emphasis on the practical benefits of stewardship. Inside The Garden, participants will gain practical, take-home solutions to the challenges most pertinent to their urban ecosystems. Outside, neighbors and passersby will reap the benefits of enhanced natural beauty, increased tree canopy and improved air quality, not just at The Garden but throughout the community, as participants go on to apply practical, effective conservation practices in their own neighborhoods.
Native species from shady trees and colorful flowers to fruit-bearing vines and decorative grasses will flourish in the courtyard’s botanical garden, reclaiming urban habitat for song birds, butterflies and other pollinators.
Revealing the challenges that local ecosystems have faced since the settlement of the Sacramento valley, the Native Garden is designed to bring local plants and their traditional uses back into focus, conveying how traditional respect for the environment has important lessons for the future. The garden embodies a long-term perspective that is essential to effective stewardship: it emphasizes that stewardship is not merely a way of honoring the principles of past generations, but an essential part of ensuring that future generations will have access to the resources we enjoy today.
A transparent glass wall invisibly lends structure to this cascade, giving passersby a waterfall window into The Garden. Built-in media screens teach water conservation through the stories of local advocates. This content is aligned with California's Struggles with Water school curriculum, and examines how the long term health of watersheds and human communities are interdependent. The seamless blend of nature and high technology will help participants see the wonder of clean water with new eyes, inspiring and guiding their efforts to conserve it.
The Lab's exterior wall facing the courtyard will come to life as an organic mural of vibrant flowers and vines. A vanguard urban greening technique, living wall systems use plant life to beautify buildings, reduce facility heating and cooling requirements, recycle storm water, and enhance biodiversity. A touchscreen portal within the wall offers information on take-home urban greening techniques, and connects urban and wildland green spaces with a webcam window into the Cosumnes River Preserve.
Here students visualize how small, seemingly individual decisions add up to ecosystemic changes. Inside each alcove, tabletop touch-screens bring these lessons home with environmental simulation games illustrating how trends like climate change, population growth, environmental toxicity, oil consumption and consumer waste are shaping the Sacramento valley— and how to meet these challenges sustainably. Biographical vignettes about youth conservationists bring the alcoves’ empowering solutions to life.
The Garden's central Courtyard will be a spectacular outdoor venue for program activities, art exhibitions, cultural celebrations and special events. The middle of the Courtyard forms a circle, facilitating group activity and interaction, while a demonstration area and Theater offer more options to spark solutions and build solidarity between Sacramento and its environmental neighbors.