The Nature Lab is connected to the MUS campus on the South side by the Joffrey Bridge, built last year thanks to a generous donation from the Joffrey Family. The property houses 3 acres of outdoor learning and exploration across all disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Children will intimately learn about working with and through nature. This understanding can be the foundation for a lifetime of stewardship and innovation “We act on the world and the world acts on us”. The Nature Lab will inspire, support, and extend into all studies. It will provide opportunity for observation of nature and prolonged environmental studies. This project will be solely funded by donations made to the Montecito Union School Foundation over the next 2-3 years.
Click to download our planning document - "The Nature Lab - Vision for Montecito Union School Adjacent Property"
Areas of Funding:
1) The Mustang Corral
The Mustang Corral is located just over the Joffrey Bridge and will serve as the meeting point for students and staff as they enter and exit the Nature Lab. Students will gather with their classes here to enter the Nature Lab, and will be a point of exit where students clean up before returning back to their classrooms. The Mustang Corral will feature pavers that will be available for families to purchase in the future, and be stocked with all materials necessary for preparing to enter and exit the Nature Lab.
2) The Collaboratory
The Collaboratory is located under the 250’ x 40’ Solar Shade Structure, which is being built and paid for by the school. Underneath is where we get to dream big. What will this space be? How can we turn this large structure into several different spaces that the kids and community can utilize? This space will host collaborations and lectures, serve as an open-air studio for nature-inspired making of all kinds, for large group instruction and inspiration.
The idea is to break The Collaboratory down into a few disciplines that could be specifically funded, if people prefer to donate that way:
- The Farmstand – This is where veggies and fruits grown on the MUS Farm will go. It will have an outdoor kitchen for cooking/prepping/projects and a student driven farmstand where children will learn business development and service learning.
- The Art Studio – A giant weaving loom, making natural pigments, en plain air art studies, and pottery.
- Science and Engineering – Where tools and equipment for projects/studies will live, and where children can gather for observation.
- The Meeting Space - a terraced seating area where presentations, lectures, and lessons in large groups will occur.
Naming rights are available for most of these above spaces. MUSF is engaging architects and designers for the Collaboratory and the landscape. This project will cost upwards of $100,000 and will be the most visible portion of the Nature Lab as it sits at the heart of the property.
3) The Pond and Water Features
This space will be for students to perform real time water studies, sustained observation of life cycles, rain water management and conservation. The water features will run naturally through the property from the Mustang Corral down to a pond.
Naming Rights are available. We have engaged a firm to design, build and maintain the pond. We are dreaming big here as it will be such a beautiful feature on the property, and the larger it is the more diverse ecosystems it can offer to larger groups of kids. Cost will be upwards of $100,000.
4) The MUS Farm
Children will practice biodynamic and regenerative agriculture. This is where our farm animals will be kept, where the veggie boxes and compost bins will be hosted. We will be purchasing animals, all accessories needed to tend to their needs, and building large enclosures. We will also be constructing veggie boxes, wood compost bins, and buying tools and accessories in order to maintain the entire farm.
Naming rights available for the Farm. Cost is anticipated at around $50,000.
While not as fun and exciting as all of the other projects listed above, bathrooms will be necessary to build on the Nature Lab. This will be another large part of our fundraising goal, anticipated at another $100,000+.
In the 2019-2020 school year the MUSF Strategic Plan donation to Montecito Union School funded the demolition of the building that sat on this parcel of land, building the Joffrey bridge, the low-lying treehouse/playhouse, chicken coop, chickens, and supplies, as well as hiring consultants to help us design the above plans, vision, and layout. The superintendent, administration, teachers, specialists and staff have all been heavily involved in the consultant meetings as well as the dream/design phases so that we meet the needs of the teachers, staff, students, and school.
Please feel free to reach out to Tara Fergusson (President@MUSFoundation.com) and STEAM Liaison Ana Rudnicki (STEAM@MUSFoundation.com), for any questions or inquiries on this project. We could not be more excited about the development of the Nature Lab, and greatly appreciate your participation in making it all possible.
All our best,
Ana Rudnicki and Tara Fergusson