Cars jet past Central as the sun rises and the traffic light blinks green. It’s a busy morning, like all mornings at Saint Ursula Academy, nestled in the heart of East Walnut Hills. In such an urban environment, it can be easy to get lost in the concrete jungle, and forget what an actual jungle is like. Up until the Herman Schneider Building (known to students as the White building) was demolished February 8 of this year, this kind of connection to nature every day was not easily achieved at Saint Ursula Academy, but the new green space, dubbed the East Quad, provides some exciting possibilities for our school and all SUA students.
Already teachers are brimming with ideas for what could be done with the East Quad, like surveying birds in AP Environmental Science or creating an urban habitat through gardening. Even just spending time in nature can destress your mind and increase productivity, according to David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, in the National Geographic article “This is Your Brain on Nature.”
The East Quad is not only good for your mental health, though; it will also be “great for bringing back more biodiversity,” says Mr. Simcoe, the moderator for SUA’s Earth Club. The flowers in the East Quad are more than pretty. Plants like black-eyed susans are a refreshing sight in an otherwise grassy space. In fact, most of the plants lining the asphalt road stretching along East Quad are there specifically to create an urban habitat supporting Cincinnati wildlife, a trend that Saint Ursula Academy plans to continue. The grass seed and sod had to be planted twice due to heavy rains but will be ready for students soon. Clubs, too, have ideas for the Quad, like quidditch matches and nature walks.
The East Quad has been a long time coming, recounts Mrs. Armstrong, who was deeply involved in much of the complicated process creating this new green space, including getting permission from the city to demolish the White Building, overseeing the demolition process which involved hauling over 30 dump truck loads of dirt and debris to be used on the I-71 construction project, installing 6-foot privacy fences to separate SUA from the surrounding neighborhood, and extending the East Quad’s driveway so trucks can get through to bring set pieces to the new theater.
SUA is “really excited with the way things turned out,” says Mrs. Ragland. “We’ve always had lovely gardens, but this extends the potential for girls to explore the outdoors during their school day.” With mental health and biodiversity benefits, as well as the conveniences it provides both for clubs and further construction projects, the East Quad indeed makes SUA’s place in the concrete jungle a little more wild, and a lot more wonderful.
Overall Schedule of the Project:
2/8 - 2/20: Abatement and windows will be removed; all in accordance with building codes.
2/22: Demolition of the building begins; starting from the front and moving to the back.
3/7 - 3/15: Foundation removal
3/17 - 3/25: Backfill and grading
3/28 - 4/1: Landscaping
June/July: Fence and parking lot repairs
White building demolition
National Geographic: “This is Your Brain on Nature”