The Indianapolis Star via Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Reclamation and reuse are at the forefront of a collaborative effort to create an urban farm for an Indianapolis charter school.

The farm for the students of The Project School-Indianapolis is getting a boost from the creative design efforts and physical labor of 14 Ball State University students.

The 1.2-acre urban farm is being created through the reclamation of contaminated land on the west side of the mayor-sponsored charter school. The school serves 320 students from kindergarten through eighth grade in a century-old building once occupied by the National Automobile Factory.

The Ball State seniors studying architecture earned college credit to design and build the farm's classroom and storage space using two surplus 8-foot-tall by 40-foot-long shipping containers from Muncie. They are working in collaboration with some Project School students studying math.

Also, students at the charter school are studying plants and insects and collecting samples as part of the preparation for planting the farm.

The containers were transported by truck last week to a portion of the soon-to-be-usable farmland between the Indianapolis school building and the Monon Trail. They will be used by the charter school students in learning about farming techniques, including planting, crop care and harvesting.

The Ball State students have begun building a wooden deck between the two transformed containers. Some interior amenities, including shelves, tables and cabinets, also are being built by the students using wood recycled from a demolished building. Chairs were built from purchased wood, said chair builder and architectural student Zach Grajewski, 21.

Grants have aided the land reclamation and purchase of materials for reuse of the shipping containers and deck construction, said Tarrey Banks, a former Indianapolis Public Schools teacher and assistant principal who founded The Project School in 2008, and Timothy Gray, associate professor of architecture at Ball State.

They also credited people from the public and private sectors for helping reclaim and reuse what had long been contaminated, abandoned and neglected land.

"This will be an outdoor lab for us," Banks said of the urban farm. Soon, once remediation of the land is complete, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and other garden staples will be planted.

He said his students also will use the farm project to learn about urban ecology and experience-related studies.

He said the garden crops harvested will go to the students and their families. He estimated about 72 percent are living at the poverty level.

Gray said he had heard that Banks needed some facilities to help him realize his dream of an urban farm.

"I got excited about it," Gray said, and the 14 students in his design studio class jumped at the chance to not only learn more about architectural design, but also to do hands-on construction work.

"It was a really good experience," said architectural student Jordan Inman, 22. He said majoring in architecture has mainly meant learning how to design whole buildings.

"We learned how to make things," Inman said of this project. "It's important to know how things are actually put together."


Information from: The Indianapolis Star,

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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