Anchorage Parks and Recreation

Sand Lake Park Learning Lab

Sand Lake Park Learning Lab

3886 Caravelle Dr (Map)


Sand Lake Park is nestled between Sand Lake and Sand Lake Elementary School on west end of Anchorage, Alaska. The park offers 5.1 acres of green space, two docks, and a paved trail.

While small, Sand Lake Park is important to the community. The roughly 2 miles of shoreline are almost entirely bordered by private property limiting public access to the lake. For this reason, the park provides an excellent access point to the lake and is crucial to providing recreational and educational opportunities in the area, especially for the Sand Lake Elementary.

Residents use the lake heavily for boating, fishing, and general outdoor enjoyment. In addition, it is home to a variety of plant and animal life that utilize habitat in this suburban oasis.

Project Background

The outdoor learning space students designed sits on the southern end of Sand Lake Park on a hill just above the paved trail. The hill has an approximate 50 ft. by 50 ft. open space surrounded by birch, cottonwood, and spruce trees. The students selected this location for an outdoor learning space because of its outstanding westward view of the lake, it is relatively flat and clear of many trees.

This project began in 2015 when the Sand Lake Elementary School decided to adopt Sand Lake Park and begin helping with garbage and deferred maintenance. In 2016, the group went through the Anchorage Park Foundation Challenge Grant process, and the learning lab gained momentum when a combination of teachers, students, and professionals were awarded a Challenge Grant in 2017. As Sand Lake Park is located directly behind Sand Lake Elementary, it is a natural fit and partnership to encourage positive development and use of the park. As outlined in the planning and involvement, this project has moved through three different sixth grade classes and is ready to be constructed during the summer of 2018.  

Per the design development of the 2016-2017 sixth grade class, the concept for the learning lab is a koi fish, with a platform as the tail, boulders for the eyeball, and the shape of the classroom inspired by the fishlike shape of the koi fish. As stated on the website created by the sixth graders “We met with our landscape architects several times so we can develop concept maps for our outdoor learning space. We decided since the view of the lake draws us to our selected area that our concept designs would be bases around "water." We also would like to add touches of Japanese culture to our outdoor space. But not too much because we want the public to also enjoy it.”


Above: Students staking out the site plan with volunteer professionals in fall of 2017.


Anchorage Park Foundation Challenge Grant: $20,000

2018 Municipal Park Bond: $50,000 

Project Timeline

  • Sand Lake Elementary officially adopted Sand Lake Park Park Report Cards Filled out
  • Installed Nestbox
  • Schools on Trails Maps
  • Took care of deferred maintenance in the park
  • Challenge Grant Workshop
  • Sketch Workshop
  • Site Investigation
  • Concept Map Developments
  • Resolution from the Sand Lake Community Council
  • 2017-2018
  • Staking out the site with volunteer surveyor
  • Design Development
  • Creating 3-D Models of the Space
  • Developing Kanji interpretive signage
  • Staking out the site with volunteer surveyor
  • Design Development
  • Creating 3-D Models of the Space
  • Developing Kanji interpretive signage

The teachers, staff, and students of Sand Lake Elementary have the goal to encourage and support recreational, educational, and community use of the park, while supporting indigenous flora and fauna. The Learning Lab will have a platform for presentations, custom handmade benches, stepping stones, a custom entrance modeled after a torii, and kanji interpretive signage.


Click on the images below to view the full design documents.

Resolutions of Support

Sand Lake Community Council

Parks and Recreation Commission

Parks and Recreation Commission Packet

Schools on Trails Map

For more information, please view this project website created by the Sand Lake Elementary 6th grade class.

Project Manager:

Taylor Keegan, MOA Park Planner


P: 343-4518