BUCKTOWN — A barren spot in front of a North Side school is now, a "Star Wars" geek might say, Chicago's own Forest Moon of Endor.
The Bucktown school is the site of a sequel, of sorts, to the wedding of famed "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, with some of the leftover plants from the renowned director's June nuptials at Promontory Point ending up in front of Pulaski School in Bucktown.
The salvaged trees from the wedding, along with 23 limestone rocks, have given new use to "a swatch of dirt" in front of Pulaski, 2230 W. McClean Ave. — a plot that had served no purpose except "dirtying up kids," according to parent Scott Suckow.
Lucas reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare the lakefront Promontory Point for the Chicago celebration of his marriage to Ariel Investments' President Mellody Hobson.
Guests included actor Hayden Christensen, who played a young Anakin Skywalker, Robin Williams, Al Roker and former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Prince was the musical guest.
While Suckow, president of Friends of Pulaski, said the "brush with celebrity" from the "Star Wars" connection was an unexpected surprise, he said the students using the outdoor classroom were not aware that the trees came from Lucas' wedding and doubted "most of the kids" would care.
Christy Webber, owner of West Town's Christy Webber Landscapes, did the landscaping for the Lucas-Hobson wedding and said she donated about $5,000 in materials — including Lucas' red bud and boxwood trees — and labor to build Pulaski's "outdoor classroom."
Parents from Friends of Pulaski, the school's fundraising arm, chipped in $5,000 to purchase the rocks and other materials using a Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant.
Bartlett Tree has donated $2,000 in tree trimming as well, Suckow said.
As long as the fall weather continues to be warm, teachers from all grades plan to continue taking their students outdoors, according to Principal Arlana Bedard.
Phyllis Lacour, a Pulaski prekindergarten teacher, said she transferred some of her classroom's "circle time" to the outdoor space.
Lacour said she had her students sit on stones and do observational drawings of the trees and the sky and read and share stories, while another teacher, Pamela Wayland, has led story time on the rocks.
"We also adopted a tree to make observational drawings. The students named it Rainbow, " Wayland said of the tree.
Students in Maureen Beishir's second-grade classroom are studying air, weather and the scientific method.
Beishir described the outdoor space as offering "a sanctuary" where students can be "immersed in what they are learning."
Suckow, president of Friends of Pulaski, said the project began as an effort to replace the school's front doors. However, that project ended up being "significantly more expensive," so the group put out a request for proposals to the Pulaski community, Suckow said.
Three of the responses had "variations of an outdoor classroom," Suckow said.
The classroom is a "visual and functional improvement" to the front of the school, Suckow said.
On Friday, Maria Vasquez, who has four children enrolled at Pulaski, said she and other members of the school's volunteer garden club planned to add plantings and flowers to the new outdoor classroom in spring.
In addition to the outdoor classroom, teachers are already planning a vegetable garden in the back of the school that will be created with support from The Kitchen [community], a nonprofit organization that received a $1 million grant last year from the city's unspent NATO summit money to develop gardens in Chicago Public Schools.