BRENTWOOD -- A lake, trails, athletic fields, bocce ball courts, play structures, picnic tables, docks, paddle boats, an amphitheater and a community garden are among the endless possibilities for an empty 50-acre lot that a group of Brentwood middle school students want to help the city plan.

"It has to be kid-friendly because there is an elementary school right across the street," Edna Hill Middle School eighth-grader Emily Gonzalez said in reference to neighboring Brentwood Elementary School.

Over the past week, the students in Edna Hill's leadership class have been thinking about this plot of land near the Brentwood Family Aquatic Complex that has sat undeveloped for years on Balfour Road at Griffith Lane. A recent classroom visit by Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor inspired the class to submit their ideas to the city for this potential development.

"I see the fog rolling over that field on the way to Edna Hill each day. A lake would be prettier there than an empty space," student Rita Landski said. "The neighbors can be picky about what they want."

For years, Taylor has envisioned this space as a lake and nature refuge for various forms of wildlife. While Taylor advised the students to let their imaginations run free with this assignment, he also informed them of the challenges the city faces in working with developers, homeowners and environmentalists on projects of this scale.

"Every facet of civilization in Brentwood would be impacted by this project," Taylor said recently. "It is a great venue to teach children about city government."


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Leadership teacher Bart Schneider wanted an authentic or real-life learning experience for his students this year to enrich the existing curriculum.

"We talked about all of the different nuances of a project like this," he said about the yearlong project. "In class, we will be looking at all of the positives and negatives that might arise from the different solutions."

Schneider added that he is especially impressed with this year's leadership class whose goals are to beautify the campus, help others and end bullying at the school instead of just organizing spirited rallies and social events. The students also spend some of their class time tutoring fourth-grade students in reading and math at nearby Garin Elementary School.

The students are working on the project in six small groups that have been dubbed "societies" for the class. The project will culminate this spring when they present their land use proposals to Brentwood planners at City Hall for feedback.

"This land could provide something that would be fun on the weekends," said eighth-grader Gillian Gash. "It is great to be the leaders of the school."

Reach staff writer Paula King at 925-779-7174 or pking@bayareanewsgroup.com.