Green Acres Elementary Designs School Garden, Receives $75,000 Grant to Build It

A lawn of green grass grows along the sidewalk leading to the entrance of Green Acres Elementary, but that area will soon undergo a fall makeover thanks to a $75,000 grant the school received to build a learning garden.

The idea for the outdoor learning space sprouted last spring when Principal Ashley Mize applied for a grant through Real School Gardens, which aims to boost student success at low-income, Title I schools like Green Acres.

“We applied for a grant and were given around $75,000 to install gardens for our students to learn all subjects, literacy, math, science, social studies and art,” Principal Mize explained. “It usually takes about three years to get your funding, but [Sprouts Healthy Community Foundation] fully funded us from day one.”

Through a partnership with Real School Gardens, Sprouts is also providing Green Acres an additional $25,000 to educate the school’s teachers on how to incorporate the outdoor space into their lesson plans.

To gather input from the school community, Real School Gardens held a “Design and Dine” event at the school during which parents, teachers, and students joined together to design the first draft of the garden. Leading up to the August 31 event, Green Acres students brainstormed about what they wanted included in the garden. School staff decorated the hallways with the designs from students in grades 3-5. Seven of those students presented their designs to the Green Acres community members who attended the evening design event.

“My garden has two ponds where students can feed the fish, frogs and turtles,” described fourth grader Amylee. “[My design has] flowerbeds filled with veggies, roses, and sunflowers. I also have a greenhouse where the special plants can [grow]. We also have a water fountain in one of the ponds.”

Amylee’s favorite part of her design is the greenhouse, which she hopes will include “special” plants she has only seen in pictures. She wants to see the unique vegetation in “real life” and is also looking forward to getting her hands dirty by planting and learning more about what grows in the garden.

Amylee may have the opportunity to pull on garden gloves and get to work on November 9. Representatives from Real School Gardens and Sprouts plan to return for the “Big Dig” to help the Green Acres community start and complete construction of the learning garden in one day.

The goal is for Green Acres students to have a fully-functioning garden when they return to school on November 10.

“I’m looking forward to [the garden] being built,” said Antories, a fourth grader and Green Acres garden design winner.

Antories likes the idea of taking his school lessons outside, and so do his teachers.

“The teachers are most excited about getting training in how to use the gardens in all the different subjects,” said Principal Mize. “The garden [will give] them a way to get kids engaged differently than the basic, traditional classroom.”

According to the Green Acres principal, the students will engage in problem-solving activities, develop new language skills, and grow their critical thinking ability while working in the garden.

“The kids are thrilled and super excited and really curious about what’s to come,” added Evan Dintaman, Project Manager for Real School Gardens.I think it is going to create an awesome learning environment for them.”

For more information about the Green Acres Elementary School “Design and Dine” event, watch the Cobb edTV video here.