Muscogee County School District has had a longtime, unique collaboration with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. Each fall, schools partner with local area businesses for Partners in Education (PIE). These partners in education work with the schools to improve academic performance, provide career opportunities, enrich life experiences, or develop and enrich faculty. This year, the Columbus Botanical Gardens has partnered with Blanchard Elementary to design an inclusive, unique garden at the school.
The collaboration is called Foundations in Environmental Learning Design, or FIELDwork. Children’s Education Coordinator, Dawn Grantham explains, “We met with fourth-grade teacher Peyton Hannan and ten fifth grade students. We told them it was a business venture between the Columbus Botanical Gardens and Blanchard and we’ve been hired, in a sense, to meet their need for an environmental improvement project on their campus.” The students were given a presentation regarding their design space by Executive Director of the Columbus Botanical Gardens, Stefan Bloodworth. He showed students a large aerial view of the Blanchard gardens with surrounding areas. Each time he gave them a smaller view, to demonstrate scale. Students were then given sketch paper and asked to design their ideas on top of a blueprint of the school’s gardens. Next, the students will be given a blueprint of their greenspace to start brainstorming designs. They will meet each week to further design their greenspace. Students were given three assignments to complete before their next meeting:
Create a Business Name:
After all, they are a business contracted to landscape a new green space. They oversee timelines, design elements and more. They need a name for themselves.
Students were asked to survey members of the community who know and love Blanchard Elementary. In addition to taking these surveys, the students must keep track of participants to help determine any trends in data.
List Favorite Elements:
Students need a functional, well-loved space. Adding their favorite elements of the outdoors and their favorite outdoor spaces will only help make this greenspace successful.
After the first meeting, students left feeling energized and empowered for the future of Blanchard, and so did Grantham and Bloodworth. “The purity of their thoughts, they don’t know caps or limitations,” shared Grantham, “It’s too bad
ten-year olds can’t be part of more adult collaborations.” Grantham has a special connection to Blanchard Elementary. She just retired as principal. With the students’ visions, she’s seeing the school in a whole new light, “Blanchard has three beautiful courtyards that I just took for granted,” she explained, “I was invited back by Peyton and I became
misty-eyed. These courtyards are amazing and how didn’t I see this before?”
Columbus Botanical Gardens has prospective donor funding for the future garden at Blanchard Elementary School. One day these students will have a green space designed for everyone’s use.