It has taken three years but the efforts of Greenbrier Elementary School parents, staff and supporters were in full bloom Monday at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the school's new outdoor classroom.
"As each child grows, the garden will grow with them. By the time you all are mature adults, the garden, which is as young as you are, will be mature, also," said Renee Link, chairman of the project, along with her husband, Mark, and co-chairmen John and Joan Purucker.
"It's a magnificent garden, a true working classroom that will bring science and nature together."
The 26,000-square-foot outdoor classroom is a project that has taken about $14,000 and at least 1,600 man hours to complete. The PTO spearheaded the project, but a $5,000 grant secured by representatives Bill Jackson and Ben Harbin got it off the ground.
"It's a culmination of something we've dreamed about for awhile," said Principal Charles Henderson. "It will provide a lab setting for collecting and analyzing data, and that's what learning is all about."
The idea for the outdoor classroom began with second-grade teacher Melody Reed, who in 1999 applied for a $1,100 grant, which was denied. At that time, the focus was on creating a butterfly garden. The PTO that year donated $1,200 to the project. And with community support, the project grew, Mrs. Link said.
Landscape architect Jane Waldrop of The Greensmith designed the plans; Columbia County's water department installed the tap for the sprinkler system; and Georgia Power and Kelly Electric ran power to the site. Dave Knight of John Deere tilled and prepared the grounds, along with Greg Banford of Dirt Works. The PTO sold bricks with children's names on them to pave the center of the amphitheater. There are 14,000 heartland red Clay Street pavers in the garden. They were discounted by Boral Brick and obtained through Mark Link.
At the ribbon cutting, Mrs. Link also singled out Boral Bricks and International Paper for their contributions to the classroom. Christi and Jay Johnson built the pond area with discounted materials from Garden Accents. And Jim Hillis' Lakeside Lawn Service also logged in a lot of hours on landscaping the classroom, Mrs. Link said.
Some of the features of the outdoor classroom include the pond, a butterfly garden, a wildflower garden to attract birds, pear and apple trees, azaleas and dogwood trees and a rare Franklin tree. There's also a bat box, a blue bird box, a thermometer and a trellis for growing vines.
"If you can remember it was just weeds and ugly all through here," Mrs. Link reminded those at the ribbon cutting.
First grade teacher Kelly Montgomery said the outdoor classroom will be a valuable addition to the school.
"In first grade we talk about butterflies and the life-cycle of insects," she said. "It will be wonderful to come out here and experience it and not just read about it in books."
Also at the ribbon cutting, school and PTO officials buried a time capsule.
"In 25 years we'll be digging it up. It would be great is some of y'all could be here with your children," said PTO President Jackie Tucker.
Mr. Henderson told the pupils how special for them it was to be a part of such a project.
"Don't forget this day," he said. "You were here when we dedicated this classroom. When you're in middle school and in high school when you drive by, you can say you were here when we buried the time capsule."
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