Second grade students at Sarah Smith Elementary School’s Primary Campus have been hard at work over the past year. Partnering with professional landscape architects at The Trust for Public Land and Park Pride, these young creatives have participated in a collaborative design process to create a mural and select new site amenities that will be installed on campus this month and available for public use outside of school hours.
This updated community schoolyard is part of the Atlanta Community Schoolyards initiative, which is a project of Atlanta Public Schools, The Trust for Public Land, Park Pride, and the Urban Land Institute to improve outdoor space on school campuses, then open that greenspace for neighbors’ use when school is not in session. Creatively repurposing school grounds as public parks on the weekends and over the summer can add needed park space in neighborhoods like North Buckhead, where many people live more than a 10-minute walk away from the nearest park. Once construction is complete, neighbors can enjoy new site fixtures at Sarah Smith while attending Little League baseball games, playing at the playground, exercising on the loop trail, practicing in the batting cages, and more.
Additions to the Sarah Smith campus include new play equipment—two climbing structures and some fixed musical instruments—on a soft, mulched surface, new benches, and waste receptacles. Volunteers from the school, the neighborhood, and Delta Air Lines, a major donor to the project, will also work to power-wash existing play equipment, repaint dugouts and bleachers around the baseball field, replant the school’s garden beds, and remove invasive plants in the forested edges of the school property, which adjoins Blue Heron Nature Preserve.
Later in the month, students and community members will work with local artist and muralist Muhammad Suber to install a mural on the basketball court. Based on collaborative efforts with Sarah Smith art teacher Christina Gullett and Sarah Smith students, the mural will explore themes of home and international architecture, reflecting the school’s International Baccalaureate curriculum and diverse student body. See more of Suber’s work at www.artistinus.com.
Sarah Smith Elementary is in the second cohort of 10 schools throughout the city to participate in a pilot community schoolyards effort, which the Atlanta Community Schoolyards team hopes will eventually shift district policy towards open, community schoolyards systemwide. There are completed community schoolyards at Dobbs Elementary and Kimberly Elementary, with other sites under construction or mid-design process at Centennial Academy, Continental Colony Elementary, Harper-Archer Elementary, Miles Elementary, Price Middle School, Scott Elementary, and Toomer Elementary.