It began with a dream. DeKalb County resident Gabbie Atsepoyi wanted more usable greenspace in her neighborhood that could be enjoyed by all members of the community. She wondered whether a forested, overgrown stream between her house and Columbia Elementary School could be transformed into a nature trail that would serve as the perfect outdoor classroom for environmental education activities for the school’s students. Her idea sparked a project that is quickly gaining momentum.
As Gabbie gathered community support for the nature trail, Park Pride saw an opportunity to leverage her efforts within the framework of the Community Schoolyards initiative, a model Trust for Public Land leads nationally and has piloted in nearby Atlanta with partnership from Park Pride, Urban Land Institute-Atlanta, and Atlanta Public Schools.
With professional landscape architecture and community engagement support from Park Pride’s visioning team, the Columbia Elementary students, teachers, and neighbors helped to design a shared vision for a green schoolyard that could be enjoyed by the public outside of school hours.
Student practiced site analysis, made nature observations, and followed a budget to draw up scale diagrams of their proposed new schoolyard features. Community members and elected officials completed surveys, attended meetings, and gave feedback on early draft concepts.
Today, their community schoolyard vision plan is complete.
The design that the students, teachers, and neighbors created together imagines a community schoolyard available during the school day for outdoor learning, play, and meals, and that is open to the community outside of school hours for recreation, nature exploration, gardening, and more.
Though the DeKalb County School District owns the land, the vision of a shared schoolyard offers a public, park-like greenspace in easy walking distance of 1,840 residents—1,518 of whom don’t have any other park nearby.
Now, Gabbie, the school, and many of the project partners are working to raise funds to bring this vision to life!