Big Blue Jaguar Park, J.W. Dobbs Community Park, and Jaguar City Park are among the names students at J.W. Dobbs Elementary School are proposing for their new public park.
The Trust for Public Land, Urban Land Institute Atlanta, Park Pride and Atlanta Public Schools is piloting the Atlanta Community Schoolyards Program at two sites this school year: John Wesley Dobbs Elementary and L.O. Kimberly Elementary. The program aims to improve the number of residents who do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park by reimagining schoolyards for public use during non-school hours.
“The Dobbs family is so excited to be chosen as a school site that will have a major impact on this community,” said Principal Tiffany Ragin. “The students and teachers are all in and are enjoying every single phase. Although we’re in the earlier phases, students have had an opportunity to meet with employees from The Trust for Public Land, Park Pride, and the Urban Land Institute to complete this awesome schoolyards project.”
On Oct. 3, Kimberly fourth and fifth graders entered into the design phase of the program. On Oct. 17, it was Dobbs fourth and fifth graders’ turn to work their creative and strategic muscles.
“We felt it important for everyone to get a fair share to contribute and truly take part in the process,” said Teri Nye, park visioning coordinator with Park Pride.
Students bursting with ideas soon learned that turning their playground dreams into community park realities is a lesson in creativity and money management.
“They’ve completed grade specific surveys to determine what they want in their community park, and most recently decided on what they can actually purchase via a project-based learning simulation that included budgeting, decision making, and lots of creativity,” Ragin said.
Students were placed into small groups of 5-7 and instructed to design their dream schoolyard. Each team was given $100 in Jaguar bucks, a layout of their actual schoolyard, and a catalog full of items they could add to the park, including a half basketball court, playing field, playgrounds, fun sidewalk ideas and garden trails. Each item, of course, had an associated price tag. So, they had to stay within budget.
Fortunately, volunteers –including Delta Air Lines employees – were there to assist students with the designs and budgets.
“Delta is a sponsor of the Atlanta Community Schoolyards Program, and they wanted to put volunteer time with Dobbs Elementary. In the summer, when its time to help build the park, they will bring volunteers to help build as well,” said Susan Patterson, director of philanthropy for the Trust for Public Land.
Delta Community Engagement Lead Project Manaager LaSandra Boykin and Delta Community Engagement Program Manager Barry Matthews were among the dozen or so volunteers at Dobbs on Oct. 17. They say the Atlanta Community Schoolyards Program is a tremendous opportunity to minimize environmental footprints, develop neighborhoods, and protect greenspaces.
“We are extremely thankful that soon Dobbs Elementary can serve the community and have the capacity to provide a safe space for children and families to play and enjoy nature in their backyards –all with the assistance and design of our awesome scholars,” Principal Ragin said.
Next steps: representatives from the Atlanta Community Schoolyards program will hold outreach meetings in the late fall to discuss the project with Kimberly and Dobbs elementary school families and community members.