Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SF Examiner: Sherman elementary school's green schoolyard is a success story with a few chills

This from the SF Examiner:
"This is lettuce!" says Saul Jaugeri a kindergartner. With Ms. Dominguez' class, he is standing by a planter box in the green schoolyard at Sherman Elementary School. Ten minutes later, his class mate Seth Adelman digs out an earth worm and shouts, "Ms Myers, can we make a worm farm and have it as a pet?" Meanwhile, Abigail Parker, same class, pulls on Ms. Myers' sleeve and asks if she can take a few leaves home for her new guinea pig. Linda Myers is the garden educator at Sherman elementary school in the Marina. An hour earlier, she was addressing a class of 4th graders by the schoolyard's water fountain. "You will be tested on your geology and you have all the rocks around you," she said of the granite, basalt and quartz boulders the 10-year-olds were sitting on. This is a green schoolyard: part classroom, part educational garden, part urban junior ranger program. However behind the postcard scene is a world of PTA meetings, endless debates, dissensions and weekend work days in the yard that require a lot of dedication. For some parents, the space would be better used as a mini soccer field. For others, it is the reason why they chose the school. What's really behind such an undertaking and does the end justify the means?

Fundings were there but the school was not ready

In 2003, Prop A set aside $2.3 million to green 16 school sites in San Francisco. Sherman E.S. received $80,000 and an idea was born. "When my son started at Sherman," says Terri Fellers, mother of a 5th grader, "there was no greenery at that point, it was just a sad sea of asphalt." Back then, the Franklin-side yard had basketball hoops and a painted basketball court, four 4-square areas, hopscotch and other painted areas. It was also used as a PTA parking lot which was convenient for parents during school events. The Gough side had three asphalt lots, two of which were connected by a set of stairs.

The school had a small parent committee for the school's greening but things were slow-going at first. "The committee was composed of a variety of people with different views on what a green schoolyard should be," says Kent David, one of the committee members. "Concerns ranged from 'where will we park for PTA functions?' to 'where will the kids run around?' to 'how will we handle the dirt?'" Whatever choices were made resulted from open discussions and dissensions and in the end, received everybody's approval. For accessibility reasons and because it was the sunniest yard getting sometimes too hot for the kids, the Franklin side was selected to become a green schoolyard. It could be designed as a green space with a ramp.

Read the full story

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