Garden Transformation at Austell Primary School

The 3rd graders at Austell Primary School chase one another along the side of the grimed outlined path that extends from the school’s garden.

With digging tools in one hand and piles of dirt in the other, the children commence their quest in creating the tallest dirt-castle of all.

 “I’m strong, like John Henry!” one shouts “Come on! Come on! We need it to be taller!” says another.

It’s noon, on a Friday – and the students are so engaged that they forget they’re creating something permanent.

In a couple of weeks, the soiled paths will have instructional signs placed along the side of them, with large, brightly colored murals that read “Welcome to the Learning Garden” and six vibrant colored benches and signs, the students painted themselves.

Austell partnered with Paint Love to transform the school’s former garden into something more bright and inviting. Leading the project artistically, was The Creatives Project studio resident, Meta Gary.  She created a way for the students to participate throughout the garden's transformation every step of the way.

The students participate enthusiastically; when a task is set up, they’re eager to accomplish it.

“I’ve been really impressed by the skill level of a lot of the students,” Gary tells Paint Love. “And this thing that if you give a kid a task how eager and readily they achieve it.”

The school gave Gary full creative freedom in the project. “They wanted color and light,” Gary said. “… And maybe mentioned that they wanted some benches.”

Her design is inclusive, both within the execution and the finished product. With a double-sided chalked planned to be at the end of the path, Gary transcends her vision into an all-encompassing experience for the children.

But she isn’t the only one impressed. “Seeing Meta’s vision turn into to a real thing”… “And to see her put it in the hands of seven and five-year-olds… That’s impressive,” says Lynn Sullivan, a teacher at Austell.

Sullivan believes in giving students the opportunity to get involved – and she’s witnessed first hand the affect it has on the kids. While teaching for six years at the Ben Carson’s Science Academy Center, Sullivan learned that when you give students the opportunity to learn the material hands-on, the subject matter sticks.

Sullivan has also witnessed the subsequent incentives that arrive from these projects.

“For the students, this project has given them motivation for behaving as expected.”… “Despite what you might see in the classroom – when they’re out here, they’re different.”

The students are proud of the ownership in something, especially with a project that will be here long after they’ve left. When asked about their experience, answers ranged from, “I learned that anyone could paint” to “you don’t kill insects when you find them. You put them somewhere where they can be safe and give them a new home.” 

A special thanks to David Holcomb, who constructed the frames for the mural panels.