Grant Elementary plans to build all-green classroom

Monday, June 2, 2008 | 11:09 p.m. CDT; updated 3:20 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In the stuffy gymnasium of Grant Elementary school, proud parents and family members snapped pictures of their anxious fifth-graders as they awaited the start of their graduation ceremony. Over the whirring of several fans, Principal Beverly Borduin told the crowd it was a very special night for Grant’s students.

Local architect Nicholas Peckham, of Peckham and Wright Architects, announced at the ceremony Monday evening that the 98-year-old school will be home to an all-green classroom called the “Eco Schoolhouse,” which will replace a trailer that burned down in December.

“Nick had an idea for an all-green classroom and heard about the fire,” Borduin said. “The two ideas compliment each other. We had a need and he wanted to give to the community.”

The project will break ground during the second week of June, and the classroom will be completed by the time students are ready to return to school on Aug. 8.

Grant Elementary received $30,000 from the insurance settlement following the fire; the money will be used toward the green classroom. The total cost of the project is estimated at $250,000. Peckham found several volunteers to donate materials and labor to make up for the cost not covered by insurance money.

“The people involved feel in their hearts that this is right,” Peckham said.

Today, Borduin plans on showing pictures to the students and discussing the changes with them, so that they understand what to expect upon returning to school in the fall.

The new classroom will be located near the school’s parking lot and will be very visible to the community, which Borduin hopes will inspire visitors to explore Grant’s new classroom and learn about sustainability and renewable resources.

“Right now this is very visible in the front of Grant Elementary,” Borduin said. “It’s a great opportunity for the students to learn about ecological sustainability.”

Currently, learning about ecological responsibility is part of the second-grade curriculum and ties in with students’ science courses.

“This is such a tremendous opportunity,” Borduin said. “Nick is such a visionary. I couldn’t believe this is happening to Grant.”

The classroom will be a “zero-utility classroom,” meaning it will generate all its own energy through the use of solar panels.

“It’s a nice fit,” Borduin said. “This is cutting-edge, not only in Columbia, but throughout the nation.”

“Everyone has to do what they can to help,” Peckham said. “There are many strengths that people have. We’re all passengers on the spaceship Earth.”

Peckham and Wright Architects is celebrating 30 years of work and wanted to commemorate that with a gift to the community. In addition to his announcement at the ceremony on Monday, Peckham watched as his granddaughter, Nora Peckham, graduated.

“It’s really about the children,” Peckham said. “There’s no second chances when it comes to raising children.”

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