Grant Elementary classroom fundraiser rocks The Blue Note

Friday, September 4, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Students, parents and staff of Grant Elementary School cheered on their friends who performed Thursday night at The Blue Note in support of their “green” classroom.

The Blue Note held “School House Rock,” a celebration of the eco-classroom at Grant Elementary School and a fundraiser for the film that documented the building process. The event largely focused on promoting sustainability.

“I think the kids did a great job,” Grant music teacher Pam Sissom said. “You can see the Grant family, how much the parents are involved with their children’s education. You can see the commitment of this community."

Grant provided entertainment in addition to the clips of "Eco Schoolhouse." The Grant All Star Choir, composed of fourth- and fifth-graders, sang “Grant School Rules Green,” a song they wrote with Grant’s blues artist-in residence, TJ Wheeler.

The fundraising efforts included a live auction and students taking donations from audience members.

Ken Leija filmed "Eco Schoolhouse" with Paula Elias, Avery Danziger and Lenore Danziger in the summer of 2008, as reported earlier by the Missourian.

A shorter version of the film was shown in November 2008 at the U.S. Green Building Council and at the True/False Film Festival in February.

“The film is about being, living and thinking sustainably and being eco-friendly, reducing our waste, building structures that are energy efficient rather than the old kind of way — where we put something up and it’s quick and it’s easy and we’re not thinking about the future," Leija said. "These kinds of things are what the documentary hits on."

Leija said her and Elias' son is a former student of Grant Elementary, which is how they are connected to the project.

Leija began by simply photographing the initial process and meetings about the proposed classroom to replace a trailer that burned in late 2007.

“I was taking pictures when it was just being conceptualized, so it was a pretty amazing thing to see it now,” Leija said. “It's actually a schoolhouse. They were just going to try to make it happen with whatever they could get toward a sustainable future for the school district and for the kids.”

Leija emphasized the value of teaching a new generation about alternative energy sources and examining how much they consume.

“I think it’s just important to see where things come from and to know that we’re affecting our environment,” he said.

The classroom’s architect, Nick Peckham, was impressed with the turnout.

“I think it’s just an incredible outpouring of community support,” he said. “So many children are here and enthusiastic not only about the building but about sustainability.”

Five different clips from the documentary were interspersed with performances by guitar duo Eco Gitano and songs from Grant students and staff.

“My daughter has been going to Grant since kindergarten, so it’s really nice to see (this project) come to fruition,” parent Tim Gilbreth said.

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