Shuman Rising

By Scott Boylston

Over the last few weekends numerous volunteers, IKEA employees, and 3 stalwart Emergent Structures board members have made great headway in constructing the pergola at Shuman Elementary School. If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll remember that back in June, 2010 we put the Shuman project on our strategic chart. At that point, no one had any idea what might come of the nascent collaboration, and it lay patiently as a series of informal discussions until the IKEA Distribution Center in Pembroke expressed an interest in the work of Emergent Structures. Soon after that, Emergent Structures wrote a successful community grant with Shuman Elementary School as its beneficiary.

Shuman had already gotten a great jump start in developing a children’s food garden with a partnership between the Chatham County PTA and SUGA (Savannah Urban Garden Alliance) , an energetic local urban gardening non-profit founded by Kelly Lockamy. And we thought we could help them realize their dreams of an active educational garden by supplying them with a comfortable and shaded place in the midst of the garden.

We all know that sustainability is a lot about reducing barriers to sustainable behaviors, and we understood that having an area for teachers and students alike to rest out of the sun as they work—and a place for teachers to provide lessons, not in a classroom, but right next to the actual garden—would go a long way in reducing the barriers to tending consistently to the garden.

Since we received the grant, we’ve held numerous material harvest events, the most notable perhaps was the January denailing event when we were able, not only to bring 60 volunteers with the help of the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, but also hired Carpenter Apprentices from Step Up Savannah’s CAP program that trains underemployed individuals.

We’ve continued our support of vocational training by working with local sustainable furniture company Wooden Sheep, paying them to mentor a Savannah High School student Justin Frazier, who was also paid for his work in preparing the reclaimed materials for rafters.

After 3 days on site, the pergola is nearing completion, and the garden will be planted soon! As can be seen from the image below, the design does call for some new lumber, but everything except the floor framing and the center joists are constructed from reclaimed materials. The reclaimed materials have come from the Savannah Gardens redevelopment project, the Caldwell’s Jones Street house, and an historic home on East Taylor Street owned by Jeanne Svendson. We’re extremely grateful for Ms. Svendson, for her desire to see the beautiful redwood columns and other redwood that’s been removed from her courtyard be reclaimed, and for board member Mark Fitzpatrick, who is leading that historic renovation for JT Turner Construction.

Anyone interested in seeing a little more backstory on the SHuman Elementary School can see our posts here and here

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