Neighborhood Celebration: Check out Coan Middle School

It’s time to take another look at Atlanta Public Schools. This year, the focus of our second-annual Neighborhood Celebration will be southeast Atlanta schools that feed into Maynard H. Jackson High, which will host festivities on Oct. 2. Part pep rally part celebration, this event allows community members to see just a few of the exciting things happening in APS each day. To kick off the event, Talk Up APS will feature each school.

We start with Coan Middle School and its dynamic principal, Dr. Tonya Saunders, formerly of neighboring Toomer Elementary. Coan is one of several APS schools participating in the Confucius Institute, which promotes Mandarin Chinese language instruction and cultural appreciation. This unique program helps students prepare to compete in a global, 21st century economy. But Coan students also create lasting ties a little closer to home.

For our purposes here, we’d like to focus on what happens outside Coan’s classrooms — and around the back and side of the school. Working with neighborhood partners, the school has launched two gardening initiatives that helped unify the surrounding Edgewood community. In 2009, Coan established the Edgewood Community Learning Garden, a partnership with the Southeastern Horticultural SocietyFiskars, The Home Depot, the Zeist Foundation and Mayson Avenue Cooperative, LLC as part of Fiskar’s Orange Thumb beautification project. Housed in the back corner of the campus, the garden serves as a science lab or outdoor classroom for students.

Last spring Coan also established an edible garden thanks to a partnership with the Zeist Foundation and the Southeastern Horticultural Society.

“The biggest factor in having a garden like this is the community involvement it promotes with the our schools,” said Saunders. “The second is how important this is from a nutritional standpoint. We need our students to be able to learn about how to eat properly, especially with the high obesity rate among our children today. With this edible garden, we’ll be able to teach subjects in our health class, in our science class and in our home economics class.”

Come back to Talk Up APS for more on the Neighborhood Celebration’s participating schools.

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