Gainesville has a long history of community support of education. There is no school that exhibits this history of successful community/educator collaboration more dramatically than Enota. My daughter is an Enota graduate. Its administration and teachers have a steadfast and deep commitment to engaging parents, interested citizens and community leaders in creative ways that further their mission. This personal, cooperative and collaborative relationship is one of the ingredients that makes Enota special.
There is no better example of this than the Smartville Teaching Garden. It represents a learning asset most schools covet and few have. When the future of our environment is a major issue facing humankind, the importance of introducing children at the earliest age to the diversity and wonder of the natural environment is critical. The garden is a unique asset that academically and visually gives Enota a special capability and quality.
As an architect, I appreciate the challenges of designing new buildings and related improvements amid existing conditions, such as the garden. In architecture, constraints such as site, mature vegetation, use program, existing buildings and other assets of value produce rich opportunity for creativity. Too often, such constraints of value are seen as obstacles to be demolished in the name of efficiency. Too often as well, this kind of efficiency produces sameness, unstimulating environments and the opposite of what learning environments should be.
The school system has retained architects capable of creative design to produce special outcomes. I implore leadership to give them the latitude to apply their full range of talents working with the garden’s supporters to produce a quality new school and grounds richly enhanced by incorporating a critical mass and critical components of the garden into the new school design.
A blank rectangle on a site plan and a lack of a commitment to a decisively implementable plan for its preservation represents a de facto loss of this precious resource. A parking lot replacing the teaching garden is the wrong message and flies in the face of the pressing need for enhanced environmental awareness.
The concern for the preservation of the teaching garden may seem to some to be about a few plants at a single school that disrupt the efficient development of a new building, a tempest in a teapot. It is not. The garden is a thoughtfully organized, creatively designed and accessible presentation of botanical life for environmental education, a resource across the elementary curriculum. It gives Enota a special identity, a pride of place. It is a daily reminder to all who engage with the school that community support of education and the collaboration between the vast intellectual and financial resources of Gainesville are a tradition that makes Enota and Gainesville special.
My wife, my daughter and I are all thankful to have had the good fortune to experience and benefit from Enota’s special qualities. It is my hope this same opportunity will be available to future generations of students thorough the incorporation of the Smartville Garden into the scope of improvements for the new school.