What makes Lookout Mountain home

Lookout Mountain will soon welcome the fireworks of fall color. That also means LMS Carnival, the Great Pumpkin, soccer at the Commons and camping at beautiful spots like Lula Lake

Speaking of "boo"tiful, Trick or Treating on Cinderella will be held on the actual day - Monday, October 31. Who will you be?

Local Author Launches Mystery Series

image description

Lookout Mountain resident Barbara Golder has been a forensic pathologist, a lawyer and a teacher. She’s also a mother and a woman of faith. But it wasn’t until she became an author that all of those things blended so beautifully together.

Her first mystery novel, Dying for Revenge was released earlier this year through Full Quiver Publishing, who contracted her to write 11 more books featuring her Jane Wallace heroine. The book’s video trailer describes it as:

…a story of love, obsession and forgiveness, seen through the eyes of a passionate beautiful woman trying to live her life – imperfectly but vibrantly – even if she won’t survive.

Golder describes her foray into fiction as a “shaggy dog story.” An old friend turned literary agent encouraged her to write the first chapter and she would help shop it around. It became clear after review of her first draft by a developmental editor that selling to one of the larger publishers might well require changing the heart of the story: the connection of the characters to their faith.

“I wrestled with the decision, but it’s such a part of who these characters are,” she says. “To remove it would be like taking the skeleton out of the person. Storytellers have a sacred job – they communicate culture to future generations. But we’ve lost control of the narrators, particularly for people of faith.”

Dying for Revenge is a rare gem in a wasteland of anti-family and anti-person narratives. It presents revenge in the familiar context of a mystery thriller, yet moves the reader through to justice and eventually mercy. As reviewer Joan Watson writes, “It isn’t just who-dun-it, but it’s the story of the power of understanding in a world that’s afraid of self-knowledge.”

It’s hard to ignore the similarities between the main character and her creator. Jane Wallace is medical examiner with a background in law, also hailing from a small town in Alabama. While Golder never intended Jane to be her alter-ego, Golder’s candor and strong resolve shine through in her main character.

“Jane is a distinct person who is not me,” she insists. “But every character comes out of my head, so there’s a piece of me in every character.”

Golder moved to Lookout Mountain in 2003. The number of states she’s lived in almost rivals her list of careers – Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Colorado and most recently Tennessee. She loves writing in the peaceful quiet that Lookout affords, her writing table set up over a window in her home.

There’s something about Lookout that’s very conducive to the solitary act of writing,” she says. “This whole place exudes this sense of comfort and community that is special.

Even so, the couple’s time spent in Telluride might have had the biggest influence on her literary career. Not only is it the city in which her first book is set, it was the first place she saw her name in print.

The Telluride Times-Journal had a call for ‘Best Ski Accident Story,’” she recalls. “I remember reading the winning entry and enjoying it. I got to the bottom and realized it was mine! It was a very Mark Twain moment.

Her budding literary career continues to surprise and delight her. Since the book’s release in June, she’s crisscrossed the country with book signings and events. She never tires of talking to book clubs about their experience with the story.

“It’s always interesting to see what they find – we all encounter books loaded by our own experiences,” she says. “I love the relationship between writer and reader.”

She also remains characteristically humble.

“It’s given me an opportunity to do something different at a time in my life when I might not be doing anything.”

Even so, her favorite moments are time spent at home with her husband of 41 years, Steve and their two dogs and two cats. Their two children, Nathan and Lorna (also a writer) live in Atlanta.

Stuff your loved ones’ stockings with this local thriller. Available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle

Trees for Tots - THIS SATURDAY

image description

What if you could be ahead of the curve this holiday AND help children in need? All you have to do is order your grade “A” Fraser Fir tree and/or wreaths by this Wednesday, November 16. You pick them up November 19 at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, and know that the proceeds went to help children on Lookout Mountain as well as half a world away.

These are the freshest trees you will ever see,” says local Patricia Lindley. “We once left our tree up until mid-January and it was still as fresh as the day we got it!

Lindley first heard of the opportunity for this fundraiser while serving as Executive Director of Choices Pregnancy Resource Center in Chattanooga. When she retired, they decided not to continue the sale and it became an opportunity to benefit others, beginning in 2014 with Lookout Mountain’s Risley family.

Jon and Sarah Risley have adopted nine medically-fragile children and the funds have assisted in their expenses. This year, in addition to the on-going medical needs of Risley children, “Trees for Tots” will benefit “lots of tots” through Bethany Christian Services’ “Safe Families for Children;” Friends of the Good Samaritans in India; and Children’s Nutrition Program in Haiti. Links to these ministries can be found on the “Trees for Tots” website.

The grade 'A' Fraser Firs are grown on one of North Carolina’s Premiere Tree Farms. They will be cut the day after the sales close and delivered the next day. The delivery is set for the weekend before Thanksgiving so that folks already have their trees to decorate that holiday weekend. If you don’t decorate that early, just keep your tree outside in water and it stay fresh until you’re ready. The wreaths also make great early Christmas gifts.

Tree and wreath prices are comparable to what you would pay at a local retailer, but the quality is unsurpassed. They will refund your money if you’re not happy and you still keep the tree. And the bigger trees often run larger than advertised, warns Lindley.

To place your order, just visit the TeamWorks fundraising page and pay via credit card.

Orders will close Wednesday night, November 16. Pick up is THIS Saturday, November 19 in the parking lot of the Jane Harris Youth Building at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church. Volunteers are on hand to load the trees and freshly cut the trunks so the trees can soak the optimum amount of water. Simply put in a bucket of deep water until you’re ready to bring it inside.

Order your tree today and check something off your list, while getting on Santa’s “nice” list at the same time.

A Lookout Mountain Mom’s Crusade

image description

3 Blind Wines presented by The FEED Co. Table & Tavern
November 18 at 6 pm
Stratton Hall

Ginger Birnbaum didn’t expect to have a deep conversation with her four-year-old on the way home from the pediatrician. It had been a trying week with a virus that quickly turned into an infection requiring Cipro and Clindamycin.

All of a sudden he said having Cystic Fibrosis ‘makes me mad,’” she recalls. “I asked him if it also makes him sad or scared. He said, ‘No, just really mad!’

Normally a happy-go-lucky kid who takes everything in stride, King also possesses a spunk that serves him well as he fights a disease that affects his entire body at the cellular level. He endures two-hour a day respiratory therapy and a nightly feeding tube. He takes 13 medications (on good days), and digestive enzymes before every meal.

But when you talk to the Birnbaums, the only thing you hear is hope – unwavering, unflinching, downright dogged optimism for a cure. And not just for King, but for the other 30,000 Americans living with Cystic Fibrosis.

We have 100 percent faith in the drug development process,” she says. “Our hope is that there will be a medicine for him as soon as 3 years and as long as 10.

That’s why the Birnbaums are relentless champions for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF), personally raising over $200,000 since King was diagnosed at birth in 2011. Their most recent endeavor was Xtreme Hike in Damascus, VA.

The trek involved waking up at 2 a.m. and hiking 30.1 miles in one day on the Appalachian Trail. When Ginger got on the bus to take them back to the hotel, she felt like she’d been hit by a truck. And she can’t wait to do it again.

“There are very few fundraisers that you can also say develop you personally,” she says. “It was all around an amazing experience.”

Another event close to their hearts, 3 Blind Wines presented by The Feed Co. Table & tavern, is happening November 18 at Stratton Hall. Guests will enjoy wine tastings, silent and live auction, and music by Slim Pickins. The Top Off: The Three Blind Wines After Party, is being hosted by presenting sponsor The Feed Co. complete with specialty drinks and draft specials and music by Brokedown Hound.

In addition to chairing the event for the past four years with her husband Alex, Ginger serves as the president of CFF’s local board of directors and co-chair for CFF’s national family team program. Next year she has been asked to co-chair the Foundation’s Volunteer Leadership Conference, which brings together roughly 500 volunteers to share fundraising goals and celebrate advancements.

But what excites her most is the 20,000-square-foot, custom-built laboratory recently opened in Lexington, MA. She was invited to attend the ribbon cutting in September.

It was a huge honor to be included,” she recalls. “I got to personally meet the scientists who will one day cure our son.

Funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the research facility will be solely dedicated to identifying and testing potential therapies for CF, exploring cutting-edge technologies like gene editing and stem cell research. The lab frees the Foundation from the bureaucracies of university research, which can often take up to a year for approval to share assays, cells or any other intellectual property.

“We built this lab; everyone who’s ever given a dollar to the cause helped build this amazing lab that will someday save our child’s life,” she says excitedly. “A self-funded lab is basically unheard of, but it’s typical of the Foundation to be on the forefront of groundbreaking things like that.”

Founded in 1955 by parents desperate to save their kids’ lives, CFF remains an institution of impassioned parents. Overhead is kept low, fundraising margins are razor thin and donated dollars go toward research, patient assistance and patient care. Charity Navigator awards them 4 of 4 stars.

CFF was the first disease advocacy group to develop a network of health care centers dedicated to its cause. In the late 1990s, they were the first to delve into venture philanthropy – a business model that’s been studied by Harvard. Virtually every approved cystic fibrosis drug therapy available now was made possible because of the Foundation and its supporters.

“It’s kind of amazing this incredible foundation that benefits my child so much also has opportunities for me to plug in and invest emotionally and physically,” says Ginger.

A dollar is a big deal, five dollars is a huge deal. It’s really about the investment. As a parent, I can’t tell you what it does for us emotionally that anyone would drop anything in the bucket. It’s another reinforcement that we’re moving forward. If you’re moving forward you’re going somewhere.

More information on the Birnbaum's CFF fundraising team, Kenneth King's Believers

New Park Dedication November 12

image description

Just in time for Veteran’s Day, a Gold Star Memorial Marker and Blue Star Memorial Marker will be erected in the new park across from the Lookout Mountain Methodist Church. There will be a special dedication ceremony held November 12 at 11 pm.

In addition to the military markers, town officials will dedicate the new park to Joe Wilson, a long-time employee who passed away in August. All residents are encouraged to attend this special event. Parking is available at Fairyland School and the Methodist Church. Please arrive before 10:30, as the streets will close at that time.

If you are a Lookout Mountain resident in GA or TN who served, is serving or will serve in the military, please contact Georgia’s City Hall at 706-820-1586 to provide your name, branch of service, and war in which you served. If you have a loved one who was killed in the line of duty, please call with the same information so that all local veterans can be honored in the service.

Started by the National Council of State Garden Clubs in 1944, the Blue Star Memorial Program was inspired by the Service Flags people hung during World Wars I and II. White with a red border, the flags had a single blue star to symbolize a loved one serving in the military, and a gold star for those who had lost their lives in battle.

It began with the planting of 8,000 Dogwood trees along a New Jersey highway, and has morphed into the trademark plaques seen along thousands of highway miles in the continental US, Alaska and Hawaii. Local garden clubs order the signs from the National Garden Club and commit to maintaining landscaping in the area. Lookout Mountain’s most recent markers were spearheaded by Candace Chazen and Lynn Hartman of the Lookout Mountain Beautiful Garden Club (LMBGC).

The markers are a meaningful addition to the new park, situated on the corner of Lula Lake and Red Riding Hood Roads. The city aims to link it to the park already developed across the street, which features a gazebo and sidewalk winding through daylilies and hydrangeas – also maintained by the LMBGC.

The additional greenspace has been years in the making, starting in 2014 with the purchase of the property from the Methodist Church. The small brown house on site once served as the church’s parsonage but had turned into a rental property many years prior.

The church graciously took the property off the market, allowing the city several months to raise the funds needed to buy the lot and demo the house. Town officials have been working with landscape designer Sam Baker for a master plan, but planting has been delayed because of the drought.

Fill the Boot! at Cafe on the Corner

image description

Tonight is Halloween. But before you brave the goblins on your candy crusade, think about something truly frightening – Lookout Mountain Georgia’s volunteer fire department is operating without optimal equipment.

They told me they get ‘resourceful,’ which means they buy things second hand – sometimes even out of their pockets,” explains Ruth Oehmig, owner of Café on the Corner. “I know we don’t live in downtown Manhattan where there are fires all the time, but I’m telling you we are messing with odds.

That is why she will be hosting her second “Fill the Boot!” party this Thursday, November 3. Complimentary hot dogs, hamburgers and chili will be available on the patio with a cash bar inside. Bring plenty of extra cash (or a check) to make a donation to the brave men who get up in the middle of the night to keep our mountain safe.

Just like most causes in our community, this isn’t a GA vs. TN issue. While the Tennessee department won’t be directly impacted, they rely heavily on Georgia’s firefighters every time there’s a significant fire event – much like the blaze that leveled Oehmig’s restaurant in 2014.

She hopes this year will be as well attended as last, which welcomed several hundred people to her newly re-opened restaurant.

Two Lookout Mountain Girls Enjoy Sweet Success

image description

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or in Miller Bostrom’s case – apple pie butter.

Over the summer the enterprising 6-year-old wanted to earn money like her big sister, Tilly, who had just started babysitting as a “mother’s helper.” Miller’s first thought was a lemonade stand, but with only 3 families in the neighborhood she realized sales would be limited. Then one day, she found an apple tree at church.

She picked up the hem of her dress and filled it with as many apples as she could carry,” recalls her mom, Katie. “They weren’t ripe enough for her dad’s famous grilled apple pie, so we helped her make apple butter.

The next Sunday, Miller collected more apples and asked to make more apple butter. She started selling it to her grandmothers, friends and close relatives. Before long, big sister Tilly joined the venture, and the girls spent all summer developing and perfecting their recipe.

“They really are two amazing entrepreneurs,” says Café on the Corner Owner Ruth Oehmig.

She helped the girls launch their product October 2 with a special brunch, featuring the apple pie butter on house-made waffles and biscuits. Since then it’s become a mainstay on her weekly brunch menu, with jars for sale at the front.

We’re so grateful for the love, excitement, and support she’s shown our daughters,” says dad, Joel. “I don't know how far these two will go with this little venture but, as far as I'm concerned, it's a great education.

The girls do the majority of the work with help from their dad, a fellow entrepreneur. They bought all of their starting materials through a loan from their parents, which they’ve already paid back. A Covenant graphic design student was hired to develop the logo, but Tilly knew that she wanted an apple blossom on it. They named it Tilly Mae – a combination of their names.

While Joel and Katie have always tried to teach their daughters how to be good stewards of money, the blossoming business has given them lots of opportunities to discuss finances. The girls are encouraged to divide profits between savings, tithing and spending.

“It’s been amazing how they’ve grasped the concepts at such early ages,” says Katie.

The girls will continue to sell it at Café on the Corner, with plans to market the half-pint size for stocking stuffers. While apple butter may be best known for biscuits, Katie suggests a spoonful over oatmeal, or warming and drizzling over vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.

Tilly Mae has recently started accepting pre-orders, with product selling out before it’s even made...proving you're never too young for sweet success.

To place an order, email tillymaeapplepiebutter@gmail.com

Fall Fun on Lookout Mountain

image description

Trick Or Treating in Fairyland
If Norman Rockwell painted Halloween, it would be trick or treating on Lookout Mountain. Festivities will be held on the actual day – Monday, October 31 – with the Great Pumpkin ramping up around sundown. (Our condolences to all teachers on Tuesday).

Rocktoberfest
Holy weinerschnitzel; it’s Roctoberfest again at Rock City! From now until the end of the month, Rock City will transform into a Bavarian wonderland with live German music, dancing and dishes like beer cheese soup and bratwursts. You can interact with characters like Ik the Troll King or Rocky the Elf, catch the popular Birds of Prey show, or take a guided heritage tour to learn more about Rock City’s founder Frieda Utermoehlen Carter and her beloved fairytales and folklore. Kids can get a stamp in their passport (handed out at the door) as they visit different areas of the park, as well as visit a balloon artist and mime. The best part? It’s all FREE if you have a Rock City residents pass. Birds of Prey shows take place 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Heritage tour is at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. or 3 p.m. More details here

Enchanted Corn Maize
Corny family fun awaits at the foot of Lookout, now until October 30. You can pet an alpaca, ride a cow train, take an old fashioned hayride, or fling corn in a slingshot. And that’s all before you get lost in the famous Enchanted MAiZE. Some new additions this year include pedal car racing, duck races and a corn text game to help you find your way through the maze. Open Fridays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ($10 admission; 3 and under FREE). More details here

Haunted Caverns
Voted one of the top 10 haunted houses in the country by Rand McNalley, Ruby Fall’s Haunted Cavern boasts that it takes you 26 stories underground where “no one can hear you scream.” The experience takes place both inside and out of the cave, with the parking lot being transformed into a dilapidated village with zombies and ghouls lurking behind every corner. An elaborate back story – like this year’s “Flesh Farm” – is created each year in hopes of transporting you into your very own horror flick (popcorn not included). More details here

Blessing of the Costumes at The Church of the Good Shepherd
Grab your goblins and head to Good Shepherd’s annual Blessing of the Costumes, a fun addition to their usual 10:30 a.m. service on October 30. (You may never have an easier time getting your kids ready for church.) Meet at the main entrance beforehand so they can process down the aisle in their Halloween finery. They can then depart for their age-appropriate children’s programs (nursery available under 2), only to return at the Peace for the blessing. For more details, contact Kathleen Crevasse at kathleen@gslookout.com.

Oktoberfest at Our Lady of the Mount
Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church is holding their annual Oktoberfest. Expect German food, bier and lots of pumpkin-themed family fun. Festivities will be held this Sunday, October 23 from 5 until 8 p.m. with dinner at 6:30. All ages welcome. More details here

Halloween at Lookout with Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding
Apparently flying off cliffs isn’t the only thing hang gliders like to do. Described as Lookout’s “biggest party all year,” Halloween at Lookout will feature a costume contest, deadly dance party with DJ Min-O-Tar, Lupi’s Pizza and “hellish hors d’oeuvres.” The party kicks off at 7 p.m. on October 29 at their Landing Zone clubhouse. It’s $10 to enter but top costume will earn you $500, with second and third taking home $250 and $100. More details here

Paddling by Moonlight at Lookout Creek
A perfectly natural way to kick off Halloween weekend? A canoe trip in the dark! Join naturalist Corey Hagen for an after-hours trip down Lookout Creek. Animals often seen on these trips include bats, beavers, roosting turkey and barred owls. (No werewolf sightings to date). The cost is $15 for adults, $7 for children, but members are only $5 per adult with children free of charge. More details here

5 Points 50 This Weekend

image description

5 Points 50 Bike Race
October 15, 2016
9:00 a.m.
More info: http://www.roostracingllc.com

Tab Tollett has negotiated live train trestles over alligator-ridden rivers, summited volcanos and slogged dozens miles through sand all in the name of mountain biking. Twice. And that was just one race – Costa Rica’s La Ruta de Los Conquistador.

As one of just twelve Moots Titanium Bicycle sponsored cyclists in the country, he’s participated in some of the toughest mountain bike races in the world. This weekend he’ll be tackling Lookout Mountain’s 5 Points 50, which he says can hold its own in the world of endurance mountain bike races.

Shorter doesn’t translate to easier,” he laughs. “I love the 5 Points race. Our mountain provides world class single track, a variety of terrain and of course epic views!

The fact that he considers a 50-mile race “short” gives you an idea of Tollett’s commitment to the sport. The 51-year-old real estate appraiser started cycling about 20 years ago, but left the blacktop for mountain biking 9 years ago and hasn’t looked back.

His addiction started with Colorado’s Leadville 100, which he trained for with his neighbor and fellow mountain biker Brad Cobb. He’s tackled it twice since then on a single speed bike (his favorite way to race). If that doesn’t prove his insanity, then his participation in the Breck Epic might, which is a 6-day stage race in Breckinridge that involves 240 miles at 12,000-plus elevation and 40,000 feet of vertical gain (and loss).

The best thing about a long endurance race is crossing the finishing line,” he says. “It's such a great feeling to accomplish a multi hour race. It's not so much about winning or even beating your age group peer – it's about challenging yourself. And of course the beer.

Most of his monthly races take place closer to home, such as the Cohutta 100 near the Ocoee, the Fools Gold 60 miler in GA, or the Shenandoah Mountain 100 miler in VA. And Tollett has never missed the 5 Points 50, which is a chance to race some of the same trails he trains on about 6 days a week.

Billed as Chattanooga’s ultimate endurance mountain bike race, 5 Points 50 takes loops racers through the celebrated 5 Points trail system, Lula Lake Land Trust’s core property, the Cloudland Connector Trail, and some of the best private trails in the Southeast.

It features a grueling roller coaster of single track with steep climbs, rooted downhills, rock gardens and smooth trails. As with any race, Mother Nature holds the ultimate trump card. Last year torrential rains in the fall made for a soggy day, and Tollett recalls crossing a stream in waist deep water holding his bike overhead in one hand, and a rope in the other so the current wouldn’t carry him downstream.

Now in its fourth year, 5 Points 50 is a local pioneer for mountain biking. While most outdoor sports have enjoyed signature events in Chattanooga for the past decade, a long distance mountain bike race proved elusive until the completion of the Cloudland Connector Trail, which connects Cloudland Canyon State Park to Lula Lake Land Trust.

Despite 30-plus miles of the CCT, race organizers still had to negotiate access with private landowners to connect key parts of the course. An opportunity to ride trails closed the other 364 days of the year is motivation enough for some, and the race attracts bikers from across the Southeast.

This year there will be a 25-mile option for those wanting a shorter ride. The 50-mile course features 5,000 feet of elevation gain, while the 25-mile features 2,700. The race is organized this year by Roost Racing, LLC, a newly formed entity by local racer Justin Mace.

Justin and his wife, Amy have taken over the organization of the 5 points 50 this year and will be producing other races nearby," says Tollett. "They are an amazing family and very generous to take on the challenges of putting on long races. Especially with two young children.

Roots and Wings Learning Conservatory Opens at Lookout Mountain School

image description

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings.”
- W. Hodding Carter II

Gardeners know that beautiful things come from hard work, patience and a little bit of luck. When Mayor Carol Mutter and LMS Principal Ruth White cut the ribbon for the new Roots and Wings Learning Conservatory this past Sunday, all of the above had come into play.

It all began when Chrisi Hopper and Candace Chazen, co-presidents of the Lookout Mountain Beautiful Garden Club approached LMS science teacher D'Arcy Hughes in the hall. Their 100-year-old club has a long history of community outreach and education, meeting annually with both schools for specific ways they can help.

I asked them if they wanted a big project or a little one,” Hughes says with a smile at Sunday’s dedication. “To my surprise, they said they liked the big project. They really took it and ran with it.

Her initial dream was for some raised beds and cold frames. Thanks to the excitement and dedication of LMBGC, that vision morphed into a fully functioning greenhouse and outdoor learning space.

Their generosity brought me to tears,” says Hughes. “Many of them never had children at this school, or their children are now grown. It’s really been incredible.

Outdoor education has been part of the LMS science curriculum for several years. The school’s outdoor pond has been used for things like studying water and soil samples, leaf pressing, and collecting insect casings. In the small garden spaces, Hughes’ classes have studied the life cycles of plants by growing pumpkins, tomatoes, watermelons and lima beans – some of which went to the school’s cafeteria.

Until now this work has been weather dependent. Now, thanks to bleacher seats in the nearly 400-square-foot building, Hughes plans on conducting entire classes in the space. On pretty days she hopes to spend all day in the greenhouse, with teachers taking students to and from the main building.

Taking one year to construct, the project hasn’t been without challenges. There were construction delays thanks to prolonged winter rains, which dumped six to seven inches several months in a row. The original design had to be completely scrapped when organizers realized the original location wouldn’t work.

It’s been a labor of love,” says White. “What started out small has become something huge. The power is its going to be important for generations to come.

Good fortune also played a part. The day they announced the project in garden club, past president Valerie Tipps came home to see her neighbors were replacing all of their windows. She rescued them from a fate at the dump, and Chazen volunteered to have them stacked in her driveway for months until they could be installed. And while the relocation prolonged things, the greenhouse more than doubled in size thanks to the move.

Designed by Michael Bridges of SURfACE Architecture and built by Larry McGill of Black Creek Builders, everything in the cedar shingled building is geared toward conservation. In fact, the building will operate without electricity or running water.

The slanted roof funnels rainwater into a 600-gallon cistern, which connects to a gravity-fed spigot inside that will water plants. On the west side of the building a cinderblock wall acts as a thermal mass, absorbing heat during the day then releasing it at night.

On the south side, a polycarbonate plastic wall fills the greenhouse with soft light – perfectly angled to capture direct sun in the winter, yet deflect the worst of the high summer sun. The recycled glass windows are strategically placed to create cross ventilation, while top-of-the-line spray foam insulation in the roof will maximize energy efficiency.

“When we were working in there this summer, the breezes swept right through the building keeping it really pleasant,” recalls Chazen.

Future plans for the space include launching a junior Master Gardeners program with help from the LMBGC. During class, students will learn about worm composting, and transplant seedlings into existing garden spaces. Any vegetable harvests will be used in the cafeteria, but ultimately Hughes and White see this unfolding organically, with the kids having input.

My goal is to help the students see tangible results of their work, and to use horticulture as a springboard to conservation activities for the rest of their lives,” says Hughes. “I want them to catch the bug early, and change the way they think of this landlocked property they call their school.

The name – Roots and Wings – was a tribute to long-time LMS philosophy. When the kindergarten wing was built, a butterfly sculpture was commissioned for the pond in front of the school as tribute to former Principal Paula Gossett, who often referenced the quote. The greenhouse now extends the roots and wings concept to the back of the school in a very tangible way.

Our children have strong roots from this school, we’re in the top 5 percent of schools in the state,” says Chazen. “We all want to launch our children to soar, and to do that takes the whole community. We’re honored to play a part.

Floating Aquaponics Greenhouse Planned for Fairyland Elementary

image description

Three years ago, Fairyland Elementary School was challenged to go where no school has gone before. And when the project is done, it will look like something straight out of a sci-fi novel.

The idea was for the first-known floating aquaponics greenhouse, pitched by HATponics CEO Ryan Cox and John Parker, formerly with Walker County School’s central office. The project immediately appealed to FES Principal Jeremy Roerdink, who is always interested in creating more STEAM opportunities for his students.

"While we’re ranked in the top 6 percent of all public elementary schools in GA, we can’t become complacent,” he says. “I’m always looking to improve, and STEAM was an area we needed to improve in."

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math. Nationwide there’s a push to expose more students to these fundamentals to help supply the projected 9 million STEAM jobs available by 2020. For Walker County, that has translated into numerous agriculturally related projects, including aquaponics.

What it boils down to is innovation,” says Roerdink. “We want to give kids a learning space to create, but more importantly to fail. Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb on the 1,000th try. Doing research means being allowed to fail.

Students will not only help grow organic strawberries and tomatoes they will also market and sell them locally, with proceeds going toward raising awareness of hunger. Every step of the way, students will be learning classroom fundamentals in very real-world scenarios.

They will use science to determine ideal growing conditions and troubleshoot problems such as fluctuating pH levels in the water. Art will be incorporated when creating branding materials and students will apply math and analytical thinking skills as they develop a business plan. They’ll also learn about philanthropy as they decide exactly what to do with the money they earn from sales.

We want the kids to make these important decisions,” says Roerdink. “It’s about getting them out of the classroom and helping them see the bigger picture.

The greenhouse will feature a domed top, with four holding tanks in the bottom for fish and tiered growing pots above. Water is cycled throughout, with the fish waste fertilizing the plants, and the plant roots filtering the water before it returns to the tanks below. The entire system is enclosed and self-sustaining.

The dome is being built by Pacific Dome Company, who contracts with such companies as NASA and NorthFace. According to the company website, their domes are the “strongest structure known to man” and can withstand winds up to 280 miles per hour. They’re equally sophisticated; featuring climate controls such as solar heat in the winter and solar-powered fans with windows that automatically open in the summer. There will be cameras installed throughout, so students can keep an eye on things from the classroom.

The greenhouse will not completely change the area. The floating dock, built by local company Dr. Dock, will feature external platforms so students can still fish in the pond. A landscaping plan has also been developed to alleviate any residents’ concerns over the aesthetics of the structure.

All of this innovation comes with a hefty price tag. The total bill stands at $150,000 - $75,000 for the dock, $35,000 for the greenhouse and $40,000 for technology and supplies. To date, FES has raised $40,000 from their Music on the Mountain event, a recent “Driven to Give” fundraiser and numerous private and public donors.

They’ve also posted the project to Crowdrise.com, the world’s #1 fundraising site, and will launch a brick campaign next month. Roerdink is exploring the possibility of a matching campaign, and a parent is helping write applications for numerous grants. They will also be reaching out to potential local benefactors with one-to-one donor presentations.

Once built, the greenhouse will be completely “staffed” by current teachers and students. Teacher “champions” so far include Ms. Catanzaro (2nd grade) and Ms. Giddens (5th grade). Ridgeland High School, who launched their aquaponics program in 2012, will also help train teachers as the program gets up and running.

At first it will be baby steps; maybe a couple of lessons a month,” says Roerdink. “Ultimately we might open it to the community for other schools or home schoolers. It will be a really unique space and something that should be offered to all kids – it’s that cool.

Fairyland Elementary plans to break ground in March 2017, with a fundraising goal of $60,000 for Phase 1 (the dock). For more information, visit Crowdrise

Community calendar