It was supposed to be a small outdoor learning opportunity for students.
But by the time States Wing finished, the 15,000-square-foot Sharon DIGS had changed the way the elementary school’s students are learning.
Principal Amy Bartlett said the DIGS, short for Discover. Inspire. Grow. Succeed, is a “state-of-the-art outdoor learning environment to foster thinking, reflecting, questioning and engagement at the highest levels.”
So it came as no surprise to Bartlett when Wing was recently named one of six recipients of the 2013 Georgia Parent Leadership Award from the Georgia PTA and state School Superintendent John Barge.
“States has been at our school day after day, planning, building and creating our new learning environment,” Bartlett wrote in her nomination letter. “He has inspired our teachers and students and created an environment for thousands of students to learn in for years to come.”
But Wing had no idea Bartlett had nominated him.
“It’s humbling,” he said. “There are so many people that worked on this project together to make it happen. I feel like they deserve a lot of the recognition as well. Any one of about 10 people deserved this award and I was surprised I got it.”
Wing, whose wife Kerensa is a Gwinnett County high school principal, has an eighth-grade son and a daughter in third grade at Sharon Elementary. He said he was inspired by his children, but also the close-knit Sharon community.
“The parental involvement at Sharon, I’ve just never witnessed the level of participation the community has in this school,” he said. “It’s actually impossible to walk away from a situation like that because you actually get to see your help is making a difference and everyone is out there working for the same goals.”
Wing admits he had a bit of an edge with the DIGS project. As the owner of a landscaping construction company, he had access to all the resources needed to create it, from industry contacts to equipment.
The result has been a classroom complete with a western red cedar pergola, a picnic area, plants and a learning trail that winds through the courtyard with hundreds of animal footprints.
There’s a weather station, red oak stump so students can count the rings, stone amphitheater and boulders that hold water for butterflies and birds that visit the insect garden.
According to Bartlett, “States has created a learning environment in our school that thousands of students will be engaged in for many years to come.”
She went on to note that the school community was “elated” to learn that Wing had been honored.
During the reception to present the awards, Barge said parent engagement “helps create a better learning environment for our students.”
“I commend these parents for their leadership and involvement in the education and overall well-being of all the students in their child’s school and school district,” Barge said.