Oscar Patterson students to build city of their own - By CHRIS SEGAL / News Herald Writer
PANAMA CITY — Excitement rang on the faces of a handful of Oscar Patterson Elementary fifth-graders Wednesday exiting a school bus for their morning fieldtrip. The students took a walking tour of the historic St. Andrews waterfront to observe environmentally friendly development. The trip is part of a unit for Debbie Gary's class in which the students are learning about watershed, estuaries and sustainable development. The tour, led by volunteers from the community group Friends of St. Andrew Bay, showed students the benefits of placing housing, restaurants, business and schools close together within a community. The students will take the knowledge that they learned and build their own "box city" Monday.
"[The students] can see all the things we need to have in our town," said volunteer Christian Wagley, about the St. Andrew waterfront. Wagley is a member of Friends of St. Andrew Bay and is also a consultant on sustainable development. The "box city" came as an $80 unit that was donated with help from the Friends of St. Andrew Bay. The students will design and paint cardboard structures. They will then decide how they want to design their city.
The first stop on Wednesday's tour was to the Harbor Village Condominiums. The complex uses a parking structure that captures water runoff in holding tanks and then uses that water for its rooftop garden. On the tour, volunteers emphasized to students the importance of mixed-use development and place most things that community members would need in their daily lives within walking distance. "If we had a community that we could walk in we would save gas money," said 12-year-old Chelsea Harville. When people live within walking or biking distance of their daily activities the use of cars is decreased as are large cement parking lots that can prevent water from being absorbed into the ground, said Wagley. The waterfront also uses "natural buffers" a space between the town and the water that helps with watershed. "When we build our town on Monday we will need to think about adding natural buffers," Wagley said. "We can also make them public spaces open to the public." The students decided that will include a hospital, gas station, grocery store, houses, parks and schools in their city.