The $2.3 million campaign to put up a permanent school building for 60 sixth-graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools will break ground in two ways next spring. Literally it will move turf for the LEED certified classroom building. Figuratively it makes history as the first public school in Grand Rapids to be paid for mostly by private funds.
The donors include $1.5 million from The Wege Foundation, $250,000 from GRPS Nutrition Services, $150,000 from the Steelcase Foundation, and $50,000 each from Bissell, Inc., and the Peter C. & Emajean Cook Foundation.
Since the 1970s, sixty GRPS students go to the Blandford School, named after the Blandford Nature Center next door, for their sixth-grade year. The expansive Nature Center is the outdoor classroom where they learn everything from botany to biology. The 60 students in two classes spend most of their time outside, including lunch, and complain when dangerously cold temperatures force them to stay indoors!
Blandford’s sixth-graders are known as BEEPS – Blandford Environmental Education Program. But they are also famous for the chicken each student gets to pick out in September and care for until school’s out in the spring. BEEPS use these chickens to practice Peter Wege’s vision of economicology by selling the eggs while protecting the environment in how they raise the hens. Economicology means balancing the economy with the ecology.