Orchard View Elementary School

Written by Candy Carson

Sponsored by: BallenIsles Charities Foundation   |   Date Established:  January 31, 2023   |   View Opening Day Photos

Sunny Florida was even sunnier at Orchard View Elementary School today because of a special event!  As one approached the front door of the school there were paw prints of their mascot, the panther, to lead you to the entrance.  Once guests checked in at the office, “safety panthers” escorted them outside where the entire student body was gathered, anxiously awaiting the program to celebrate the opening of a new Ben Carson Reading Room…the 267th reading room in the country!  Down the center of the audience, leading to the covered pavilion, was a red carpet edged with orange traffic cones like bright lights on a runway!

After her welcome, Principal Danielle Garcia opened the program saying what an amazing opportunity it is to have their own Ben Carson Reading Room!  At first, finding space was a challenge, as it is with most new initiatives. But it didn’t take long for things to fall into place! ‘River of Grass Everglades,’ with over 3,000 books, is a place where a kid can fall into a book and disappear for a while!  The students know they will help keep it clean and organized, and the committee has engaged “book partners” who will be donating more books annually! Principal Garcia has a rare relationship with the program.  This is the second school where a reading room has been installed where she was principal!  When she was principal at Coral Sunset Elementary in 2016, a reading room with an ocean theme was established.

The world premiere of the newly organized Orchard View Percussion Ensemble was next! Led by music teacher, Mr. Matthew Slaga, 25 students in black shirts with Latin egg shakers chanted in Portuguese a folk song entitled “La Samba”.  The words sounded like “PEA-suh   DAY   VAH-duh, DAY-suh, which means “The Dance of Music” in English.

The video of Dr. Carson would be sent by link to the individual teachers to show to their classes, since the wi-fi wasn’t cooperating for it to be screened outside…

***Mrs. Carson was called to the front and started with her usual joke about how no one has to be bored…. they have books!  Sharing facts about how powerful our brains are (things she has heard her husband say for years) and how each person can choose their own destiny by learning to read well by the end of 3rd grade.  The fact that from birth through 3rd grade children learn to read, and from 4th grade on, children read to learn is one of the reasons why most reading rooms are installed in elementary schools.

BallenIsles Charity Foundation President Mark Freeman then came forward to say how overwhelmingly supportive their organization composed of residents of BallenIsles is! This reading room is the 7th one donated by BallenIsles Charity Foundation! After introducing Ms. Judie Muntner, a member of the grants committee that was able to attend, shared a few quotes including, “The doors of the world are open to those who read!”  He ended by encouraging the students to develop a passion for reading because it is a springboard to success!  As a token of appreciation Principal Garcia presented him with a very tall orchid made of brown artwork paper…rolled up into a long cylinder and tied with a white ribbon decorated with panther paws!

The Literacy Club, mentored by Mrs. Montana, was represented by six 5th grade students, who in turn, told Dr. Carson’s story and the impact of his life.

The first spoke of the reading room and its purpose
The second – Who Dr. Carson really is
The third – Explained about the work Dr. Carson did at the hospital
The fourth – His mother Sonya’s amazing idea to turn off the tv and have him and his brother read
The fifth – How his reading changed his life and enabled him to pursue his dream of becoming a neurosurgeon
The sixth – How he credits his mother with his success

They continued with how he travels around the world sharing his story to help others and put in reading rooms all over the country. Then they read two poems about reading: “Read to Me” and “Open a Book”.

The Orchard View Percussion Ensemble, led again by Mr. Slaga returned to the front to share two more unique songs.  Using their hands as instruments, the student-musicians clapped interesting rhythms in unison, and patted their legs as well, for a contrasting softer percussive sound.  The pieces they performed were “Making Music at the View” and “The Zozo Brazilian Bird Song”.

Before Principal Garcia dismissed the students, she shared her motivating process of choosing which students would be the first to check out the new reading room with an essay contest!  So the 23 students who earned the unique opportunity to be the first to visit the new reading room

were excused from the assembly first, followed by guests and the remaining students.



Heading through the halls to the library and proceeding to the very back, there was a door with a circular sign “Welcome to our Everglades Ben Carson Reading Room”, with a royal blue ribbon tied on portable chrome posts in front of it.   With a countdown from 5 to 1, the ribbon was cut, and the room was finally open!  Most of the educators and students had not even had a peek at the 30- by 15-foot room, so now was their chance!

The overhead lights were left off so the twinkling lights on the structure inside the room would have more impact!  Oohs and ahhs filled the air as visitors entered, and once the first group was inside and the overhead lights came to life, there was one huge OOOOOOH!

The feeling of being in a lush, densely populated grassland or forest emanated from the elaborate murals covering the walls, painted by art teacher, Mrs. Sima. With Spanish moss reaching down from the ceiling and a grass-like carpet almost completely covering the floor, one feels embraced by nature!  Two of the walls are completely packed with bins full of books.  The lower 2 levels of bins are blue representing water for those who thirst for knowledge, the next level up they are green, for the waterlilies and other plants that live on top of the water…plants providing “food for thought”….and the top level bins are tan and pale green, representing the taller, lighter-colored plants of the Everglades, lighter “food for thought”…

The crowning feature of the room is the Everglades shack!  The tree-house-like structure, with large cushions inside, softening the base, has huge drawers underneath with more standard-sized seat pillows.  Accessed by a set of wooden steps, this haven is a comfy nook in which to travel in a book!   And like the authentic shacks in the wild, this one has an area of the roof open so one can view the stars at night!  Lights in the shapes of stars and moons shine on the shack and above it, while a watchful owl oversees all activities from the roof…

The grassy carpet has several choices of places for kids to perch to peruse their perennials or other adventure choices including beanbag chairs, stuffed ottomans, and wood topped tables with a forest of branches for legs!

Special thanks go to:

BallenIsles Charities Foundation
Principal Danielle Garcia
Ben Carson Reading Room Committee Members


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