Home Outdoor education Keep Charlotte Beautiful micro-grants help students learn environmental stewardship

Keep Charlotte Beautiful micro-grants help students learn environmental stewardship


Keep Charlotte Beautiful micro-grants help students learn environmental stewardship

This spring, Keep Charlotte Beautiful awarded $ 500 Beautification Micro-Grants to 12 different projects focused on waste prevention, waste reduction and recycling, community beautification and greening.

Four of these grants went to different schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg to help educate students on these key tenants of environmental responsibility. Read on to see how each school is using their grant to help students clean up, beautify their schools, and become environmental stewards for their communities.

Chantilly Montessori Primary School
Chantilly Montessori Primary School is adjacent to the Chantilly Ecological Sanctuary, a refuge of wetlands and ponds that attract birds, deer and other wildlife. Students, teachers and community members benefit from this natural space. After storms, however, the banks of the ponds are often covered in trash, littered with trash that drains downstream, so the PTO at Chantilly Montessori Primary School decided to do something about it.

This spring, the PTO used a Keep Charlotte Beautiful micro-grant to purchase garbage collectors, gloves and garbage bags for students to use when picking up garbage in the area. Outdoor learning is a key part of Montessori education, and this effort will beautify the area, teach young people the value of ecological responsibility and community service, and expose students to local wildlife. The equipment will be maintained by the Chantilly power take-off for annual use.

Lauren Sawyers, PTO President of Chantilly Montessori Elementary School who applied for the grant, hopes to use this project and the school’s new garbage cleanup resources to spread this school-community learning into the wider community.

“Taking care of the planet is just as important as taking care of each other,” she said. “This [sanctuary] is a community asset; Hope this will be obvious to the kids as they strive to keep it looking good. ”

Northridge College
Over time, the yard at Northridge Middle School fell into disarray. The benches were rusty, the bushes and shrubs were overgrown, and no one could come out and access the space. “It was everywhere – it was like a jungle,” said Olivia Crocker, a media assistant who works with the school’s Makerspace. When the students started asking her why they couldn’t go, she realized the school should do something to clean up the space.

students planting flowers in a planter
Crocker used a Keep Charlotte Beautiful grant to beautify the yard. As a team, they cleaned up overgrown brush, added new plant material, bought umbrellas for tables, etc. At the end of the school year, students and teachers were regularly outside, having lunch, having fun and sometimes even organizing classes outside.

“Beautiful landscaping and clean facilities nudge students in the right direction by providing them with a wonderful space to work and grow. eight hours or more a day, ”Crocker said.

She is particularly excited about the opportunities the space offers to step outside of a traditional classroom. This encourages students to get more involved, including taking care of certain plants and the garden, she said. “When we engage in outdoor activities or tie them into Makerspace or their programs and content areas, kids are excited and want to keep coming back. “

“If researchers don’t know how to keep the space clean and take care of everything around the space, then we’re not doing our part. Therefore [this project] make sure we’re doing our part: how to take care of the space and learn more about gardening, sustainability and agriculture, ”she continued. It’s also a welcome space as the students physically walked into the building, who struggled to connect with each other. Crocker said the halls were quiet upon their return as new students struggled to connect in person after months of being virtual. Now, however, she regularly sees them together outside in the yard having fun. “In elementary school they go outside on the playground, but in middle school they don’t have that opportunity except the track,” she said. “It’s good to let them go out and have fun; they are young !

Montessori Route Park
Death is difficult for anyone to deal with, and it is especially difficult for children to understand. After Park Road Montessori teacher Sue Audino passed away in January 2020, her fellow teacher Heather Ruckterstuhl and others wanted to pay tribute to her and find a way to help students cope. As they mulled over ways to honor Sue, the team learned that several staff and students have passed away during the school’s 29-year history.

“As a community, we have suffered a lot of losses. There is a need to find a space to honor this loss and remember these people and share these stories. The importance and necessity of this, for everyone, seems to have increased [with the pandemic]. We have also suffered losses in our school due to COVID, ”said Rucktersthul. “I feel like we’re focusing on an emotional need that people have – to recognize this loss and talk about it.”

Park Road Montessori School will use a Keep Charlotte Beautiful grant to help build its Memorial Shrine, a 15-foot square pavilion with two swings facing each other. The shrine will be built at the front of the school, so that a passerby can look through the monument and directly see the classroom where Sue was teaching. Those in the school community and surrounding neighborhood can carve a name, encouraging word or memory onto a paving stone, which will help create a closer bond between the neighborhood and the school.

teachers in the hallway
This beautification project aims to provide peace, healing and sanctuary to those who are suffering the loss of a loved one. The space will offer the names of those who have been lost and create a space to share their stories and memories.

The project and its fundraising gave students the opportunity to better understand death. For example, students worked with their art teacher to paint their own river rock as a memorial, with the name of a loved one they lost, such as a relative or a pet. They learned what a memorial is, what it means and why it is important. The rocks currently border the site where the memorial will be built.

Ruckterstuhl wanted to include the children in this project so that they had an understanding and a connection, and so that everyone had their part. “I feel like we as a culture tend to avoid this subject of death, but it has been very present in our school,” she said. “[We’re] try to help children understand this: what it means, how it affects them. Doing it in a way that feels safe makes death a little less scary and is an important lesson for children to understand.

Statesville Road Elementary School
Nicole Hinnant, a first grade teacher at Statesville Road Elementary, remembered how much she loved exploring nature when she was young, and she wanted to give her students the chance to experience nature in the same way.

She received a beautification grant to create a garden so that students and neighbors can grow healthy fruits, vegetables and herbs for the community. The garden will also be used as an outdoor learning space, with tree stump seating and an outdoor whiteboard. In addition, she plans to organize monthly community cleanings to help keep the school and the surrounding community clean.

By creating a safe and attractive outdoor space, Hinnant believes more students will be spending time outdoors instead of looking at screens. She also hopes the garden inspires healthy eating in the home and brings community members together to create a sense of pride and camaraderie in the neighborhood. “By starting here at school, we can excite the children, which will hopefully excite their parents, and then all of their families will be excited to take care of what is ours,” he said. she declared.

In the garden, they are currently growing peppers, watermelons, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, tomatoes, planted carrots, squash, raspberries, rosemary and different types of flowers. Hinnant hopes to purchase stumps for the seats and river rocks that the students can paint for the space so that it can be ready when the students return to school in the fall. She also hopes that the monthly cleanings can begin at the start of the next school year.

“I really want the kids to invest in keeping the school nice and pretty,” she said. “If we can instill in them early on the importance of taking care of our community and keeping it clean, it will help everyone if the kids really care because they will be the ones who will. [in the future],” she said.