GET (Green Explorer Trails) Outdoors in Houston, TX
We were thrilled to find out that Lantrip Elementary and Lantrip Blooms (our parent support group) was awarded a $20,000 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant. We were the only elementary school out of the entire list of grant recipients. We felt honored and overwhelmed at the task that lay ahead!
Our aim was to engage students and adults in outdoor activities by having many visible and intriguing outdoor projects. We wanted to bring nature into an urban area. Our greatest success is that the Lantrip campus has been entirely transformed. The mulch trails and decomposed granite paths we created help to clearly define the space and better frame its features. Huge cypress trees that were barely noticed now stand out and line the pathway. The path is about one-quarter of a mile; they’re used almost daily because our students participate in Marathon Kids (they complete 26 miles over the course of six months). The 12 raised garden beds are symmetrically placed in a grid and sit on top of a decomposed granite pad that also serves as a new outdoor classroom. We now have two areas of outdoor seating with picnic benches. Our goal is to line the pathways with interactive learning stations where the children can explore various aspects of environmental science and connect to the outdoors with more information through signage and QR codes.
Our project generated enthusiasm and engaged more parents at Lantrip than ever before. Historically, the PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) had been largely dysfunctional and had alienated parents. The GET Outdoors project demonstrated to parents that our parent support group had changed, and being awarded this grant clearly signaled this to the entire school. Even more than that, the successful implementation of this grant had generated enthusiasm in nearby schools and created enthusiasm far beyond the Lantrip community. Many partners participated in the implementation of this grant including: the USDA Forest Service, The Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands of Texas, The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, Texas A&M Forest Service and Agrilife. Our newest partner, the Lowe’s Heroes, volunteered in rain and mud; their contribution to this project was indispensable.
There remain several small tasks to complete, but the overall vision of this project was actualized. The buzz this project created locally was likened to the momentum of a runaway train, by Houston Independent School District Board Member Juliet Stipeche. She also mentioned that this project was unlike anything in recent memory. This project has brought together the entire community and encouraged other area schools to try their hand at grant writing and to participate in ongoing “green” efforts. Additionally, our school and several other East End schools are being tested as a pilot model for the USDA Forest Service GreenSchools! to create a Greenbelt of participating area schools. The KAB/Lowe’s grant facilitated the progression of all these projects.