Captain Planet Foundation, Atlanta, GA

Thanks to the Keep America Beautiful & Lowe’s Community Grant Program, The Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) successfully installed the Captain Planet Learning Gardens (CPLG) Program in 8 Ventura County elementary schools, impacting a grand total of 7,425 students!

CPF provided the schools with all necessary Learning Garden Tools to launch the program, including garden installation, interpretive garden signs for self-guided learning, garden-based lesson plans tied to standards (three lessons per grade K-5), lesson supply kits for each lesson, supplies needed to teach lessons outdoors, a mobile cooking cart, 2-day professional development/teacher training workshop, a plan for summer garden maintenance and a ‘Sustainability Toolkit.’

By participating in this program, students came away with a better understanding of their everyday connections to nature, a deeper understanding of food origins, and a heightened interest in fresh foods. When CPF chose Ventura County as a location to host a California Pilot of the CPLG Program, we wanted to:

- Increase the visibility and awareness of Keep America Beautiful within a county where there is currently no KAB affiliate
- Help children in this underserved county make the connection between the food they eat daily and the agricultural basin in which they live.

Through this program, students learned core subjects in the context of a garden, were able to taste and consume fresh fruits and vegetables directly from the garden, and participate in cooking demonstrations facilitated by the mobile cooking cart. Teachers reported that students were extremely receptive to trying new fruits and vegetables and were eager to spend more time in the garden!

Through a series of surveys we collected, we learned that even the teachers benefited a great deal as well! Many of our target educators felt inspired and engaged, felt that the professional development workshop hosted by CPF was one of the best they’ve attended, and in some cases, teachers began to write their own garden based lessons beyond those included with the Program.

Thank you Keep America Beautiful & Lowe’s for allowing CPF to bring our successful Learning Gardens Program to California! We hope to work with you again soon!

Keep Clinton, MS Beautiful – Clinton, MS

In 2013, Keep Clinton, MS Beautiful received a grant from Keep Mississippi Beautiful and Waste Management Inc. The grant enabled us to construct a Community Garden located at the Clinton Community Christian Corporation. This garden will provide fresh vegetables for low to moderate income residents. It will also aid in the education of the value of fresh vegetables and good health. In a state with a significantly high obesity rate, this garden underscores the importance of healthy lifestyle and food choices. The garden will create an environment by which obesity and hunger are combatted through community partnerships and healthy lifestyles. Classes and cooking demonstrations will continue in coordination with the ongoing maintenance of the garden. The garden is a significant investment in the future of our communities’ ability to meet the needs of our residents while also providing a transformative experience for the children and families benefitting from the garden.

Keep Sevier Beautiful, TN

As part of our Good Earth Community Gardens, Keep Sevier Beautiful offered free public education gardening classes throughout the year. The classes covered topics from plants, bulb & seed selection; composting; winter gardening; pest and weed management and ended with a lesson on a live demonstration of farm to table.

To offer the Farm to Table Class, KSB partnered with the Walters State Community College. Chef Joe Cairns, shared valuable tips on how to prepare fresh vegetables from gardens. Throughout the presentation, Chef Joe made Rosemary Lemonade, Agua Fresca, Roasted Corn Salsa, Grilled Vegetable Salad and Watermelon Arugula Feta Cheese Salad for the crowd to sample and see how quickly a full meal can be prepared fresh from your garden!

All the classes throughout the year in addition to the community gardens were funded through a partnership with Lowe’s. Not only did they fund the gardens and the classes, but Lowe’s Heroes help build the garden beds!

Dow Volunteers Help Transform a Playground with Keep Houston Beautiful

In March, 195 young professionals from Dow’s Propel to Excel learning and talent development program transformed a small playground at Gabriela Mistral Early Childhood Education Center in Houston, Texas, into a nature-based outdoor learning center. Community service is a key component of Propel to Excel, which introduces new manufacturing and engineering employees to the Dow culture. The project at Gabriela Mistral Early Childhood Education Center was the perfect way to engage participants in a valuable community project.

Dow volunteers painted a mural, planted trees, and built benches, tables, planters, as well as a puppet theatre. Educators at the school are using the new space to give students a hands-on approach to learning about nature. The event was conducted in partnership with Keep Houston Beautiful, as part of the Great American Cleanup.

As a part of the company’s Contributing to Community Success initiatives, Dow has been a sponsor of the Great American Cleanup since 2008. Dow sites across the U.S. have been collaborating with local organizations and volunteers in cleanup, recycling, beautification, and education events to improve their communities and create a more sustainable future.

“Propel to Excel was thrilled to partner with Gabriel Mistral and Keep America Beautiful to help improve the children’s learning environment,” said Paul Mefford, Dow global operations learning and talent development leader. “This project is one example of how Dow is living out its citizenship commitment, by improving our communities and leaving a positive impact for years to come.”

During the 2014 Great American Cleanup, more than 1,000 Dow employees and their families and friends are expected to volunteer at upwards of 60 beautification events across the county.

Watch this short video to see how the Dow volunteers transformed the playground in a just a few hours.

Captain Planet Foundation, Atlanta GA

As a recipient of a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, the Captain Planet Foundation would like to thank KAB and Lowe’s for supporting the expansion of the Captain Planet Learning Gardens (CPLG) Program into Ventura County, Calif. elementary schools. The CPLG program is a comprehensive and innovative approach to the school garden concept that invites schools to consider their garden as an extension of the classroom. The school garden serves as a living laboratory that is embraced and utilized by the entire school community across multiple disciplines and school subjects.

The CPLG program aims to address the high obesity and low nutrition rates among under-served children, while helping them to develop a connection to nature and a sense of place in their communities. School gardens have been proven to build an ethic in students (and often times their families) for environmental stewardship — leading to a deeper understanding of the natural world and creating a desire to implement beautification efforts at school and around their communities. The CPLG program ensures that every student has an opportunity to increase their time outdoors while learning about and tasting fresh fruits and vegetables each month during the school year — building an appreciation and palate for healthy food options.

To KAB and Lowe’s — we deeply appreciate your dedication to our mission of building an educated generation of eco-visionaries and environmental change-makers. As Captain Planet says, “The Power is yours!”

Keep Brunswick County Beautiful, Bolivia, NC

This Keep Brunswick County Beautiful project has transformed a ¾-acre, partially fenced-in rough field area in an undeserved geographical area into a fully supplied community garden that is aesthetically pleasing.

The garden area includes: 30 raised beds, including six that are potentially wheel-chair accessible; a garden shed with gutters and two rain barrels; a composting area; two picnic tables; a bench; four water hydrants for water accessibility; and an outdoor enclosed bulletin board. Some key points of interest include two keyhole beds that are especially low on water consumption and are great educational tools for sustainability; a shed that includes individual storage bins for gardeners that can also function as a communication tool; dry-erase boards inside the shed doors also for communication; and compost bins made from recycled pallets. We also landscaped the outside perimeter of the fence.

The project was funded by a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, with many different organizations, local contractors, and individual volunteers participating in the physical construction of the garden. We hope that our project will aid local residents in areas of community pride, healthy nutrition, movement for healthy lifestyles, supplying local food pantries with fresh produce, and social interaction and integrative activities.

The community has been extremely positive about the project. People have personally told us that they used to “just not drive in that area.” Now they do so purposefully, just to look at the garden. One person said it makes her feel happy when she drives by. When we are working in the garden, an increasing number of people just stop by to chat or ask questions or request information. It is extremely rewarding. I have also seen neighboring properties taking more pride in the appearance of their yards and homes.

Orange County Coastkeeper, Costa Mesa, CA

Thanks to a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, Orange County Coastkeeper opened the Coastkeeper Garden, a demonstration garden featuring six native plant communities, drought-tolerant vegetation, and a natural playground. The grant helped us establish an active docent program, launch a series of free workshops, and complete construction on our natural playground. The garden sits on a parcel of land behind a community college that was previously vacant, untended and unused. The space is now flourishing and vibrant, helping to connect youth to the natural environment and inspiring local residents how to save water and reduce water pollution.

The natural playground, in particular, has been a positive and meaningful addition to the community, providing a unique venue for children to play and explore. We’ve had hundreds of young visitors come to enjoy the deer grass maze, willow tree tunnel, and log pathways. We’ve also hosted a number of events designed to promote nature connection and creativity, including adobe brick building, pumpkin painting, and for older kids, making succulent arrangements.

Our sustainable landscaping workshop series has had a great start. These hands-on workshops are offered free of charge, and inspire local residents to plan, design, and maintain their own drought-tolerant gardens. Our vision is that every visitor to the garden will carry away the message that water and energy conservation can be simple, cost-efficient, low-maintenance, and beautiful.

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.