Keep Charleston Beautiful, Charleston, South Carolina

The Green Heart Project is a community-based volunteer organization that integrates school farms as outdoor classrooms in an effort to teach students the virtues of hard work, respect and success and reiterate classroom curriculum while connecting students and volunteers to fresh, healthy, locally-grown produce. The City of Charleston’s Keep Charleston Beautiful is dedicated to promoting a cleaner more beautiful Charleston through education, awareness, and community involvement. In 2013, these two groups came together through a Lowe’s grant to improve a school based garden in the heart of Downtown Charleston.
The Green Heart Project was founded in 2009 with its pilot garden built with students and volunteers at Mitchell Elementary School in downtown Charleston. Over the past 5 years, the garden has grown from 5 small raised beds in the schoolyard to encompass over 12,000 ft of garden space, including a 5,500 ft vegetable garden, a native species and herb garden, and a 35 tree fruit orchard including citrus, papaya, figs, pomegranate and blueberries. The garden is utilized by the entire school as outdoor learning laboratory where students, alongside volunteer mentors, partake in every part of the growing cycle, from seed, to harvest, to tasting!
Although the entire garden functions as a an outdoor learning space, one component has been on the wish list for many years, an outdoor classroom – a covered place for our students, teachers and volunteers to gather to discuss the concepts taught between the vegetable rows. Working in conjunction with the Keep Charleston Beautiful, an affiliate of KAB, the Green Heart Project was able to secure funding and volunteers through a Lowe’s Charitable & Education Foundation grant to build and install not only a beautiful outdoor classroom complete with benches and tables, but also a 1500 gallon cistern to harvest all of the rain captured on the roof. The rain-water harvesting system will not only function to help irrigate the surrounding garden beds, but will be a lesson in and of itself teaching sustainable gardening practices and touch on the importance of sustainability in the times of today. Even though the community volunteer day landed on one of the coldest and windiest days this year, a small group of dedicated, hard working volunteers came out to help. Though they could not feel their fingers or faces, a lot of progress was made and the outdoor garden classroom began to take shape.
Our Farm-to-School program at Mitchell, students are ecstatic to begin using the outdoor classroom in the spring season of 2014 and are grateful for the partnership and volunteers at KAB and Lowe’s for their support and help in making our outdoor classroom a reality! Volunteers from Keep Charleston Beautiful and local Lowe’s stores are invited to continue working with the Green Heart team and the school garden throughout the year. This is an ongoing, ever growing, project that brings the students and community together.

Keep Andersen County Beautiful, TN – Outdoor Classroom

New Outdoor Classroom Inspires Community

Keep Anderson County Beautiful (KACB) in Oak Ridge, Tenn., constructed two outdoor classrooms at elementary schools in rural, impoverished areas of the county, thanks to a Lowe’s/KAB Community Improvement Grant.

The outdoor classroom pavilions were placed next to wetlands so that both children and adults could learn and discover more about wetland ecosystems. Through the project, KACB also developed 10 new community partnerships. One of the partners provided recommendations to altering the design of the outdoor classrooms, so that rain barrels could catch storm water runoff and the runoff could be being routed to the wetlands.

Keep Anderson County Beautiful Vice Chair Patricia Imperato explained that both ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the classrooms were very inspiring. Imperato wrote, “Seeing not only student and teacher participation and enthusiasm but also the many children’s parents who attended to celebrate these new additions to the school campuses. Many children related how happy they were to have an outdoor classroom because it was hard to study the wetlands when it was raining, which is an important climate event for a wetland.”

The classrooms provide a comfortable learning environment for more than 300 students as well as provide a meeting place for the community at-large. They will allow children from lower income families to have a safe outdoor public places to study and explore the importance of wetland ecosystems.