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 Luna County Beautiful, Deming, NM

Keep Luna County Beautiful received a $5,000 grant from Lowe’s /KAB Community Improvement Grant. With the grant, Keep Luna County Beautiful was able to start an Outdoor Classroom in the community. The students were able to enjoy learning how to plant and care for a garden. Many of the students attended our cooking classes where they could learn how to use the produce they grew in very tasty meals. The students learned life skills that they could take back home and teach to their families. This has a major impact to our community due to our area being close to the border and many families have difficulty paying for fresh produce to feed their families. Thank you to Lowe’s and Keep America Beautiful for the opportunity to start this project in our community.

Keep America Beautiful, Stamford, CT

On Earth Day,  seven Keep America Beautiful employees volunteered at Julia A. Stark Elementary School in Stamford, CT, as part of the Great American Cleanup. KAB volunteers joined students, staff and parents to help landscape an outdoor classroom and outdoor learning environment. Volunteers participated in a number of activities including clearing a walking path, planting hostas and removing invasive Japanese Knotweeds. Once the outdoor classroom is complete, the students at Stark Elementary will have a place to apply their studies and connect with the environment.