Outdoor Classroom Targets Children

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Outdoor Classroom Targets Children

Categories: Blog, Newsworthy

Grants Give Underserved Children an Outdoor Experience Proven to Help in the Classroom

In 2009, officials at the Bank of America Foundation asked Powell Gardens to determine if there were needs to provide programming to children who attend schools serving low-to-moderate income (LMI) students.  To be considered LMI, a school must have more than 51 percent of its students on the free or reduced lunch program.  Powell Gardens identified eight such schools with which we have relationships.

Officials at Bank of America agreed a grant would cover the actual cost of putting a child through the program, not just the $10 admission that is typically charged.

The result, a grant in the amount of $10,000, provided programming to 215 children.  An additional grant from the RLS Illumination Fund in the amount of $5,000 made it possible to accommodate another 119 children for a total of 334 served in 2009.

Powell Gardens is grateful for this funding, and pleased that the schools targeted were able to provide transportation for the students.  All available slots were reserved within one week; more children would have been served if more funds had been available.

The numbers of children, their grades and the Kansas City, Mo., schools that sent them, September and October 2009:

  • 65 1st graders from Burke Elementary School
  • 96 4th Graders and 75 5th Graders from John T Hartman Elementary School
  • 98 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders from Swinney Elementary School

The children participated in a program called How Plants Grow where they learned why plants are vital to all life on Earth, what inputs plants need to grow, and the function of each part of a plant.  Each student experienced planting something in the Heartland Harvest Garden, harvesting something fresh from the ground, and tasting fresh fruits and vegetables in the garden.

A summary of evaluations provided by the students:

  • Did you learn something today you could do at home or at school?  Yes: 95%
  • Did you learn something at Powell Gardens you can teach a friend or family member?  Yes: 97%
  • Are you proud of the things you did at Powell Gardens?  Yes: 93%
  • Did you enjoy the field trip to Powell Gardens?  Yes: 97%

This is program is very important because research shows exposure to nature improves student achievement in the classroom.

“Hands-on environmental education is good for kids.  It’s good for their academic performance, their health, and for the future of our planet,” said Larry Schweiger, President of the National Wildlife Federation, from the Website www.nwf.org.

National Wildlife Federation research reports today’s children spend half as much time outside as children did 20 years ago and average 44.5 hours a week in front of some type of electronic entertainment.  In addition, recent studies confirm that children are increasingly disconnected from nature.  Furthermore, the research shows that kids who have a significant outdoor experience before age 11 are more likely to have a life-long conservation ethic.  (www.wwf.org)