A gardening project that connects to academic skills and results in a dessert straight out of a novel of historical fiction has earned a Pink Hill Elementary School teacher a Windows of Opportunity grant from North Carolina Beautiful.
To the applause of her fourth grade class, teacher Brenda Griffin received a check Thursday for $889 from Steve Vacendak, executive director of NC Beautiful, and one of its board members, K.D. Kennedy.
NC Beautiful, through the Windows of Opportunity program, awards merit-based grants of up to $1,000 to K-12 teachers to conduct environmental projects at their schools. This year, about 35 winning grants chosen from 120 grant applications.
Griffin’s grant award will buy supplies to create a strawberry garden that her students will plant and tend. The strawberries will be used to fashion a version of “Eleanor’s Pink Clouds,” a strawberries-and-whipped-cream concoction featured in “Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride,” a novel about aviatrix Amelia Earhart and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Students will read the novel and learn about the recipe, according to Griffin, and will develop their writing skills by making journal entries to record their gardening experience, to collect and record data measurements from the garden and to describe the appearance of the plants.
“Increased student engagement and achievement are vital components of our school curriculum and School Improvement Plan,” Griffin wrote in the grant application. “This personal gardening experience will lead students to develop a greater appreciation for our farmers who work diligently to provide food for us everyday.”
NC Beautiful has been promoting projects to beautify the state for 51 years, according to Vacendak.
Kennedy, a financial supporter of the grant program through his business, Electric Supply Company of North Carolina, believes the benefits go beyond the cosmetic.
“The reason my company is interested in this is we live in eastern North Carolina and want to see all the children down here learn about how to beautify our state,” he told the fourth graders. “We think it’s a very positive thing to do. It helps all of us think good thoughts, rather than bad thoughts about our world.”
This is the third consecutive year a Pink Hill teacher has won the grant and the second award for Griffin in the three years. This is the sixth grant awarded her this school year.