- Lenoir County Public Schools
Northeast going, growing green with $15,000 GO grant
Northeast Elementary School plans to go green and grow green after winning nearly $15,000 in a 2020 North Carolina Schools GO Outside Grant award.
The grant will provide the Kinston school with a greenhouse and raised-bed garden spaces that will promote the kinds of activities the GO grant encourages and add an outdoor hands-on component to classroom instruction, according to second-grade teacher Rubi Blancas Orduna, who wrote the grant application.
“Northeast Elementary received the news with joy,” Blancas said. “Taking the learning process outdoors is an exciting activity very welcomed by our students.”
The grant award, which totals $14,650 and includes basketfuls of gardening supplies, was presented to Blancas and Northeast principal Rashard Curmon on Monday by Rep. Chris Humphrey and Sen. Jim Perry, who represent Lenoir County in the General Assembly.
“These grants have been distributed all over North Carolina and we usually see smaller grants awarded,” Humphrey said. “For a Lenoir County teacher to get a grant for almost $15,000 is a big deal. We’re proud of her and her idea and the leadership here at the Northeast Elementary.”
The North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council created the Go grants in 2019 to help schools fund projects and learning spaces that get students outdoors and involved in hands-on activities, according to the council’s website.
Blancas expects the gardening complex will be an asset for all of the 500-plus students at Northeast and offer educational opportunities in a range of areas, from math and science to the environment and nutrition.
“Math and science tend to be theoretical and sometimes abstract for students to understand. Students’ ‘hands-on’ experience directly impacts their learning process. It improves their academic scores because they can engage in the learning process rather than just see or listen to them,” she said.
“Different research shows that greenhouse and gardening activities outdoors are a great step to encourage the understanding of ecosystems’ processes. Gardening is also correlated with healthier eating habits and lower rates of stress and obesity.”
Among outdoor activities the school envisions incorporating into K-5 lessons plans are planting vegetables, fruits and flowers, different forms of watering and irrigation, composting, recycling, mulching, weeding and replanting, according to Blancas.
“Additional craft art activities will add up by using harvested products such as plants and flowers,” she said.
The greenhouse and garden beds are expected to be ready for use by next spring, but between now and then Northeast will be working to engage growers and gardeners in the community.
“This project will seek to partner with the Kinston community. Northeast Elementary is eager to work with local farmers and gardeners that can help us to grow our project with their ideas and expertise.” Blancas said.
“Our community is very related to rural activities, so it’s important for us to promote the culture in which the children not only learn about climate and learn about growing plants and their environment and teamwork, but also can experience it. They can learn from that experience.”
On hand for the presentation of a North Carolina Schools GO Outside Grant for nearly $15,000 to Northeast Elementary School teacher Rubi Blancas Orduna, center, are, from left Keith King, chair of the Lenoir County Board of Education; state Rep. Chris Humphrey; Northeast principal Rashard Curmon; LCPS Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Harvey II; state Sen. Jim Perry; and LCPS Associate Superintendent Frances Herring.