Moore County's Go Outside Grants Awarded (Updated) page

Go Outside Grants Awarded (Updated)

Go Outside Grants Awarded
This is the image for the news article titled Go Outside Grants AwardedWestmoore Elementary, Aberdeen Elementary, and Vass-Lakeview Elementary were awarded a North Carolina Schools Go Outside (GO) Grant from the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council.

GO Grants are $250 to $15,000 grants that are provided to access field study locations and assist with other expenditures that result from taking students outdoors or to build outdoor classrooms. Qualifying for grants require instructors to demonstrate how the experience will address topics currently being taught in class and that the experience meets the goals of the Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund plan. The program also allows staff at field study sites to apply on behalf of teachers with their permission. 
The GO Grants are awarded by the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Trust Fund for Youth Outdoor Heritage Promotion which is administered by the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council. The Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council and Trust Fund were established in 2015 by the North Carolina General Assembly in an effort to expand the opportunities for persons age 16 and under to engage in outdoor recreational activities.

Senator McInnis congratulated Dawn Early from Westmoore Elementary, McKelynn Barber from Aberdeen Elementary, and Principal Bennett and the Vass Lions Club for being awarded a GO Grant.

Ms. Dawn Early and her fifth grade students at Westmoore Elementary School.

Ms. Dawn Early teaches her fifth grade class at Westmoore Elementary School.

Fifth grade teacher Dawn Early fondly remembers Camp Caraway as a great experience when she was younger. It was so much fun, that years later she is now taking her students. 

As a veteran teacher of fourteen years, Ms. Early wants to show how science applies to the world in which we live. Her goal to make science fun and not dry, she applied for the GO Grant from the N.C. Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council. She was awarded a $2,100 grant to take her 5th grade class to the Caraway Conference Center. 

The day trip to the Caraway Conference Center will include hands-on outdoor learning experiences about aquatic activities, eco systems, how weather affects climate, and even a 250-foot zipline for those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to try one. While digging into nature, students will also be using their math and reading skills.

McKelynn Barber and Principal Dante Pool pose where the outdoor classroom will be which is directly outside from the library.


McKelynn Barber (left) and Principal Dante Pool.

McKelynn Barber, Aberdeen Elementary School, was awarded a $14,768 GO Grant to go towards building an outside classroom at the school. Ms. Barber is a Senior Resident Teaching Artist with the Americorps organization ArtistYear. She moved to North Carolina in 2021 to begin building relationships, dancing with, and teaching the students of Aberdeen Elementary. She began brainstorming contributions to the school community. What evolved is a multipurpose outdoor learning space mimicking the capabilities of an indoor classroom. The benefits of greenery planted the seed of how the open outdoor spaces on campus could be utilized. Research verified learning outside the four walls of a classroom provided benefits relating to behavior, focus, aspects of social-emotional learning, and overall health. McKelynn stated, "This outdoor classroom is more than a space for learning and discovery. It represents the investment of Aberdeen Elementary in giving our students the best opportunities and resources we can. I am grateful that others have chosen to support this project. Thank you, and go Tigers!"

Vass-Lakeview students pose with seeds just before planting them in their school garden.

Several years ago, Vass-Lakeview Elementary School created an outside garden that was maintained by staff, students, and the Vass Lion's Club. When Covid hit, the garden work came to a halt. Now that we have resumed normal activities, it was decided that the garden needed to be expanded, hence the grant submission for an outdoor garden classroom with an attached greenhouse. We are so excited that the North Carolina Schools Go Outside Grant was funded for the full amount of $15,000. Our vision is for the outdoor classroom and greenhouse to be used to supplement the K-5 curriculum in a variety of areas while incorporating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities. This will definitely be a school-wide project with parents, staff, students, and the Vass Lion's Club chipping in to ensure our vision comes to fruition. - Submitted by VLES Principal Dr. Michelle Bennett

The Vass-Lakeview Elementary School (VLES) garden was built in 2007 with tens of thousands of non-taxpayer dollars by Good Food Sandhills (originally FirstSchool Gardens) and FoodCorps.

One of Good Food Sandhills projects at the time was establishing 12 School Gardens in Moore County Schools, impacting more than 4,000 children in Moore County at the following schools... Aberdeen & Southern Pines Primary; Aberdeen, Southern Pines, Vass Lakeview, Sandhills Farm Life, Pinehurst, West End & West Pine Elementary Schools; West Pine & Southern Middle Schools; Pinecrest High School.

These were designed to be outdoor classrooms/ laboratories, entrepreneurial opportunities and an effective approach to cultivating the next generation of local food consumers while addressing childhood obesity.

Major funding partners for Good Food Sandhills included The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation as well as the Triangle Community Foundation’s InSight Fund.

In 2012 Crystal and Tony Cianchetta of the Vass Lions established a Lions School Garden Program to support the VLES garden. Their goal was to bring the classroom out into the garden and the garden into the classroom where students could learn and receive hands-on gardening, biology, weather and the environment experience.

With a modest Lions club budget, new tools and educational material was purchased and a small group of Vass Lion volunteers showed up in the garden twice a week to work with PK – 5th grade students and demonstrate the finer points of gardening and good nutrition.

In 2014 the Cianchettas started a VLES after-school garden club for 4th and 5th graders. Dozens of students stayed after school once a week to work, learn and have fun while completing a number of projects in the school garden.

In 2019, COVID forced the Vass Lions to postpone any VLES garden activity while their efforts and funding was focused on designing and building a new school garden at the Crain’s Creek Middle School campus.

After COVID restrictions relaxed, VLES Principal Dr. Michelle Bennett approached the Vass Lions to once again collaborate with the school to revitalize their garden and help establish a new after school garden club. Together they applied for the NC Schools Go Outside grant, and they have been awarded the maximum of $15,000 to build an outdoor garden lab with greenhouse. Submitted by Tony Cianchetta.

Join us in congratulating Ms. Early from Westmoore Elementary, Ms. Barber from Aberdeen Elementary, and Principal Bennett from Vass-Lakeview Elementary on their efforts to improve the education of our students!

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