Norwood Elementary instructors receive $1,900 grant to build outdoor classroom

In order to get students outside and better connected with the natural world, two Norwood Elementary instructors recently applied for and received a $1,900 Bright Ideas grant sponsored by Pee Dee Electric to create an outdoor classroom for anyone in the school to utilize.

The classroom, which will be located outside the cafeteria, will be dedicated to Julie Davis, the beloved third grade teacher who died last year after contracting COVID-19. It will feature a portable white board, dry erase board for students, a variety of tables and raised flower beds for the students and staff to enjoy.

An inspiration picture of what the outdoor classroom at Norwood Elementary will hopefully resemble. Photo courtesy of Kristin White.

The inspiration for the project started after Kristin White, a fifth grade reading teacher at the school, finished Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” which promotes the importance of exposing young people to nature and all the benefits that come with it.

“He just really talks about children suffering from nature-deficit disorder and just investing in our children’s health means getting them back outdoors,” she said. “I think we’ve depended too much on technology and this is just trying to get kids back to being kids.”

After hearing about the Bright Ideas education grants, White teamed up with the school curriculum coach Bev Russell to apply for one in September with the goal of creating an outdoor environment for the students.

Representatives with Pee Dee Electric surprised White in her classroom at the end of October with the news that she was one of the grant recipients.

“I was completely shocked when they walked in the door to present it,” White said, noting she was dressed in her pajamas as it was Pajama Day at the school.

Kristin White with her class when she found out she had received a Bright Ideas grant. Photo courtesy of Kristin White.

The grant money will go for tables for the seating area, a portable white board for teachers to utilize, the raised flower beds, potting soil and gardening tools. The students will help plant the flowers.

Sides said the plan is to have the classroom operational next spring for classrooms to take advantage of and enjoy.

This year, Pee Dee Electric awarded $14,000 in Bright Ideas education grants to eight local teachers across four counties to fund engaging projects for their students. South Stanly Middle School teacher Lisa Geraci also received a grant.