Edwins Elementary Receives Lowes Grant to Build Outdoor Science Classroom

Edwins Elementary was the recipient of a $5,145.00 grant that was used to build an outdoor science classroom.  5th grade science teacher, Sherri Harkins, applied for the grant with the vision to build raised garden beds to grow flowers, vegetables and native species plants. 

The garden beds will be used in conjunction with the Pamela Griffith Greenhouse that was built in 2011.  Six raised beds, one for each grade-level in the school, were constructed during the summer and fall of 2012.  All beds have a 4 feet by 12 feet growing area.  They are constructed of concrete block and each has its own water supply to facilitate the use of drip irrigation for watering.  To complement the greenhouse and garden beds a classroom amphitheater was built so that teachers at Edwins Elementary can bring their classes outside for instruction.  The benches for the amphitheater were built by Okaloosa County School District maintenance employees using recycled aluminum bleachers salvaged from Fort Walton Beach High School. 

While sitting on the recycled benches, the students at Edwins will be learning about other ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.  Students will learn how to make compost from grass clippings, fallen leaves, plants culled from the garden beds and vegetable and fruit trimmings from the cafeteria.  That compost will go back into the garden beds to nourish future plantings. 

A chipper/shredder purchased as part of the grant will also be used (by a responsible adult) to turn the copious amount of pine cones and branches shed by Edwins’ many trees into free mulch that will be used to dress the hundreds of square feet of flower beds that grace the grounds of this open-ramp campus.

Construction of the garden beds and outdoor classroom was done entirely by volunteers. 

The faculty, staff and students of Edwins Elementary would like to thank the following people for their help in making this project a reality:

  • Ms. Sherri Harkins for envisioning the need for the gardens, for writing the grant to fund it, and for spending countless hours digging trenches and moving dirt.
  • Ms. Mary Gutierrez from the West Florida Regional Planning Council for helping to write the grant.
  • Mr. Eric Davis who created the design for the garden beds and outdoor classroom and then managed the construction of the project.
  • Mr. Carl Payne, parent liaison at Edwins Elementary, who donated his time and skill during construction.
  • Kenny Siler and Siler Concrete, who donated their time to pour the concrete footers for the garden beds.
  • Tim Jackson, masonry instructor at Gulf Coast Youth Academy, and his students for building the concrete block garden beds.
  • The leaders and members of Boy Scout Troop 528 for volunteering their time to fill the garden beds with gravel, compost and soil.
  • Rick and Susan Goff of KGII Construction for the use of a dump trailer to haul soil and compost.
  • Cornell Morgan for the use of his tractor and his time to operate it to move gravel, compost and soil when filling the garden beds.
  • Okaloosa County School District Maintenance Department for building and installing the classroom benches.
  • Lisa, Tom, and Gracie West for volunteering their time.
  • Phil Bowman of Phil Dirt Industries for hauling material and helping out.
  • And Mrs. Cheree Davis, principal of Edwins Elementary, whose unwavering support of this project helped to make it a reality.

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