Porterdale Elementary School is using new equipment in its outdoor play areas this school year, thanks to a $5,000 grant from Lowe's. Pictured, from left, are Cally Pusey, Bryan Villanueva, Ameer Wells and Coach Ken Meakins.
COVINGTON -- Porterdale Elementary School students are getting more exercise outside while learning more this school year.
Earlier this year, the school was notified that it was one of 14 schools in Georgia and one of 400 organizations across the United States to be awarded a grant from the Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant program.
The school received $5,000 for its "Great Outdoors Learn and Play Project." New outdoor fitness stations include a balance beam, parallel bars, a horizontal ladder, a triple horizontal bar and two basketball goals.
"I'm so excited to see that our children will have a fun way of improving their physical fitness on the playground," said Ken Meakins, physical education teacher at Porterdale.
Porterdale's PTO board, principal and PE and science teachers worked with Newton County Schools System's Grants Coordinator Kathy Garber to design the project to expand the school's nature trail, school garden and playground area to include an outdoor classroom and physical fitness equipment.
"I have always believed that environmental education is integral to preparing our students to be informed citizens of the future," said fifth-grade teacher Debora Ondracek. "I want to thank Lowe's for their support for education at Porterdale Elementary."
Porterdale teachers and students, recreation department staff members and business partners will work with school staff and PTO volunteers to enhance the outdoor learning areas for students.
Volunteers already have built a nature trail, butterfly garden and fish pond. Using funds from the Lowe's grant and some additional funds from the PTO, volunteers will install a larger garden and outdoor classroom near the nature trail.
They will also spruce up the existing trail and garden and install a solar powered pump to aerate the fish pond. The outdoor classroom will include new steel benches, plants and plant ID tags.
The Lowe's grant program has provided more than $20 million through more than 5,000 grants for a variety of school improvement projects since its inception five years ago. In 2009, Middle Ridge Elementary School received a $5,000 Lowe's Toolbox grant for outdoor fitness stations, and West Newton Elementary School received a $5,000 grant for an outdoor learning center and reading garden.
"Through Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant program, we are acknowledging parent-initiated efforts that enhance the lives of children in the communities we serve," said Marshall Croom, chairman of Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation. "By supporting schools in Georgia, we are rallying behind a cause that is important to both our customers and employees, and we're helping to build a stronger foundation for the children who will be tomorrow's employees, homeowners and community leaders."
Parent groups may apply for future grants by visiting www.toolboxforeducation.com.