Learning center

Grant will be used to create agricultural learning center in Oakboro – The Stanly News & Press

Jennifer Crawford, a STEM coach at Oakboro Choice STEM School, received nearly $2,000 from Union Power Cooperative’s Bright Ideas Grant late last year to help create an agricultural learning center as well as update and expand many of the school’s existing agricultural components.

Since its inception a few years ago, Oakboro has already built much of its agricultural infrastructure, including two greenhouses (including one made from 2-liter bottles and bamboo), seven flower beds, an outdoor classroom and a chicken coop.

The current Oakboro Choice STEM Agricultural Center includes two greenhouses and a chicken coop. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Crawford.

“Once we figure out that our focus for the STEM school would be coding and agriculture, obviously we’ll try to improve those programs as much as possible,” Crawford said.

The $1,946 received by Crawford will be used to modernize and improve the existing chicken coop in order to provide safer living conditions for the animals; the purchase of supplies for the creation of a rain garden, which was designed by the school’s fourth grade classes; a succulent garden, which was designed last year by seventh grader Madison Hoban; and several raised beds. The hope is that this will all be finished by the end of the school year.

“The best part of the grant for me is that the kids helped write it,” Crawford said.

The long-term goal is to build a functioning learning center that would be an available resource not only for Oakboro students, but for students across the county. “Almost like the K-8 version of what the Agri-Civic Center does with their field trips,” Crawford said, noting that she envisions Oakboro students being the ones leading the charge and teaching their students. peers across the county the importance of agriculture.

Crawford has many plans for the agricultural centre, which is located behind the school, including possibly adding more animals, such as ducks and pygmy goats, starting professional development for teachers across the country, the organization of field trips and the investment in a training kitchen. She also wants to start a new agriculture program in Oakboro where older students can grow plants using aquaponics.

“It’s still a process, and we’re still developing it, especially trying to get around this whole Covid thing, but everybody’s really excited about it,” Crawford said.

Last year, Union Power Cooperative awarded $21,000 in Bright Ideas education grants to 12 local teachers in four counties, according to its website, including one in Central Elementary and another in Richfield Elementary, to fund engaging projects. for their students. In total, the projects will reach more than 5,000 students.