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Fourth grade teacher Lori Blocker is the recipient of a mini grant for Ag in the Classroom. Pictured from left are Kara Forbus, CES principal, Blocker and Donna Brown, chair of the Coosa County Farmers Federation Women’s Committee. Photo submitted
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
More good news came for Coosa County schools this week, as a mini grant was awarded to a Central Elementary School fourth grade teacher.
On Tuesday Donna Brown, chair of the Coosa County Farmers Federation Women’s Committee, presented the mini grant check for Ag in the Classroom to Lori Blocker. The mini grant was for approximately $500 and will be used for the elementary school garden area and other purposes.
Blocker explained that in June she and other CES teachers participated in the Ag in the Classroom Conference in Huntsville. Other teachers who attended the conference were Lisa Compher, Brigitte Smith, Susan Newsome, and Mary Waters.
Blocker said that mini grants were offered to schools for agriculture-related learning. She applied for such a grant, with a requested budget of $499.16, with a primary objective of improving the elementary school garden area and holding garden classes.
Her objectives for the grant include refurbishing the school garden to allow for better growing of crops, encouraging all teachers to be involved and support it, encouraging all teachers to embrace project-based learning, students learning about specific plants that grow in the area, students learning about planting seasons, and students learning how to better work together for a common goal.
In her project summary for the grant application, Blocker explained that the school has an existing raised bed garden, but that it is in “bad shape and needs some improvements.” She plans to deepen each bed by adding new lumber and fresh soil.
Blocker will also use the grant funds to purchase an electric cultivator to more easily prepare the beds before planting.
“The teachers who utilize the garden do a wonderful job, but these additions would make it even better,” Blocker wrote in her application. “The students gain so much knowledge when they participate in garden projects.”
Blocker enjoys including hands-on learning activities for her students whenever possible, and she hopes to further utilize that teaching method through the Ag in the Classroom grant.
Part of the grant includes developing a teaching unit related to agriculture. Blocker said that she is thinking she might do a unit on gourds or something in the gourd family, pointing out the natural and also hand-painted gourds already displayed in her classroom.
She is also considering developing a teaching unit about what produce grows in the fall and winter seasons, since students are generally more familiar with spring and summer crops.
While this is just her second year teaching in Coosa County, Blocker has past experience with crops and agriculture from teaching in Jefferson County. She explained that she loves agriculture, especially crops.
In addition to the teaching units she has in mind, the grant funds will be used specifically to purchase the electric cultivator, 40 bags of soil, lumber, nails and brackets, and a 100-foot extension cord, all for use with the school garden.
However, Blocker isn’t stopping there. She has looked into other avenues to help with funding and said that she has applied for another grant already.
That grant is through the Coosa Valley Resource Conservation & Development, or RC&D, Council. Blocker said she applied for $260 for an additional 60 bags of soil to use in the elementary school garden, as she anticipates the project needing more fresh soil.
To learn more about Alabama Ag in the Classroom, visit www.alabamaaitc.org.