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The Lowe's Tool Box Grant is awarded for school improvement projects, specifically those that have a permanent impact such as facility renovations and safety improvements, technology upgrades and tools for STEM programs.

Angie Zolman and Shalen Boyer, of North County Middle School, were recently awarded a grant of $3,000 as part of Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation.

They had submitted their proposal for improvements to their existing school garden project as part of their outdoor classroom and learning environment.

Zolman, who teaches the Learning Centered Environment class, and Boyer, who teaches eighth grade Advanced Science, teamed up to provide their students with a learning experience that benefits both the students and the local ecosystem.

The learning environment they've cultivated together brings students with special needs in Zolman's class together with students in Boyer's Advanced Science class. As the teachers explained, this is very beneficial for all the students as they learn from each other and develop skills in cooperation and teamwork.   

Preparation for the upgraded garden area will include leveling the ground and putting in an adequate drainage path to prevent washout of the plants from heavy rains. Previous plants the students had planted last spring had been washed out by heavy rain this past year.

Further improvements will include rainwater irrigation barrels, as there is currently no water supply to the designated garden area. Indigenous plants will also be used that can survive the hot summer months with less water, particularly in July when the school is often locked-up and vacant.

They are using various species of vegetation, among them are plants that attract Monarch butterflies. To allow students to observe and learn, the area will include seating in the form of picnic-style tables and benches. Umbrellas might also be added for shade.

While this is a project that will develop over coming months, supplies like lumber will start arriving in a matter of weeks. The students are already seeding some of the plants indoors using hydroponic and traditional methods. They will then transplant the growing plants and root systems to their permanent places outside in the garden area. 

The entire process gives the students a hands-on learning experience and teaches them to work and learn together.

Zolman and Boyer intend to apply for more grants later this year to continue ongoing improvements.

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Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3628, or at bradford@dailyjournalonline.com.

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