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School Needs Your Vote For Grant Money

By Gina Jordan

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-890806.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – A Tallahassee middle school has big plans for an outdoor renovation, and they need your votes so a soft drink company will help pay for it.
R. Frank Nims Middle School Principal Kay Collins has an aggressive plan that she hopes will be completed in time for the next school year. It's a garden where classes can be held in the sunshine.

"We want it designed so students can understand agriculture, organic planting, eventually going into our own solar greenhouse."

The courtyard area will hold classes like math and reading, as vegetables and fruits grow nearby.

"It will be hands on where they will have an opportunity to help build it. So by them helping with the bricks and the mortar and the landscaping and all of those areas, you definitely take more ownership."

The kids will eat the food they grow and give it away to homeless shelters and families in need. Nims students even had a say in the garden design. Eighth grader Kendasha Glenn says they requested a "chill zone."

"During lunchtime, we can have an outside space where we can just chill, talk to friends. We can go eat or whatever, have a little time outside instead of being crammed in all day."

She says a lot of kids like science, but there isn't much room for experiments.

"So we thought about having a garden in an outside space so we'd have some space to do our activities and stuff."

The effort has been a collaboration that involves FAMU's School of Architecture, where students in the masters program for landscaping saw an extreme makeover opportunity. Also helping bring the plan together is David Malcolm, Vice President with Wood and Partners Architects and a board member for Keep Tallahassee/Leon County Beautiful. He says students can learn a lot from gardening.

"It ties to so many subjects that they're already working on, such as science and dealing with math. You know, there's huge applications you can learn about (like) yield and what do you do with this, and then all of a sudden that converts to finance because there's this idea that maybe the vegetables could be sold in the community or given away."

The school has applied for a 50-thousand dollar grant from Pepsi that would enable them to accomplish even more. But competition is steep, and only the top ten vote getters online will be awarded the money. Collins says the grant would certainly help, but the project will go forward regardless.

"I just feel like it's so important to my students and our school and the community. It's a project that I can say, I don't want us to look like a school that we never give back, and we're always taking. I'm trying to help students to understand that it's a good thing to be able to give."

Collins is happy that the kids will be eating healthy while learning social skills, team building, and self esteem as they transition into high school and adulthood.

Below is the weblink to cast your vote to help Nims Middle School win the grant for outdoor renovations. The contest runs through the end of March. You can vote more than once.

http://www.refresheverything.com/GrowYourOwnGardenAtSchool