Farmers within the USD 377 school district are invited to nominate Atchison County Community Schools for an opportunity to apply for grant funding to enhance the outdoor learning center.

The Monsanto-funded Grow Rural Education program makes it possible for local, eligible farmers to nominate their public school districts for grant awards to benefit Science Technology Engineering and Math-based education according to www.americasfarmers.com/grow-rural-education/. The nomination cycle is open from Jan. 1 through 5 p.m. on April 1 of each year.

After school districts are nominated by farmers who meet the deadline, the districts are then are eligible to submit applications for competitive $10,000 and $25,000 grant awards. These applications are due by April 15 from nominated school districts. The grant applications are then submitted for review. The selected application finalists are judged based on merit of application, need and community support. Annually winners are announced in early August. For more information and to obtain the official rules log on to https://www.americasfarmers.com/grow-rural-education/program-rules/.

Wanda Small, of Atchison County Community Elementary School, Curriculum Director Julie Dillon Character Education Specialist, and Kayla Bodenhausen, Agricultural Education Instructor, both of Atchison County Community Junior/Senior High School, serve as the ACCS Outdoor Learning Campus facilitators.

Small implements a core Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math curriculum for youngsters at ACCES. Small described the outdoor campus as a seven-acre, hands-on learning center for kindergarteners through 12th-graders. Thus far raised garden beds, an outdoor classroom shelter house with running water and electricity, an apple and pear orchard, wild life garden with a bubble rock and a variety of plants to attract wildlife comprise the outdoor campus. The facilitators are hopeful to acquire funds for construction of a greenhouse, then a barn and shelter to accommodate livestock like beef, goats, sheep and a chicken coop with laying hens.

Currently in Small’s classroom the pupils are working on art projects comprised of fiber from plants or animals from which clothing, rugs and blankets are made. With the use of a hydroponics plant tower, the youngsters will be able to grow plants without soil inside her classroom instead of outside while there is snow atop the ground. The pupils have planted and harvested produce like radishes and lettuce made available to the ACCS populations from the school lunch cafeterias.

The ACCS Parent Teacher Organization donated funds toward the covered outdoor classroom that was constructed during recent school years. Small indicated is a $1,000 donation toward the future barn construction.

The aforementioned websites also indicate eligible farmers have the opportunities to nominate local nonprofit organizations in their respective farm communities through America’s Farmers Grow Communities support program. The America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders Monsanto Fund eligible farmers may endorse college or high school seniors pursuing ag-related career fields an opportunity to win $1,500 scholarships. The National FFA Organization administrates the scholarship awards.

Mary Meyers can be reached at mary.meyers@npgco.com.

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