Centre School Retirees’ grant will buy books for school garden

SPRING MILLS — Kristen Albright received the Centre County Association of School Retirees (CCASR) Education Support Grant for 2017-18.

Albright is the elementary library media specialist for all Penns Valley Elementary students, in grades kindergarten through sixth.

The $300 CCASR award is given annually to an active school employee for a project that addresses safety, health, welfare or the education of the students who will benefit from the project.

“The grant rotates among four county school districts and CPI,” said Lew Rodrick, CCASR education support chair.

Albright’s winning project, “Learning About Plants,” will use the funds to purchase books appropriate for each grade level about gardening and animals. The books will be physically located in or near the courtyard garden so they are readily available for students.

The garden was once an underutilized, overgrown space at the school. Its transformation began with a grant from Lowes and has been assisted by volunteers and community organizations like the Penns Valley Conservation Association. It now contains pollinator, perennial and raised-bed gardens. All elementary students have regular lessons in the space related to the district’s science standards.

Parents and community volunteers, like local farmer Dan Shimp, teach lessons, offer tours, and have helped build raised beds, spread ground cover and weed.

Jim Flanagan, environmental educator for Penns Valley Conservation Association, has provided instruction to students, teachers and volunteers and has been a continuing resource for the project.

New features are added as resources and manpower become available. Last school year the Penns Valley High School TSA club designed and built a rainwater collecting shed.

The books planned for the space will add a literacy component, Albright said.

“It is a multi-grade collaborative partnership with community agencies and volunteers,” Albright said. “Students are gaining much-needed hands-on learning experiences that enhance the regular curriculum in a way that would not have been possible without the original grant.”

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