Grant money helps Hopewell students dig into learning

(Hopewell Township, Pa)  With the help of a Great Ideas Mini-Grant, made possible by Lincoln Learning Solutions and Beaver County Educational Trust, fourth-grade science and social studies teacher Kim Petrina is bringing her dream of reconstructing her school’s garden to life.

Fourth graders at Hopewell Elementary School in Hopewell Township are now getting their hands dirty as they dig into learning about plants and gardening. 

An avid gardener for 14 years, Petrina saw the connection between the educational standards she teaches and her passion for planting. Lincoln Learning and BCET allowed her to act on it.

“We cover agriculture standards, so the students need to learn where their food comes from and about the transportation of food into the economy,” Petrina said. “Planting and gardening help to make these concepts less abstract for fourth graders.”

Petrina said students began the garden project by learning about winter sowing. The 60 students split into four groups to plant seeds indoors in different ways. Some used traditional peat moss and gardening flats. Others recycled paper towel rolls to create pots they filled with seeds and garden soil. A third group wrapped seeds in wet paper towels, while the final group created a makeshift greenhouse from a milk carton.

Over the next few months, the students will use heat lamps to promote growth and study which methods work best. 

Petrina’s long-term goals for her students include partnering with the school’s third-grade class to reconstruct the outdoor gardens so that all Hopewell Elementary students can use the space. 

According to BCET Executive Director Jamie Connelly, over its 33-year history, the mini-grant program has funded 755 grant requests totaling $450,000 and reached more than 97,000 K–12 students in Beaver County. Of those funds, Lincoln Learning Solutions has donated $110,000 since its involvement in the program in December 2014.

Lincoln Learning Solutions CEO Bob Clements said that, for the 2023–2024 school year, his organization has contributed $30,000, which has funded 33 K–12 mini-grants. 

“Lincoln Learning Solutions has a strong commitment to giving back to our local communities,” he said, “and these grants, supporting everything from language arts and technology to science and the arts, are meaningful ways for us to invest.”

Petrina is no stranger to the mini grant funds. Their flexibility, she said, has enabled her to provide her students with opportunities that would not have been possible with traditional grants.  

“I love that these grants fund so many things,” Petrina said. 

Her students love the project as well. 

“This project is really fun,” said Sophia Tiller, one of Petrina’s students. “I love gardening. I’ve done it with my grandma, and I like sharing it with my friends.”

Fourth grader Caleb Myers said, “I like that it is a challenge to keep the plants alive. I like watching them grow.” 

Petrina said she is looking forward to watching the project unfold over the next few months. “I can’t wait to see what we end up with,” she said.

Great Ideas Mini-Grant applications are open to all Beaver County teachers in September, and the mini-grants are awarded in October. All recipients receive funding in December. For more details, visit the BCET Great Ideas Mini-Grant site

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