R.B. Walter’s vision for the project, which began in the summer of 2022 and is expected to finish in the summer of 2024, is “to create an outdoor learning space for students K-6 that extends curriculum instruction beyond the doors of R.B. Walter Elementary School, and to promote student ownership of this unique space.”
The outdoor learning space is situated in a previously empty area between the school’s two wings, and it will provide students with opportunities for sensory breaks, outdoor lunches and further exploration of nature. Along with hands-on science education and experimentation, the fresh air space will help teach respect for property and how to work together to maintain and nurture a shared area.
At the end of the project’s four phases, the learning space will include two outdoor classrooms, a greenhouse, raised beds for planting, tables and benches, bridges, pathways, trees and more. Students from Williamson High School’s woodshop are also collaborating by designing and constructing pergolas for the two outdoor classrooms.
NAR’s Placemaking Grant is available to Realtor® associations striving to implement placemaking activities within their communities. Placemaking is defined as “a way to make your community a better place to live by transforming unused sites and ‘eyesores’ into welcoming destinations accessible to anyone in the community.”
The grant money NCPBR received was utilized for supplies and equipment to construct the greenhouse, along with the construction of the raised flower beds that will be used for planting fruits, vegetables and flowers.
On July 12, Realtors® from NCPBR came together to volunteer their time to R.B. Walter’s new outdoor learning space. They spent the day working alongside teachers, staff, students and community members, assembling the greenhouse and constructing the raised beds.
“It was a great opportunity for Realtors® to see the NCPBR Placemaking Grant monies at work, helping to bring the school’s vision to reality,” said Karen Hackett, Realtor® and member of NCPBR, who helped serve as a liaison between the school and the board while applying for the grant. “Overall, this grant was a great opportunity to give back to our community in a way that will benefit students and families for generations to come, stretching well beyond the walls of R.B. Walter Elementary.”
Allen Heyler, a 6th-grade science and social studies teacher at R.B. Walter, was the one who reached out to NCPBR inquiring about possible grants that could assist with the school’s outdoor learning space. He also helped gather the information needed for the Placemaking Grant application and continues to help oversee project plans.
“The support from the community, and especially the local real estate offices, has been amazing,” he said. “They have donated time, money and guidance throughout the project and are always willing and eager to help.”
The school will host a grand opening ceremony in the spring and invite the public to recognize everyone who has given their time, knowledge and donations to make the project possible.
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