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Posted: January 9, 2009 3:22 p.m.

Middle Ridge and West Newton Receive Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grants

Teachers at Middle Ridge and West Newton Elementary Schools were recently awarded grants valued at $5,000 each from Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grants program. The grants provide funds for projects to be developed by the schools with help from their PTO's and other community volunteers, including Store Manager Kevin Cole and employees from the Lowe's Home Improvement Store in Conyers.

The major goal of the Middle Ridge project is to provide students with a wide variety of developmentally appropriate equipment geared toward improving fitness levels, exciting students about staying fit for a lifetime, and empowering them with the knowledge of how to
stay fit. To excite students about participating in daily physical activity and maintaining healthy lifestyles, Lowe's grant funds will be used to purchase equipment that offers a novel approach to fitness and noncompetitive ways for students to increase their heart rates at one of several free standing outdoor fitness stations. These stations, which include a Sit?Up Bench, Balance Beam, Body Curl, Parallel Bars, Push?Up Bars, a Hyperextension Bench, Dip Station, and RopeClimb, provide the necessary equipment, as well as outdoor signs with instructions for using the equipment most effectively.

Fitness stations designed to promote balance and coordination will help students develop competence in movement. The new equipment will also provide students with increased opportunities for positive self?expression, social interaction, team work, and meeting challenges. As a result of receiving the grant, the staff at Middle Ridge believes their students
will be more likely to develop and maintain a healthy, physically active lifestyle. In addition to
the fitness stations, an Eagle Scout project, funded jointly by the Boy Scouts and PTO, will add a
picnic table and redwood shelter. The PTO is also raising funds for mulching and planting shade trees in the new fitness area.

Middle Ridge Physical Education teacher Jonathan Leonard, the lead teacher in the grant proposal, worked with the school's PTO President, Ms. Lisa Spencer to develop plans for the proposal.

"This is such a huge achievement for our physical education program, and we are extremely grateful to Lowe's and our local Lowes' Home Improvement Store for the opportunities they will provide for our students," said Leonard. Spencer added, "I am so happy that the PTO will be able to show the community how some of our fundraising efforts will contribute to the outdoor fitness center. Our children will greatly benefit from this grant."

The West Newton grant project involves the construction of an Outdoor Learning Lab and Reading Garden in an area for enhanced instruction in science, math, and language arts. The garden perimeter will be planted with native trees, while the Reading Garden will include grassy
areas with concrete benches and native shrubs. One area of the garden will be devoted to flowers that attract butterflies, while students will grow vegetables in another area. Several types of feeders will attract squirrels and a variety of birds, including hummingbirds.
The outdoor lab will give West Newton students a high?quality environment in which they are actively involved in the learning process. Students will participate in cooperative efforts resulting in positive attitudes about the environment, an increased appreciation for the beauty of nature and the interdependence of all living things, and an enhanced sense of self?discipline and responsibility as they take over the upkeep of the garden. Students will plant flowers and vegetables and make observations about living and non?living things, life cycles, and habitats.

They will be able to predict how changes in the environment affect a community, identify roles of producers and consumers, watch the flow of energy through a food web, and identify factors that affect survival. Students will practice math skills such as measurement, computation, and graphing as they perform science experiments. In addition to reading in the garden, students will participate in Readers' Theatre, emphasizing nature stories, and Writing Workshops, in
which they describe what they see, hear, and feel in the garden.

West Newton 3rd Grade Teacher Melissa Adams led a team of teachers including Zandra Mapp, Jessica Davis, Billie Roberts, and Chansley Wren to design the grant proposal.

"We are extremely excited that Lowe's has given us the opportunity to enhance our instructional program here at West Newton by giving teachers an outdoor area that we can
utilize for Reading and Science instruction," said Adams. "We want our students to remain excited about learning and this will provide us another opportunity to have that happen."

The school teachers and PTO representatives from Middle Ridge and West Newton contributed to the design of the projects and worked with Dr. Kathy Garber, Newton County School System Grants Coordinator, to write and submit the Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant applications in
October.

Lowe's Toolbox for Education program is funded by the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation, which has supported thousands of community and school projects in communities where Lowe's does business. Through its grants program, Lowe's is donating $5 million to public schools and public school parent teacher groups at more than 1,000 different public schools during this school year. Projects that encourage parent and PTO involvement and build stronger community spirit are funded through the Lowe's Foundation. In the past, Lowe's Toolbox for Education has supported such school projects as playgrounds, greenhouses, parent resource centers, and outdoor learning gardens.


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