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Rainbow’s outdoor classroom earns Green U grant

MADISON – Environmentalists were so impressed by Rainbow Elementary School’s outdoor classroom that they’ve awarded a grant.

Rainbow received a 2013 Green School Challenge grant at the Green U Festival, a one-day festival for the environment at Huntsville Botanical Garden.  Green U awards grants as part of its home and health initiative.

Rainbow Principal Dorinda White accepts the Green U Festival grant. Magician Steve Trash and Rainbow student Brice Heering congratulate White. (CONTRIBUTED)
Rainbow Principal Dorinda White accepts the Green U Festival grant. Magician Steve Trash and Rainbow student Brice Heering congratulate White. (CONTRIBUTED)

The Solid Waste Disposal Authority of Huntsville funded the $1,000 grant.

Rainbow Principal Dorinda White accepted the award at the Green U Festival, with Rainbow families and PTA representatives in the audience. Toyota and other businesses with sustainability programs had booths that students visited to see recycling and ecological efforts.

“Rainbow PTA reached out to the botanical garden’s educational team to teach a portion of the Junior Master Gardener class for Rainbow’s enrichment program,” outdoor classroom committee chairman Jan Heering said. “The enrichment classes provided core curriculum material with hands-on learning in their outdoor classroom.”

The garden team was impressed with the level of Rainbow’s ecological endeavors and determined that grant money could perpetuate the outdoor classroom’s future. Rainbow’s Outdoor Classroom has garden areas for sensory study, wildflowers, ferns and herbs, a pond and habitats for water wildlife and birds.

School officials, students, parents and PTA members collaborated to build Rainbow’s outdoor classroom about six years ago. Enrichment classes meet in the garden to learn about the outdoors, healthy lifestyles, proper food choices and the importance of exercise.

Three large raised beds have tall sunflowers, jack-be-little pumpkins, zucchini squash, bush beans, peppers, and cherry and Roma tomatoes. The sensory garden has plants that students can touch, like Lamb’s Ear, rosemary and sage.

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Bright flowering plants attract swarms of butterflies. A diverse selection of birds inhabits the garden, taking advantage of bird boxes and nests prevalent in the garden.

“Reaching out to the community and joining with partners like the botanical garden really enhances the learning opportunities for the students,” Heering said.

To view the grant presentation, visit youtu.be/gN_ieI9OTAM.

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