Polo Ridge Elementary School received a grant last week from the Lowe's Toolbox for Education program.
According to the Lowe's Toolbox for Education website, grant seekers can request $2,000-$5,000; however, Polo Ridge, located just south of Ballantyne, was awarded $7,000 to build an outdoor classroom and renovate a garden.
Two years ago, fifth-grade teacher Christiana Coburn, whose husband works at the Matthews Lowe's store, applied for the first Toolbox grant to start a garden on the new school's campus.
They were awarded $2,500.
"With that money, my students designed and built a community garden," Coburn said. "The goal was to produce food and donate it to the food bank.
"Unfortunately, due to vandalism, lack of continual funding and irrigation problems, the community garden was in dire need of revamping."
This year, Polo Ridge science facilitator Wendy White teamed with Coburn to create a grant proposal that would include restoring the garden and add picnic tables, benches, a storage shed, a class set of microscopes, digital thermometers and an irrigation system.
"This way, the kids can go out there and have a whole class with hands-on learning," White said. "It'll be used on a daily basis. They can do activities outside and use the things they're finding outside to directly relate it to what they're reading in the book.
"To do it and see it right before your eyes, that will really stick with them."
The outdoor classroom will be available to the entire school, with allotted times for each grade level and a sign-up sheet for teachers. There should be enough tables to seat 30 children.
A school or parent-teacher group can apply for a Lowe's grant in the fall or spring with a specific project in mind. The application requires a detailed budget and project description, the project schedule - which must be complete within a year of receiving the grant - the reason for requesting the grant, the project volunteer plan and how the school would like Lowe's to help.
Over the past six years, Lowe's has donated $25 million to public schools and parent-teacher groups through the program.
"This is a partnership with Lowe's, so we buy all the materials there and they'll come out and actually help us," White said. "The store manager wants to send a team of people out to set things up, build things together, put things together. This is the largest grant that this particular store has ever given and they are really excited about it, too."
According to Coburn, the irrigation system will be installed in the spring and Polo Ridge fifth-grade students will help build the outdoor classroom and update the garden.
White received notice Jan. 24 that the school's grant proposal had been accepted. She now is waiting for information about the next steps and a potential celebratory get-together for Lowe's of Matthews and Polo Ridge.
As of Jan. 25, the kids had not been told.
"I'm just not sure what to tell them yet," said White, who still sounded stunned. "I'm sure Miss Coburn's class knows, but we haven't made a huge announcement yet."
The grant undoubtedly will be a topic of conversation during Polo Ridge's media day Feb. 8. From 9-10 a.m. that day, the school has invited several media outlets to check out what is going on at the 4-year-old school.