Ms. Mary Anne Arabia’s fifth grade class from Palomar Elementary School was recently named the Grand Prize winner in the ‘Spruce Up Your School’ sweepstakes by Discovery Education and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). The school will receive a $5,000 grant to create and build more green space around school grounds and play areas. Ms. Arabia entered the TurfMutt sweepstakes because her school playground needed more shade, and to help spark students’ curiosity in science and the environment through hands-on learning.
Discovery Education and OPEI recently presented Ms. Arabia and Palomar Elementary with the Grand Prize after students viewed a special congratulations video from Lucky, a real-life rescue dog and TurfMutt ‘spokesdog.’
Following the presentation, Tom Heaviland of San Diego-based Heaviland Enterprises, Inc., revealed the completed makeover to the students. Mr. Heaviland, a Landscape Industry Certified Manager and member of The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), heard about Palomar Elementary School’s win and donated his company’s design and installation services to improve the school grounds. Under the school’s direction, Mr. Heaviland planted 10 large canopy Magnolia ‘Grandiflora’ trees, as well as much needed benches on the play area’s perimeter.
“The TurfMutt sweepstakes gave our school the opportunity to add much needed shade and additional greenery to our large play area,” said Ms. Arabia. “Thanks to OPEI and Discovery Education, this green makeover will impact our students and their outdoor experiences for years to come.” Each tree planted will be dedicated to a Palomar Elementary class.
Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D., noted that the additional greenspace and resources the grant provides will not only benefit Ms. Arabia’s fifth grade class.
“Future generations of students at Palomar will be able to experience a greener campus because of you,” Dr. Escobedo told the audience. “That is a great legacy.”
He noted that the Palomar program is a nice fit with District initiatives in health and wellness. “The project will serve as a teaching tool,” Dr. Escobedo said. “We know that hands-on learning helps spark student inquiry and learning in the sciences. We have seen this impact with school gardens that are popping up across our District. Research shows that children who plant and harvest their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them. Similarly, we know that students who are involved in adding green space to their schools will have a greater appreciation for the environment.”
OPEI and Discovery Education created a digital curriculum led by Lucky, a real-life rescue dog who encourages kids to protect the land around them and fosters an appreciation of green space in their own community. In addition to lesson plans, engaging activities, puzzles and videos, students can enjoy an interactive map about ecosystems across the country. With these resources, teachers can emphasize the benefits of landscaping in balance with local environments, and instill a new appreciation for environmental issues.
“It was amazing to see such a high level of interest in schools across the country to green up their grounds and play areas,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. “Getting kids outdoors to plant, investigate how things grow, and learn about their unique ecosystem is the real driving force behind the TurfMutt program.”
“We are pleased to award schools like Palomar Elementary School with an outdoor space that the students can use to explore their environment and natural curiosity in their surroundings,” said Mary Rollins, Discovery Education vice president. “We know that the school’s new eco-friendly play area will give their students the opportunity to get outside and connect the important lessons they are learning in their classrooms to the world around them.”