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West Rowan teacher awarded $15,000 outdoor learning grant

MT. ULLA – Victoria Cardea has been a big grant recipient for her school this year.

The West Rowan High School agriculture teacher has raked in thousands of dollars for the agriculture program in the past year, and was recently awarded $15,000 to build an outdoor learning space at the school.

As part of the N.C. Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council’s Go Outside Grant program, Cardea was awarded $8,000 from the same group in the fall to purchase breakdown greenhouses for the school.

Cardea said the funding will be used to build an outdoor shelter for storing farm equipment and provide an area for group learning on topics like animal grooming, wildlife and plant arrangements.

West has four agriculture teachers who specialize in different areas and the goal with this grant was to create a space that they all could use whether for identifying trees or shearing sheep.

“I really wanted to get a good grip on the idea of learning outside,” Cardea said. “This year you have to kind of take into consideration that a lot of people just don’t want to be inside.”

According to the foundation the grants were created to get kids outside during the school day by overcoming funding barriers. The program was awarded federal relief funding from the CARES Act passed by Congress last year.

The grants can be awarded for outdoor learning spaces like classrooms and greenhouses, bringing a field trip to campus or taking an off-campus trip.

Cardea said when events like competitions and conferences stopped she started thinking of ways to improve the agriculture program to fill the void. She started applying for grants, and has been awarded $26,000 in grants this school year.

“This was a pretty decent sized one and I still have a couple more out there I haven’t heard back from yet,” she said, adding this has become a fun way to grow the program.

The greenhouses have enabled the school to donate food to some of its students and began providing weekly boxes of produce to 18 families.

“That came from our program,” Cardea said. “It didn’t come from the cafeteria, it didn’t come from anywhere else other than the ground that’s on our campus.”

Cardea said about half the students in the program at West go in with no expectations and enjoy it. She gave the example of one student who entered the program sight unseen and is now attending North Carolina State University to become an agriculture teacher.

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