In spring 2012, the Dow Chemical Foundation’s Dow Promise program offered grants totaling more $100,000 to 13 non-profit groups, including a $12,000 grant to Butler University to support a Edible Schoolyard project at the IPS/Butler University Laboratory School.

Edible SchoolyardButler applied for the grant in collaboration with students and faculty of the College of Education, who developed the Edible Schoolyard concept and pilot garden, as a capstone project in an educational leadership course.

The Dow Promise program funds projects specifically targeted at positively impacting the educational and economic challenges faced by African American youth and adults in communities where Dow employees live and work. Central to the program is the belief that all students should have access to education.

The following story about the grant appeared on an internal news page for employees of The Dow Chemical Company.

Planting the Seeds for a Unique Learning Experience

For Lori Norris, senior director of corporate and foundation relations at Butler University, the Dow Promise grant has generated much excitement because it is literally the seed money for a unique learning program called the Edible Schoolyard.

“Our staff, teachers and students are elated that we can move forward and immerse our students in this unique learning experience,” she said. What Lori is referencing is a garden that Butler University and Lab School students planted this spring, and which will be the basis for a large part of the school curriculum tying into math, science, nutrition and environmental lessons.

“By planting and maintaining a large garden on the Lab School grounds we will create an innovative outdoor classroom for the entire school community. Our Lab School has a high percentage of African American students, and many of them have reduced lunches. With the Edible Schoolyard, the students will learn some key lessons in enjoyable surroundings – planting seedlings, transplanting them into a garden, caring for the plants, harvesting them and finally using them in dishes that we’ll prepare for lunch.”

Lori goes on to explain that during the 2011 pilot project, the pre-school to grade 1 classes grew cilantro and basil and learned how to make pesto for a pasta lunch. The Dow funds will expand on this concept and will be used to pay for the garden essentials: seeds, plants, gardening tools, child-size gloves, hoes and cultivators, fertilizer, garden stakes, hoses, soil, compost as well as classroom supplies for the science component of the garden project – computer microscopes, soil samplers and soil kits.

Dow is also lending its support through a contingent of volunteers thanks to Trisha Borowicz, the Dow grant sponsor for Butler University. A group of 75 local Dow scientists from TG&T will volunteer their time and expertise to augment the program. As the program expands, other DAS employees will have the opportunity to be involved

As Lori comments, it can’t get much better, and, with the project moving ahead, she is confident that it will become a model for other schools in the area. “Just imagine how this will change the way our students understand and approach the environment, science, and healthy eating,” she said. “The possibilities are limitless!”

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