Grand Oaks teachers receive grant for ‘Living Classroom’

URS | CH2M Oak Ridge LLC (UCOR), the Department of Energy’s (DOE) cleanup contractor for the DOE’s Oak Ridge Reservation, has once again awarded several grants to educators all around Anderson County.

The grants offered were $500 per classroom and $1000 per school.

The grants go towards STEM focused areas – science, technology, engineering, and math.

One of these grants was awarded to Sally Suttle and Shasta Gilliam, first grade teachers at Grand Oaks Elementary School in Clinton.

Their grant will be put towards providing “A Living Classroom” for their 40 first grade students.

The Living Classroom project is one that is designed to provide a more in depth experience into the plant life cycle.

Next year the science standards change which means there will be less teaching animal life cycles and more about plants.

“It’s going to be plants, plants, plants.” said Suttle.

“What they want us to do with those changes in standards is go deeper. So the gardens are going to provide a living laboratory.”

The students have always had gardens available, with about 10 raised gardens around the school being provided by the Healthy Schools Grant.

This new grant will just allow a much more in depth gardening and learning experience for the students.

“Our first graders this year are going to plant sunflowers. Our little ones for next year are going to be able to start right off by measuring and dissecting those and looking at their seeds.”

Another part of the money will go towards getting cacti and along with a plant the students are very excited about, the Venus Fly Trap.

The students will also be planting watermelon, Jack-be-little pumpkins, and a salad garden consisting of baby carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes and lettuce.

Suttle said that Gilliam is in charge of the shopping.

Suttle noted that they don’t want to cut studying animal life cycles completely and that towards the end of the school year they will be incorporating the study of butterflies into their curriculum.

She also said that they plant a lot of Zinnias to attract the butterflies.

Not only will the grant be used for buying plants but also just getting the gardens back in shape.

According to Suttle, the gardens haven’t had proper soil or mulch in a long time.

“We just really appreciate the people that take interest in our school,” said Suttle. “They are always so nice and so dependable. It’s so nice to be able to renew those gardens.”

“The idea that you can grow your own food and make the world a better place are tied together and the grant holds me accountable.”

Suttle pointed out that this is a very timely grant that connects the students and community and that she is excited to “dig deeper.”