LAKEWOOD, Ohio — On a whim last spring, when schools were closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lakewood High School science teacher Shannon Snare applied for a Dominion Energy Environmental Education and Stewardship Grant.
Specifically, the horticulture educator was hoping to secure funds to help boost Lakewood High School’s outdoor learning lab resources.
“I heard about the grant from a parent who used to work for the district and now works for Dominion,” said Snare, who also teaches 10th-grade biology. “I never heard anything after I applied, so I thought I didn’t get it.
“It wasn’t until this past fall that I got an email saying they had extended the deadline because of COVID. Then, right before Christmas break, the check arrived.”
The $5,000 grant, which was the maximum any K-12 applicant could receive, totally caught Snare off guard. While the teacher admitted that it’s a lot of money, she’s not complaining.
“It’s a very hands-on program where the kids take care of the outdoor learning lab, which is in the very front of the high school,” Snare said. “It’s a landscaped area, so we can buy supplies, soils, fertilizers and replacement plants.
“Also, in the back, we’ve started another green space that’s a work in progress. There are a million things I’d love to do. I’m keeping a list. We always need pots.”
The grant funds couldn’t have come at a better time for horticulture students, who previously shared gloves. Snare plans on getting each student their own pair.
Dominion Energy spokesman Neil J. Durbin said that annually, Ohio organizations are presented a combined $150,000 in Environmental and Stewardship Grants.
“We selected this grant because of the unique partnership to help beautify the campus for visitors and students,” Durbin said. “Dominion Energy appreciates the ability to help students learn horticulture and outdoor gardening, while encouraging learning planting and growing techniques.”
The Lakewood High School learning lab was started by Snare’s mentor and former horticulture teacher Mark Rathge, who came up with the concept of having students take care of real plants.
Considering that the Lakewood City School District last week started a partial return to classroom buildings, Snare can’t wait to get her students’ hands dirty.
“We’re going to start working in the lab when the weather breaks, doing some spring cleanup and planting,” Snare said. “The kids don’t know how much work they’re really going to be doing, but it’s a lot of fun. Many hands make for light work.
“Even the kids are like, ‘Wow, this really looks good.’ I’m excited to get back to doing the fun stuff.”
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