Lowe's Toolbox for Education Sample Projects

The most successful educational programs are those that are homegrown. They reflect the schools they serve and fill their communities unique needs and interests. Here are some examples of what you can do for your school.

Here are 9 ideas to jumpstart some thoughts of your own.

1. Reading Garden
Turn a courtyard or other outdoor space into an inviting area to read. Install benches and walkways, plant flowers, bushes and flowering trees. Include grassy areas and shady trees where children can stretch out with a good book and begin a lifelong habit of reading for pleasure.

2. Vegetable Garden
Tie together history, social studies, math and science. Ask parents and their children to volunteer on a weekend to prepare the soil and plant the crops. Incorporate the garden into classroom lessons centered on planning the layout of the garden, projecting its yield, and predicting the effect of weather patterns on the crops. Plant vegetables the colonists grew, or grow a crop that played an important historical role or is vital to the local economy.

3. Physical Fitness Area
Create walking trails on school property with exercise stations interspersed throughout. Install simple wooden posts, benches, and bars along with weatherproof signs with step-by-step instructions on how to use the equipment. Incorporate the outdoor exercise areas into the physical education curriculum and encourage families to use the facilities during evenings and weekends.

4. School Landscaping Project
Beautify your school grounds and instill pride in your environment. Create a landscaping plan that will complement your building and make the most of the terrain. Purchase and plant trees, flowering shrubs, bulbs, perennials, and annuals. Invite members of your school community, a local garden club, and youth organizations for a school-wide cleanup and to prepare the soil and install the plantings and other landscaping features. A school landscaping project is a great way to involve parents and other community members and the fruits of their labor will be enjoyed for years to come.

5. School Nature Trail
Map out a route and recruit volunteers to help clear a swath through a wooded area to be used for environmental education. Lay down woodchips to cut down on maintenance and to make walking easier. Mark native plants and other natural features with descriptive signs. Lay down boardwalk over swampy areas and create viewing platforms. Purchase field guides and binoculars to be used by students. Have an opening day celebration with healthy treats to show off this new community asset and to recognize and acknowledge the hard work of your volunteers.

6. Parent Involvement Center
Help parents feel welcome in your school by giving them a place to call their own. Block off an existing area, such as a corner of the school library or media center, with bookcases or dividers. Paint the walls a warm, inviting color. Add some homey touches with potted plants and wall hangings. Furnish the Parent Involvement Center with a table and chairs, and a bookcase or cabinet to store supplies. Keep your PTO materials here and add some resources on parenting and education. As time goes on, create a lending library with books, DVDs, magazines, handouts, toys, games, and math manipulatives to use at home. Your Parent Involvement Center will give volunteers a place to work on school projects and will become a resource for information that will help parents become more effective proponents of their children's education. As important, the Parent Resource Center will signal parents that your school welcomes their presence.

7. Peer Tutoring Center
Create a tutoring center where students work one-on-one in a quiet environment, without distraction. Transform an unused area in your school into a comfortable area conducive to learning and teaching. Peer tutors will receive training in interpersonal communication, goal-setting, and effective tutoring methods.

8. Playground
Build a new playground or replace worn-out and broken equipment to make your playground safe and fun. Clear the area of trash, debris, and weeds; cut back overgrown plant life and install new, age-appropriate equipment. Cushion the ground with a fresh layer of woodchips, pea-gravel, or rubber matting. Add handicapped-accessible structures and create pathways to allow for wheelchair access.

9. Rotating Student Art Exhibit
Designate wall space in school corridors for a revolving exhibit of student artwork. Hang picture hooks and purchase frames that can be reused as the artwork changes. Students will be filled with pride when they see their artwork framed and displayed where everyone can see it. Involve students in choosing from their own and/or their peers work, naming and labeling the artwork, and planning the display. Show off each new exhibit with an open house for parents. Download a completed, successful sample grant application for reference: Lowe's Toolbox for Education - Sample Grant Application.