Experiencing the outdoors for students at Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary School is limited to recess and after-school activities, and windowless classrooms block students' view of the desert's natural beauty throughout the day. But thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Program, students can look forward to a new outdoor classroom atmosphere in the near future. "The initiative for the project came after I saw the film The Secret and was working with my husband who is a consultant with the main teacher in the film, Bob Proctor," said Marcia Tutora, a business development director. "I began to strongly visualize what I want to accomplish in the short and long term. A series of opportunities showed up in my life - I took the action, did the research and wrote a grant application in support of a garden design for the school." On May 21 Esperanza was awarded the $10,000 grant, one which Tutora, a mother of two students at the school, applied for in November 2006. "The award is for the establishment of a natural area in which elementary students can have hands-on study in a dynamic learning format," Tutora said. The Discovery Garden will be built adjacent to an addition of kindergarten classrooms currently being designed. "Now that the district will be doing construction on that side of the school, the whole Discovery Garden project has been incorporated into the design of the addition and is now on the architect's drawings," Tutora said. "We went through Kyrene's curriculum and found there are a lot of classroom learning opportunities, especially within the science class curriculum. It is also an excellent opportunity to integrate school with nature - butterflies and wind in the trees." Tutora said she also obtained $20,000 in in-kind donations of labor, materials and services. "In applying for the grant, I visualized a natural area; peaceful, interesting to the senses and encouraging of exploration for children," she said. "The Discovery Garden is for everyone - teachers can meet at the large 15-foot stone table as well as classes in poetry and art can be explored in addition to science." The Arizona Game and Fish Department's Heritage Fund School Yard and Environmental Education Grant application deadline this year is 5 p.m. Nov. 30. Funds available include Environmental Education ($32,000), Schoolyard Grants ($37,500), IIAPM ($320,000), Public Access ($50,000), Urban Wildlife and Urban Wildlife Habitat ($112,500). "I want to inspire others to take advantage of the abundance of the grant opportunities out there," Tutora said. "There is so much to gain - to leverage off what we already have - and there is still time to apply for one of these grants." For more information on the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Heritage Program and grants, visit www.azgfd.gov/w_c/heritage_program.shtml.
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