Parkwood’s Grow Grant Funds Environmental Projects Through Green Initiative

Andelyn Platt discusses the benefits of composting.

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WAXHAW, NC – Parkwood Middle School celebrated the successful opening of their Green Initiative’s outdoor learning lab on Thursday with help from the Union County Education Foundation’s $5000 Grow Grant. The student-led exhibit introduced excited members of the Parkwood community to a new outdoor theater, a pollinator garden, and a facility that utilizes food waste to create compost to be sold at the Union County Farmers Market. Students educated and entertained those in attendance with speeches and a descriptive tour, finishing with a funny and impactful theater performance.

Cutting the ribbon at Parkwood's Grow Grant presentation.
Cutting the ribbon at Parkwood’s Grow Grant presentation.

Thursday’s event began with words of praise and encouragement from UCEF board members, teachers, and UCPS superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan. Dr. Houlihan emphasized the hard work of everyone in attendance and spoke on the way that Parkwood sets an example for other area schools with their Leader in Me program and much more.  



“Parkwood has been on a continuous journey, very much focused on all things leadership,” said Houlihan. “There are many aspects of this school that I believe serve as model school aspects for all middle schools in our county. Leader in Me is a major part of that, but there are also many other initiatives and aspects to this school that make it absolutely phenomenal.”

Dr. Andrew Houlihan congratulates Grow Grant reci[pients on their great outcome.
Dr. Andrew Houlihan congratulates Grow Grant reci[pients on their great outcome.
Houlihan commented on how important student-led projects like the Grow Initiative are in providing participants with practical skills. 

“As you’ll see,” Houlihan said, “there is a lot of emphasis on student leadership. I think that building a curriculum for the real world, at a middle school, is probably one of the hardest things to do. This grant, and the end outcome, are actually bringing that to life in a very realistic way. I want to say congratulations to Parkwood Middle School.”

Following supportive talks from adults in attendance, students made the event their own, leading the rest of the afternoon themselves. Andelyn Platt, a Parkwood seventh-grader, led the presentation. Platt began by discussing their mission and the importance of programs like the school’s Green Initiative.

“America consists of mainly consumers that don’t give their waste a second thought, until now,” Andelyn said. “Here at Parkwood, our mission is to educate people to think of waste differently so that we can turn banana peels into superfood that is good for our plants, good for us, and all-around better for the environment.” 

Platt and fellow students led the group to the compost facility and pollinator garden, where she explained the benefits of the concept.

“Unfortunately, in most of the agricultural industry, our soils have been tilled so many times that they are unable to hold the nutrients and hold the water that they need to grow healthy food, so we have to add pesticides,” she explained. “Pesticides hold off the bugs. Although they hold off certain bugs, they also hold off the bugs that are good for our food, and it kills the microbes inside . . . Composting draws Co2 from the air and deposits it back into our soils, back into the ground where it should be.”

Parkwood students put on a hilarious skit written by Anika Ryder (far right) emphasizing the need for sustainable waste management.
Parkwood students put on a hilarious skit written by Anika Ryder (far right) emphasizing the need for sustainable waste management.

The presentation ended with a skit from the theater department that emphasized the necessity to find more sustainable solutions to problem areas like lunch tray disposal and food waste. The skit, written by seventh-grader Anika Ryder, was performed in the new outdoor amphitheater that was funded by the UCEF Grow Grant. To learn more about Parkwood’s Green Initiative, and the Grow Grant, visit ucps.k12.nc.us.

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