Oak Grove Upper elementary putting recent grant to use

Oak Grove Upper elementary putting recent grant to use
Photo credit: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Administrators at Oak Grove Upper Elementary school are putting a nearly $100,000 grant to good use.

The grant, from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, is helping students enhance their day-to-day learning, while working to be more fit.

"Well, we received $98,986 and that was to enhance our garden that we've already started and our barn which is going to be an outdoor classroom," said Oak Grove Upper Elementary School Principal Heather Roland. "And the other part of the grant was for our fitness part, which is going to be a workout room for the teachers, and we are getting a rock wall and ropes course for our students."

The rock wall and ropes course is expected to be in place sometime in October, according to Roland. The barn will be upgraded to have a floor, water and power so it can be transformed into a "full" outdoor classroom.

Lamar County Superintended Tess Smith said it was all about the school doing grant writing and working constantly to secure the grant.

"We want them to have hands on activities that enhance the classroom activities," Roland said. "They get to hear about it and read about it in the classroom and they actually get to go do it when they go to the garden and the farm."

Students get to interact with animals that visit the school, along with tending to the garden daily.

"We grew up around here, we had barns, we had farms and we were very familiar with that lifestyle, but as our area has grown we have a lot of children that live in apartments that have never seen a garden, have never been to a barn or farm, so brining that on campus gives them that experience that they don't get to have otherwise," Roland said.

When they aren't visiting the farm, or tending to the garden, their other activities will be transitioning as well, becoming healthier.

"In years past they just have had free play, and they do enjoy that, but we also want them to have some organized sports, and some of our students don't have that opportunity outside of school," said Roland.

Physical Education teacher, Ryan McKenzie said it's also about more than just the students, and teachers also now have their own workout room on campus.

"We want this to go further than just the students, and the teachers, we want this to be a community thing," McKenzie said. "We feel like if we get our students involved then it will trickle over into the community, it's been said that Mississippi is one of the most obese states, so we want to kind of tackle that here at Oak Grove Upper Elementary."