“If we all become excited about learning, then anything is possible.” Dora King

Jacky and Dora King

Jacky and Dora King talk about growing fresh produce in their hoophouse.

Youth Karate-Ka Association is teaching young people to defend themselves, their health and their right to fresh and healthy food!  Karate-Ka owners, Dora and Jacky King, are long-time advocates of helping youth learn about health and discipline through karate practice and community service.  A few years ago the Kings saw an opportunity in an abandoned lot across from their studio.  With the help of volunteers from MSU and the surrounding neighborhood the Kings cleared the land and constructed a greenhouse. Older students form Youth Karate-Ka work in the greenhouse and surrounding land completing community service hours needed to earn their second degree black belts.

Students learn to grow vegetables throughout the year and then sell their harvest at the Farmer’s Market where they practice entrepreneurial skills.  The Kings want Harvesting Earth Educational Farm to reinforce academic and life skills as they work in teams to make the farm productive. Thrilled to be part of the Discovering Place team, the Kings are working with Beecher schools to develop a school yard garden.

1. Have a BIG idea: What’s your dream? What’s your passion? If you aren’t excited about your project, no one else will be — create a project that matters to you, your students, and your community.

2. Take the time to research grant opportunities: You can find grants for teachers online. You may want to apply to several different funders for different parts of your project. For instance one may fund buses, another might fund garden supplies. And don’t forget to check Discovering Place’s partner website (discoveringplace.weebly.com) for resources we have already compiled for you!

3. Follow directions, follow directions, follow directions: Writing more, or less than asked for can mean the difference between getting funded and not….so follow directions.

4. Dream big! – program practically: Describe the need to make a big change in your community, but create a program that takes a first or second step towards that project. Small steps and successes build into big accomplishments.

5. Create a logic model: Logic models can help you work backwards from your BIG idea to a project that you and your students can accomplish.

Discovering Place teachers and community partners take time to discuss interests and expertise for their place-based education projects.

6. Make a time line: This will help you realistically plan your project. Include benchmarks – small goals along the way to the final product that will help you succeed with your plan.

7. Create a realistic budget: If you need it ask for it, be realistic; not too high, not too low. Double check that your grant funds what you are asking for…..if they don’t fund transportation, don’t include that in your request for support.

8. Remember the resources you already have: Think about your classroom, your school yard, your copier, even your students as special resources that can help you with your grants. They are the foundation for your project — places to create your project, supplies you don’t need to buy and people who can help you build your project.

9. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again: As a rule of thumb only 3 out of 10 of the grants you write will be accepted. But the more you write them, the easier they get. Don’t get discouraged!

Although Saturday, May 8, 2010 was a blustery day outside, Discovering Place teachers, community partners and parent liaison were calm and productive inside Ligon Outdoor Center during the Place-based Education Project Planning Day.  Teachers from Beecher High School, Tucker Elementary, Dailey Elementary, and McMonagle Elementary were joined by community partners and representatives from the Stockton Center at Spring Grove, Six Rivers Regional Land Conservancy, For Mar Nature Center, Brian Willingham (author/photographer), Michigan Nature Association, Ruth Mott Foundation’s Applewood Estate, and Karate Ka Harvesting Earth  Education Farm.

Discovering Place provides resources and support to K-12 students, teachers, school administrators, and community partners to come together and create positive change in Flint and the surrounding area.  To support this type of education, Discovering Place offers sustained K-12 teacher professional development, facilitates school-community partnerships, and provides resources and support for place-based education activities.  The goal of the May 8 Project Planning Day was to give structured time for networking between teachers and community partners, as well as allow time to plan for hands-on educational projects that will be implemented with students in the fall of 2010.

Discovering PLACE Blog

Brian Willingham, author and photographer, talks about his experiences community mapping with students.

The day started with a presentation and discussion led by Brian Willingham, Flint author and photographer, regarding his work on community mapping, photography and literacy with Flint students.  Larry Casler from the Genesee Intermediate School District and Director of Ligon Outdoor Center then gave an overview of the resources available through Ligon, and despite the poor weather took everyone on a walking tour of the facility.  Edna Stephens from Edco Publishing, Inc. gave a short presentation on place-based education and Michigan curriculum standards that served as an introduction for further curriculum discussion to be held later this summer.  Additional time was spent on a “Speed Dating for Place-based Education” activity where teachers and community partners were given a short amount of time to discuss their interests and expertise in hopes of finding someone to partner with for an educational project.  The rest of the time was given to work on creating project plans, as well as drafting concept maps and logic models that provided the basis for project plans.

Teachers, with the support of community partners, are now writing project plans to be submitted for funding through Discovering Place’s mini-grant fund.  Proposed projects at this time include combinations of creating schoolyard fall vegetable gardens, indoor grow labs, community cookbooks, schoolyard beautification projects, habitat restoration, interpretive signage along nature trails, visits to urban farms and farmers markets, as well as many other fantastic opportunities.  This is an exciting time for involved schools and community partners!