3 min read

Dig into Learning

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Fourth graders at Hopewell Elementary School in Hopewell Township are getting their hands dirty as they dig into learning about plants and gardening.
With the help of a Great Ideas Mini-Grant funded by the Beaver County Educational Trust and Lincoln Learning Solutions, fourth-grade science and social studies teacher Kim Petrina is bringing her dream of reconstructing the school’s garden to life.

An avid gardener for 14 years, Petrina saw the connection between the educational standards she teaches and her passion for planting. 

“We cover agriculture standards, so the students need to learn where their food comes from and about the transportation of food into the economy,” Petrina said. She added that planting and gardening help to make these concepts less abstract for fourth graders. 

Students began the garden project by learning about winter sowing. The 60 fourth graders split into four groups to plant seeds indoors in different ways. Some used traditional peat moss and gardening flats. Others recycled paper towel rolls to create pots to fill with seeds and garden soil. A third group wrapped seeds in wet paper towels, while the final group created a makeshift greenhouse from a cut milk carton.


Over the next few months, the students will use heat lamps to promote growth and study which methods work best. 

Petrina’s long-term goals for her students include partnering with the school's third-grade class to reconstruct the outdoor gardens so that all Hopewell Elementary students can use the space. 

According to Beaver County Educational Trust Executive Director Jamie Connelly, over its 33-year history, the mini-grant program has funded 755 grant requests totaling $450,000 and reached more than 97,000 K–12 students in Beaver County. Of those funds, Lincoln Learning Solutions has donated $110,000 since its involvement in the program began in December 2014.

For the 2023–2024 school year, Lincoln Learning's $30,000 program contribution has funded 33 K–12 mini-grant applications. Grant project subjects range from language arts and technology to science and art.

“Lincoln Learning Solutions has a strong commitment to giving back to our local communities,” Bob Clements, Lincoln Learning CEO said, “and these grants, supporting everything from language arts and technology to science and the arts, are meaningful ways for us to invest.”


Petrina is no stranger to mini-grant funding. She noted that the grant’s flexibility has enabled her to provide her students with opportunities that would not have been possible with traditional grants.
“I love that these grants fund so many things,” Petrina said. 

Her students love the project as well.
“[This project] is really fun,” said Sophia Tiller, one of Petrina’s students. “I love gardening. I’ve done it with my grandma, and I like sharing it with my friends.”

Fourth grader Caleb Myers added, “I like that it is a challenge to keep the plants alive. I like watching them grow.” 

Petrina said she looks forward to watching the project unfold over the next few months. “I can’t wait to see what we end up with,” she said.

Great Ideas Mini-Grant applications are open to all Beaver County teachers in September, and the mini-grants are awarded in October. All recipients receive funding in December. Visit the Beaver County Educational Trust website for details.