The Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College broke ground on an outdoor learning space at the Old Springville Road Library at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 7.
The project is the first of 25 stewardship education initiatives supported by the Alabama Power Foundation’s Students to Stewards grant program during the 2014-2015 school year. Through a competitive application process, Students to Stewards provides support for dynamic stewardship, conservation education and outdoor classrooms to teach students about the importance of the state’s ecosystems.
Support from Students to Stewards will allow the center to install a garden of native herbs, medicinal plants, fruit trees and edible plants in front of the Old Springville Road Library. The center will also build raised gardens and walking trails behind the library. The trails will ultimately connect to Jefferson County’s expanding Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail system.
“Each day, anywhere from 75 to100 children from Huffman Academy Elementary, Huffman Middle and Huffman High School are using this library after school,” said Roald Hazelhoff, the center’s executive director. “This project helps us, through local community groups, to teach these children about gardening and stewardship.”
The project is modeled on the center’s EcoScapes – sustainable, learning-centered gardens built in collaboration with local communities. The center has constructed 14 EcoScapes throughout the Birmingham area.
The Alabama Power Foundation recently awarded more than $40,000 in conservation education grants to schools, communities and nonprofits across the state to support a range of projects, from outdoor classrooms to field studies to the purchase of conservation-related classroom materials. The program aims to engage students and grow an appreciation for the state’s natural resources.
Conservation education is one of three focus areas for the foundation’s Brighter Minds education initiative. Brighter Minds also focuses on strengthening early childhood learning and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and on workforce development.
The Alabama Power Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2014. Since its creation in 1989 with shareholder funds, the foundation has provided Alabama communities, educational institutions and nonprofits more than $150 million in support with non-ratepayer money through more than 20,000 grants and scholarships. Learn more about the foundation at www.powerofgood.com.