Perkinston Elementary and Traweek Tree and Landscape, Bank of Wiggins, community mentors, parents, grandparents, various service providers and individual donors

Duration of partnership: 1.5 years
Impacts 564 students

Perkinston Elementary School (PES), with leadership from Tonya Bolton, Principal, has a vision for student success. Students, given effective academic guidance with high expectations, adequate instructional support systems and a nurturing environment, will be prepared for the challenges of college and career. A group of community individuals and businesses recognized the importance of this vision for the development of the children at Perkinston Elementary. Thus, "Project Perk Up" was born, a project to transform a somewhat dismal campus into a vibrant learning environment with green space and outdoor learning opportunities.

A High Performing and 2009 Mississippi Department of Education Title I Distinguished School, Perkinston Elementary is a growing school located in the southern portion of Stone County. Currently, the school serves 564 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and is focused on providing students with enriching educational experiences tied to our curriculum, natural resources and arts integration. To support that focus, it is the belief of the educational leaders that learning is not relegated to four walls. Research documents that an appealing and interactive school environment is directly correlated to increased student achievement and improves school culture. Thus, to enhance student achievement, the staff and teachers partnered with local supporters to design and implement an interactive learning project to assist with instruction in an outdoor environment.

"Project Perk Up" is a collaboration of the PES learning community, which includes students, parents, school/district teachers and staff and supporters of the school. The campus grounds will include landscaped outdoor classrooms, an amphitheater for educational programming and areas to support healthy lifestyle education. The project is being totally funded from businesses, organizations and people from the community. A local landscape company, Traweek Tree and Landscape, donated the labor for the project to include groundwork/site preparation, installing irrigation infrastructure, flower bed preparation and flower/shrub/tree planting.

Designed for five phases, Phase I of the project was a re-landscaped entrance area of the school with irrigation infrastructure. This phase was completed for the opening of the 2010-11 school year. The front entrance area is now a welcoming green space with spots of color and pleasant smells from blooming plants, aromatic shrubs and trees. Phase II, the Outdoor Classroom/Station, is designed to allow different modes of learning for students. Hands-on learning experiences in the outdoor observation station will give students opportunities beyond the regular classroom. Teachers will be able to diversify their teaching strategies to incorporate a variety of higher order thinking skills and visual exercises.

Strategies for science, reading and language skills have been incorporated into the design of the outdoor classroom and observation station. The outdoor classroom/station will be developed in a location adjacent to classroom buildings and will include two outdoor classrooms and two science observation stations. The area will be landscaped to support instruction and allow for multiple learning sessions being conducted simultaneously.

After the landscaping improvements, it was noted that student discipline referrals decreased 23% for the school year. Also, student achievement measures from MCT2 showed an increase of QDI to 172.

Activities

Project Perk Up began with as an Adopt-a-Flower Bed Community Project and expanded into a plan to landscape the entire school campus. Landscape Committee Members surveyed students, teachers and staff to determine ideal learning environment and design. A total of 17 community members and businesses donated a total of $13, 000 in labor and materials to complete Phase I of Project Perk Up.

Impact

Phase 1 was completed with school entrance landscaping project; entire front of school stripped bare and rebuilt in four days. Installed plants, sod, underground irrigation system with electronic timers and drainage systems. Student discipline referrals decreased 23% for 2010-11 school year. Student achievement measures from MCT2 showed increase of QDI to 172 and meeting growth.

Partnership Excellence Awards by year