CAPE CARTERET – A third-grade teacher in Carteret County, Dana Edgren instills a respect for nature in her students while teaching them about science.
Edgren, a teacher at White Oak Elementary School in Cape Carteret and a mother of three children herself, has a great love and respect for the natural world. Her desire and ability to pass that respect to the next generation has earned her a Pelican Award this year from the N.C. Coastal Federation. She received the award at a luncheon Aug. 3 at the Duke University Marine Laboratory near Beaufort.
Edgren was nominated by Sarah Phillips, one of the federation’s educators. “When I was thinking of an ideal educator whom I work with, she was the one I first thought of,” Phillip aid of Edgren. “She is great to work with; she takes what she learns and runs with it, which is ideal for a partner teacher.”
Dana Edgren and her third graders at the school’s greenhouse.
With money from Walmart, the federation worked with Edgren to build a greenhouse at the school. Edgren uses the greenhouse more than any teacher, Phillip said. “She’s out there weekly with her kids, composting, planting, doing seed experiments,” she said. “She got the other teachers involved, too. She is so interested in everything the federation does – she wants to be educated just like she educates her kids at school. “
Phillips began working with Edgren a few years ago on way to maintain a rain garden on the school property. The federation helped the school create the rain garden near the front entrance a few years earlier to help with water overflow from the parking lot and the front of the building.
The initial plants were planted by fifth graders, who had formed the White Oak Garden Club.
Members of the club were to plant new plantings each spring, but costs and drought soon made it difficult to replace the plants. Phillips and Edgren, who was teaching fifth grade at the time, brainstormed to come up with a solution to the problem.
Edgren, whose father owns several greenhouse businesses, instilled in her a love for plants and taught her how things grow within her. With a grant from Walmart and a new third-grade science curriculum that included greenhouses, Edgren and volunteers got to work building a greenhouse where the third graders could grow their own plants and learn a lot more about plants and the environment in the process. “They learn about the soil, composting, rain water collection and solar energy through this project,” Edgren said.
The greenhouse project was an Edgren family project once it began because there was a lot of manual labor involved, and the Edgren family along with some of the other parents completed the construction of the greenhouse and walkway. In order to keep from spending school money on the rain garden, the rain barrels were incorporated into the project to supply water for the garden.
“Our greenhouse was a great success this spring. We ended up with over 650 plants from seeds and roots,” she noted. Once Edgren and her class got the project going, all the third graders at White Oak became involved in working in and around the greenhouse. The Rain Garden Club that was initially only for fifth graders now includes kids of all grades. “I spent a lot of time in the garden for a while but now there is more involvement by other kids and their families,” Edgren said.
The students, Edgren said, planted about 450 plants in the rain garden and they sold the rest. The money was set aside to pay to maintain the garden and for supplies for the greenhouse.
“Everyone at White Oak Elementary was very supportive and the third graders had a great time planting some garden plants and a few flowers from seeds,” Edgren said. “The garden has been in bloom all summer and it looks just great. We have some new projects for this year including water conservation, drainage and possibly an edible garden at White Oak.”
Phillips added that Edgren isn’t only teaching the kids what is required by the state. “They are learning how to appreciate the things given to them, they are learning how to take care of their environment, and they are learning to teach others about the importance of working together,” Phillips explained. “They have learned about native plants by planting them in soil they made from compost. They learn about types of rain gardens and plants because they do rain garden tours for their peers. Kids that have Dana in their lives are lucky because they are learning in more ways than one.”