Conservation District awards 4 mini-grants for spring projects

March 11, 2022

Students, campers will gain expertise in gardening, natural resources, pollinators

Conservation Education Mini-Grants provided by the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (RSWCD) will support four gardening and pollinator conservation projects at County education sites this spring.

Projects funded for the spring semester by RSWCD, which aims to promote the wise use of soil, water and other resources, include:

Hoop Houses, Brockman Elementary School, Columbia ($1,000)

Students at Brockman Elementary School work in the school’s garden. Conservation Education Mini-Grant funding will allow the students to build hoop houses, facilitating year-round gardening.

Students will construct PVC hoop houses over existing raised garden beds, facilitating year-round gardening. Classes will then take turns starting plants from seeds, watering the plants and managing the hoop houses to ensure plants are protected from frost.

During the process, students will plan and conduct investigations, engage in problem solving, and learn about botany, animals, soil health, weather, climate and other topics.

“Every garden is a science experiment in progress,” said Sarah Burnham, Upper Elementary teacher and project lead. This “manner of learning, in an authentic and practical experience, is the foundation of Montessori education,” she said.

The Mustard Seed Garden, Cardinal Newman School, Columbia ($1,000)

Through the school’s Mustard Seed Garden, students at Cardinal Newman School will learn to better understand the process that brings food to the table. The school will receive funding for the garden this spring through a Conservation Education Mini-Grant.

This project “will foster an awareness and respect for our environment,” helping students “better understand the process that brings food to their table,” said Janie B. Neeley, director of student support services and project lead.

The garden will also provide students with special needs the chance “to engage in hands-on learning while gaining critical vocational skills,” Neeley said.



School Gardening, L.W. Conder Elementary Arts Integrated Magnet School, Columbia ($500)

Students at L.W. Conder Elementary Arts Integrated Magnet School will manage a garden to learn the value of natural resources. The school will add raised garden beds with grant funding from the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District.

The school will add raised beds to its garden in order to plant vegetables, fruits and flowers. As they manage the garden, students will learn how soil, water and other natural resources provide for the needs of humans and all living things. The venture will also increase healthy food access, as students and parent volunteers will get to take the garden harvest home.

“This project will enhance learning by giving students … a hands-on experience,” said Mironda Perkins, Green Steps School lead teacher and project lead.

Pollinator Plantation Project, Camp Cole, Eastover ($500)

Camp Cole will create small gardens to support pollinating insects, birds and other wildlife and will provide educational opportunities for campers through funding from a Conservation Education Mini-Grant.

Mini-grant funding will help create multiple pollinator habitats at Camp Cole, a camp and retreat facility for children, teens and adults facing serious illnesses and life challenges. These small gardens will support pollinating insects, birds and other wildlife and give campers educational opportunities.

“Camp Cole’s Pollinator Plantation will expose and educate students about the existence and needs of pollinators in the area,” said Cassidy Green, marketing and communications coordinator.

The gardens will include plants that provide nectar for pollinating insects, as well as larval host plants, which provide food for caterpillars.

Conservation Education: Get Involved

RSWCD offers Conservation Education Mini-Grants to support youth education initiatives at schools and education centers throughout Richland County. Applications are accepted twice each year. Since the grant program launched in 2012, RSWCD has awarded 86 grants totaling $36,300.

Much of the funding for the mini-grants comes from individual donors, businesses and community support through Friends of the RSWCD.

“The students involved in this program will learn how important our natural resources are,” said Chris Kirk, who owns Kirk Commercial Construction and is a Friends supporter. “Some or most of these students will go on to apply the skills and knowledge they gain from this program later in life, so they can enjoy the satisfaction of planting seeds in their own gardens and growing their own food.”

Learn how to support conservation education efforts through the Friends of the RSWCD program by visiting