Whitewright Elementary School and its students will get to see their outdoor learning space grow after recently receiving a financial grant.

The elementary school was awarded $5,000 from Lowe’s Home Improvement for its efforts to complete its Tiger Garden, which is designed to bring students out of the classroom and into the outdoors where they can learn through hands-on activities and do a little gardening of their own.

Principal Brandon Whiten said he and the school as a whole were pleasantly surprised to find themselves the recipients of the grant after returning from the December holiday break.

“When we got back and opened our mail, we had a check for $5,000,” Whiten said. “It was a really nice after-Christmas present we weren’t expecting.”

Whiten explained that construction of the Tiger Garden kicked off three years ago and repurposed an unused, outdoor area of the campus. The project has been carried out in two phases thus far. Whiten said the first consisted of installing a small rock garden, a handful of work tables and some raised planter beds. The second phase saw the introduction of a small waterfall and pond, as well as a recirculating creek that can be crossed by a small bridge.

With the financial grant, Whitewright Elementary will be able to complete all remaining projects for the garden. Those include installing aesthetic landscaping and additional seating, planting fruit trees and even stocking the central pond with fish — a feature the principal says students are particularly excited about.

Whiten said the outdoor learning space has been a great addition to the school and it’s flexible in the sense that it benefits teachers and the children alike.

“It allows our teachers a lot more freedom to do experiments they might hesitate to do in the classroom,” Whiten said. “And the other thing is just having the natural space right there. If they’re doing some type of writing, doing that outside on a sunny day, as oppose to being in a classroom with unnatural light, it can inspire kids and allow them to be creative.”

First year Counselor Holley Murphy, who applied for the grant, said the garden and the produce grown in it are of particular importance and relevance to the students.

“With Whitewright being a community based in agriculture, we want to foster that within our kids so that they can see firsthand how it works,” Murphy said. “Every grade level is able to plant a fruit or vegetable of their choice. They get to see agricultural process from the planning all the way to consumption.”

And the elementary school is already enjoying the fruits of its garden labor. Students have planted and harvested carrots, beans and watermelons, which both Murphy and Whiten described as big and sweet.

Both expressed their gratitude to Lowe’s for the grant and welcomed Waylon Capshaw, manager of the Lowe’s in Sherman, at the school last week. He was also presented with a colorful banner signed by all of the elementary’s students.