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Stories from the Field

A Walk in the Park

Summer is a time to enjoy gardens filled with blooming flowers and fresh produce. Emily Latham’s students are bringing that joy to their communities!

Emily is a math educator in Marysville, Ohio. She recently received an NEA Foundation Student Achievement grant to connect students to the community. Here’s what she had to say about her project and its impact.


“I look for ways to make my students say, "I can't wait to come to school"... That's what I live for; that's what I'm passionate about!”

Emily Latham, math educator

Tell us a little about your project.

Our project encourages students to see the importance of being involved as active members within their community. Our 5th grade students learned about how gardens can impact a community. They read a variety of texts, including Seedfolks, and reflected on the ways they could improve their community. We formed community partnerships where students planned and implemented a community service project they designed.

How does this project help your students?

This project was the highlight of the school year for many students. Students learned about the different types of gardens and how they could be used to make a positive impact within the community. Through project-based learning, our students designed and implemented a community service project. They learned how to make a difference in the community and what it means to be contributing citizens.

For one project, students painted terra cotta pots for nursing home residents. The students all chose a plant that was special to them to grow in the pots, and they and the residents carefully selected a place for the pots to live in the residents’ rooms.

What do your students say about the project?

This grant allowed our entire 5th grade to participate in two field trips where they learned about gardens from professionals in the field.

Many of our students have never been on a field trip. For many of them, this was the highlight of the year. They were able to learn through hands-on activities and synthesize the information by designing a community service project they felt passionate about.

We gave our students a voice and created an environment that encouraged them to find an area where they could be proud of the difference they made.

What inspires you most about your work?

Change inspires me. In education, nothing ever stays the same. I want to look for creative ways to engage my students in "real life" education. I want to make my students the best math students they can be while also encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves and being great future members of society.

What is your passion - in or outside the classroom?

As corny as it sounds, I am passionate about making the world a more understanding and compassionate place. I look for ways to make my students say, "I can't wait to come to school." Imagine seeing a 5th grader come into your class, eyes bright and excited, waiting for the class to start. That's what I live for; that's what I'm passionate about!

I am thankful for the opportunity to pursue this project with the grant funds from the NEA Foundation.


There’s still time to apply for an NEA Foundation grant of your very own! The application deadline for Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership grants is October 15. For help developing your proposal, be sure to check out our grant-writing tutorial.

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