The Light Foundation’s first grade literacy program, The LIGHT Project is up and running for the school year! We recently hosted the “LIGHT Project Kick Off Event” over the course of two days at our 400+ acre facility, Chenoweth Trails. Six local school districts gathered for the annual outdoor event including Arcanum, Franklin Monroe, Tri-Village, Versailles, Decolores Montessori, and Greenville City Schools with a total of 500 students present!
What is the LIGHT Project?! The LIGHT Project – an acronym for literacy, inquiry, getting outside, having fun, and time spent with family – is a STEAM-based reading and learning program that supports over 500 Ohio first-grade students each year.
The idea is that when children are immersed in nature, the experience can inspire creativity, provide a blank slate for fantasy, offer a healing place for one living in a destructive family or neighborhood, help them to gain confidence, and provide freedom and privacy for reflection. For families, nature discovery provides an opportunity to reconnect with each other and disconnect with the stresses of technology around them. The LIGHT Project was created by Angela McMurry and is now a program funded and carried out by the Light Foundation.
There are three parts to the program, they include read a book, do an outdoor activity, then write about it in a custom LIGHT Project journal. The process allows them to earn points, which in return for they receive prizes! If they reach their goal of 50 points, then they receive the grand prize… a reward picnic at Chenoweth Trails in the summertime!
Our Foundation supplies each classroom with 72 science-related books that are in line with first grade learning standards. We also provide scientific tools, outdoor activities, incentive prizes, and journals to write in! “Family Fun Days” are offered one Saturday a month, which allows families to explore a variety of outdoor places in Darke County including Brumbaugh Fruit Farms, Shawnee Prairie, Chenoweth Trails, and more!
We began each day of the Kick-Off reading the book, Lawrence in the Fall by Matthew Farina. Next, the first graders participated in an outdoor activity that allowed them to choose something in nature that they would like to add to their classroom collection such as rocks, leaves, hedge apples, flowers, acorns, and twigs. They used their science tools, that are provided to each student by our Foundation, to take a closer look at beauty nature produced. Afterwards, the first graders drew a picture and wrote their very first journal entry by describing the piece of nature they chose.
After being introduced to the LIGHT Project process, the students were led between seven different stations by the amazing young leaders of the Careers with Children program of Greenville Senior High School. Some of the stations included decorating the LIGHT Project book bags, viewing the prizes, hiking while being introduced to the importance of outdoor safety tools. Their favorite activity seemed to be the new Lumberjack natural play area, which gave them the opportunity to build their own masterpieces with a variety of wood slices and shapes! It was created by the Light Foundation’s Grounds and Maintenance Team.
We were beyond excited to host the young readers and can’t wait to see the positive outcome this outdoor literacy program will have on them! I always say, “the more they read, the more things they will know. The more they know, the more places they will go!” As the Program Director, I hope the first graders will go on many adventures with us this school year by participating in this unique program.
The LIGHT Project becomes more successful each year! All of the credit goes to the Darke County first-grade teachers that promote the program by implementing it into their curriculum. The students are lucky to have the “Best of the BEST!”
The Light Foundation is very grateful to have been chosen for grant funds from Wallace Foundation, DP&L Foundation, Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, and the NFL Foundation. Their generosity touches the lives of many students and their families year after year through this amazing program!
The LIGHT Project is a FREE year long program that has the potential to impact every first grader who participates in a positive way! It does take commitment from the teacher, the student, and the parents. If you live outside of Darke County or if your child is homeschooled, you are welcome to participate. The process is a little different, if interested feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next LIGHT Project Family Fun Day is on November 20 from 11 am – 1 pm at Bears Mill!