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TurfMutt program expands with new materials and $5,000 grant contest

Learning how to take care of the planet and studying science just got more fun with TurfMutt, an environmental stewardship and education program for kids, teachers and families. TurfMutt announced February 18 its annual “Be a Backyard Superhero” contest, which awards a $5,000 grant to improve two winning schools’ green spaces, and the addition of new in-classroom materials for grades K to 5, including a new digital storybook titled “The West Coast Mission,” an online climate change game, and lesson plans for teachers at scholastic.com/TurfMutt.

Created in conjunction with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, the TurfMutt program helps students in grades K to 5 learn about science and the environment from the perspective of the backyard, community and personal green spaces they enjoy every day. The program also provides students with an understanding of how these green spaces benefit the environment when cared for in a sustainable way.

“With drought ransacking the West and many other parts of the country, understanding how to care for green spaces is more important than ever,” said Kris Kiser, president and chief executive officer of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). “The new digital storybook and climate change game help children understand the importance of taking care of these living landscapes and what they contribute to our communities.”

To inspire kids to apply what they are learning to real life, the “Be a Backyard Superhero” essay contest offers students in grades K through 5 the opportunity to compete for a chance to win a $5,000 grant for a “green space makeover” at their school. Visit www.TurfMutt.com for rules and to obtain entry information.

TurfMutt program materials are free and aligned to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) standards. Lesson plans for teachers, take-home sheets and learning activities are available. The program also offers a website and blog, interactive games and two digital storybooks.

A real-life rescue dog named Lucky is the superhero, TurfMutt. A cartoonized version of Lucky is “pawing it forward” by fighting environmental villains with the help of “The Outdoor Powers,” a band of cartoon superheroes. In the classroom materials, TurfMutt and The Outdoor Powers are on a mission to “Save the Planet One Yard at a Time” and they invite children to join them on their adventures and chip in.

“This unique cartoon-based story-telling format makes science accessible, entertaining and motivating for students and their families,” said Ann Amstutz Hayes, senior vice president, Scholastic. “We have created teachable moments that are fun and appealing for kids and encourage them to engage in real-life reading and writing exercises related directly to the green spaces in their community.”

The TurfMutt environmental education program, funded and managed by OPEI’s Research and Education Foundation, has reached 62 million students, teachers and families since 2009.

TurfMutt’s focus on environmental stewardship and best practices for water use and landscape maintenance have been widely accepted among educators, youth and families, as well as listed as a resource by the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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