Pasadena Mom Wins $10,000 for Daughter’s School: San Rafael Elementary

Published : Saturday, October 20, 2012 | 12:40 AM

Pasadena resident Dawn Fagot was named the September winner of the Aveeno “Be An Active Natural Challenge” and bagged the $10,000 grant grand prize.

With the winning, Dawn said the $10,000 will go a long way in supporting the construction and development of an outdoor classroom for San Rafael Elementary School. The award is given to individuals who are doing something that will have a positive impact to the world and the community.

Fagot’ s entry, a natural outdoor classroom, was a former kindergarten playground that has been unused for quite some time. Its transformation is expected to allow creativity and hands-on learning. The space will support not only environmental education, but music, art, reading, ecology, horticulture, vermiculture and natural science.

The outdoor classrooms provide alternatives for all to gain better knowledge of what natural resources are and to understand the interconnectedness of these resources. This project is very important to the school community as it will provide quality improvement and continuous growth.

Fagot said the winning would allow them to finish the project and buy all the woods that they need for the garden beds and work benches for the children, as well as the soil, plants, including the installation of a water feature using solar panels.

“The $10,000 will also allow us to buy the gardening tools that we need for the children. I also want to give each of the 400 students of the school with their nature journal that they could use to write, draw, or to simply document their feelings throughout the school year and express what they are doing outside of their classroom,” Fagot told Pasadena Now. She added, “The $10,000 means that I can get all these things done and not to worry about finances.”

But what inspires her more is the support she is getting from the whole community, to the parents, teachers and all stake holders. “Even the school district is supportive of what we are doing here,” she claimed.

With a sincere love for nature and a degree in Biology, Dawn saw an opportunity to better a local elementary school by turning an old, rundown playground area into an outdoor classroom. As the Playground Beautification Chairperson at her daughter’s school, Dawn set out on her mission to bring hands-on, experiential learning to the students at San Rafael Elementary School. With a modest start and assistance from other parents and teachers, Dawn is looking to create a fully-functioning outdoor learning area open for all students, where they can learn about the local eco-system as well as plants and animals that are indigenous to the Pasadena area.

According to her, she got the inspiration when she was appointed as chairman of the of the school’s playground beautification committee last year. She discovered that the school have outdated playground equipment that needs to be replaced.

Going around the school campus she saw that several playgrounds dedicated to the kindergarten department have not been used. Aside from wanting to green up those spaces, Fagot thought of an idea to transform those unused spaces into an outdoor classroom.

“So I suggested to the parents and teachers that we need to add more green into the campus. We can take away the equipment and ask the parents to help build garden beds and benches and bring natural elements. The teachers could use the outdoor classroom for reading or some art studies for their students,” Dawn narrated.

Fortunately, everybody agreed to it, including the principal, teachers, parents and the district. Dawn also began her research for funding for the construction of the outdoor classrooms and to cover the cost of the materials and supply that they would need. “I came across Aveeno, it’s a product that I’ve been using on myself and my children for years. And when I read about the Be An Active Natural Grant, I thought to myself I can try this. It wouldn’t hurt. So I sent my application which was accepted and I received a call from Aveeno that I was chosen as one of the finalists.”

She said being chosen as one of the finalists was a big surprise to her because she had no idea how many applications were submitted to Aveeno. She also do not have any knowledge about the process of selection and how Avenno determine who will win. Dawn further said, “I’m pretty excited. What started out a week ago today is now becoming a reality. I won.”

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