The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) Education and Research Foundation and the Weekly Reader jointly announced Sept. 9 the first phase of a new educational outreach program, developed to teach third- through fifth-grade students the science behind lawns’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, cool the air, control dust, reduce erosion, and filter water. The science-based youth curriculum includes experiments, worksheets and games for youth and a Web site and blog by the program’s “spokesperson,” TurfMutt. TurfMutt is a real dog — “Lucky,” a once-homeless canine who turned caped crusader and is “Out to Save the Planet – One Yard at a Time.”  


Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, Calif., area schools will be the first to receive an array of educational materials from Weekly Reader, a publishing company that produces standards-based, research-proven resources to support the development of academic vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing skills and fluency for all learners. 


Specifically, the TurfMutt educational program includes worksheets for science experiments on photosynthesis and seed starting, games, bookmarks and a poster contest to spur ideas and creativity on how kids and their families can create and save green spaces in their community. To see examples of the educational campaign, visit the Resources Page at www.TurfMutt.com.


Accompanying the educational outreach program, TurfMutt, the Yard Dog, will make school and educational event appearances later this year at the National Association of Agricultural Educators’ (NAAE) annual meeting in November in Nashville and the National FAA Foundation annual convention in October in Indianapolis to spread the word about the value of yards and green spaces. TurfMutt also hosts a Web site and blog – www.TurfMutt.com – to educate and keep in touch with consumers about how they can care for their yards responsibly. Fans may also follow TurfMutt via Twitter @Turfmutt and his own Facebook Fan Page. 


“Dogs love yards and green spaces. So, who best to guide students through the science behind the value of green, growing lawns and landscapes than a real dog?” asked Kris Kiser, EVP at OPEI. “Our goal is to help teachers with science curricula while teaching the fundamentals of photosynthesis and plant growth, and to inspire kids to create and keep green spaces thriving, especially in an urban environment where they experience too many paved, hot surfaces. And, we’re fortune to be working with a respected educational publishing company, Weekly Reader.”   


“Weekly Reader Custom Publishing appreciates the opportunity to partner with OPEI in developing materials that impress upon students the importance of green spaces,” said MaryEllen McLaughlin, publisher, Weekly Reader Custom Publishing. “The OPEI classroom kit, featuring a classroom board game, teaches students about photosynthesis in everyday terms they can understand and embrace.”