Let's Build a Mobile Outreach Classroom

Earthshine Nature Programs (ENP) is seeking funding assistance to allow us to create a one of a kind mobile outreach classroom to better facilitate our nonprofit outreach programming during the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
 
 
 
 
ENP Outreach Program Background

For close to a decade ENP has presented after school and weekend science, energy, wildlife and nature/environmental outreach programs to students, campers, scouts, and others in local and regional schools, camps, homes, festivals, and corporate/special interest groups.

We have done all of this using various small outreach vehicles to transport our supplies. We have packed our education animals into small transport containers, our educational displays, and supplies into plastic tubs, then we pack them all into the small vehicle, drive to the site, and then tote them back out of the vehicle and into classrooms, camps, and event venues all around the WNC, upstate South Carolina, and the East Tennessee areas. Due to the size and limited use-factor of the various small vehicles, we have used during this time - we have been unable to have access to many of our classroom’s other educational tools such as microscopes, telescopes, large flat-screen monitor, functional small-scale solar array/wind turbine/micro-hydro turbine/solar stoves and other renewable energy demonstration models, weather and air quality monitoring stations, field guide library, and other unique hands-on teaching tools.  We made do with what we had - but we know we can do much, much better. 



Then, in 2020 the pandemic hit dealing us a great blow making it almost impossible for us to safely present our environmental education outreach programming in the traditional manner inside indoor classroom settings and therefore our programming ground to a halt. If it were not for several concerned benefactors who supported us to keep us afloat, we may have folded like so many other small nonprofit businesses did in 2020.

Due to all these factors coming together, this was when – out of necessity – the idea for creating a mobile outreach classroom was born.
 
The Mobile Outreach Classroom

To make this a reality we are looking for donations and grant support that will allow us to purchase a small mini-camper or possibly lightweight utility trailer to use as the framework in which to construct our mobile classroom. After we acquire a camper/trailer, my Trails students, ENP volunteer interns, and I will work to convert it into a unique self-contained, mobile environmental outreach classroom.

To make this a reality for our outreach programs we would like to use a new or used lightweight, hard-shell, single-axle, mini-camper, or utility trailer to use as the framework for this unique mobile classroom. Once we have sourced a unit it will then be outfitted with the needed accoutrements to allow us to present our outreach programming in an outdoor setting. These accoutrements will include, but not be limited to:

- built-in animal habitats for our many education animals (snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, insects, and an Opossum named Orville)
- a field guide library*
- a microscope/telescope/binocular station*
- a large flat-screen monitor* allowing connectivity to the microscope/telescope station to allow viewing by the entire group and/or public showings of nature and science documentaries
a mast-mounted weather and air quality monitoring station* (we would work with our partners at Clean Air Carolina to make this unit a reality)
- a micro-scale wind turbine*
- a roof-mounted solar array/battery bank.  This, along with the micro-wind turbine will provide power all the mobile classroom’s systems with locally harvested solar and wind-produced renewable energy
- a hand sanitation station*
*These components are removable for when in travel mode.
 
This mobile outreach classroom will serve to allow the following:

1. The ability to take the majority of the ENP hands-on S.T.E.A.M. focused experiential nature, wildlife, and environmental science, energy, EV education, and indigenous music resources on the road.

2. A higher quality educational experience – having the majority of our experiential teaching tools in a rolling classroom will make for an exciting, well-rounded, data-rich, hands-on educational experience.

3. Learning in an outdoor classroom setting; an outdoor classroom environment better lends itself to a more high-quality learning experience by getting students outside where teachable moments abound.

4. Plenty of physical distancing and ventilation (when needed) between the presenters and the students.

As a first choice we have chosen to use a mini-camper – some examples include the smallest versions of the TLRV Rove Lite, ProLite, Scamp, Casita, Lil Snoozy, Happier Camper, Taxa, Forest River, Armadillo, or MeerKat mini-campers – as all these options have small size and low mass allowing us to easily tow our mobile classroom with the ENP outreach Electric Vehicle.
We chose to use a lightweight RV for several reasons:

1 – Not much “major surgery” will be needed to convert it to a functioning outdoor classroom. We will install our specialized components and be on the road in only a few weeks.

2 – The RV will already have all utilities installed which will allow us to easily have climate control, electricity, water, and food storage areas for our education animals when needed.

3 – The camper will have an interior sink for handwashing and a small bathroom allowing its human occupant to have a place to take care of hygiene issues and to shelter when performing at day-long and multi-day education events and festivals.

4 – A purpose-built camper is designed from the start to be lighter and more aerodynamic – therefore more energy-efficient – than any other option.

Another possible option would be to convert a small, enclosed, utility trailer into a mobile outreach classroom. This might work but in my preliminary research it will take far longer to convert, be heavier and less aerodynamic, and in the end probably end up costing close to that of most of the smaller camper options.

When complete, this mobile classroom/outreach EV combination will serve as a wonderful and very unique self-contained environmental education/renewable energy/EV teaching tool for our program participants as well as being mostly free to fuel - since the majority of the fuel for our outreach EV comes from our student-built classroom solar array.
 
Hands-On Experiential Education Opportunity:

As with all our projects, my Trails students and ENP volunteer interns, will learn by getting their hands dirty. They will work together with me to construct and maintain this project in class by assisting first with the removal of any non-essential items and then the installation of the animal habitats, educational materials, solar modules, batteries, inverters: everything needed to get it ready for its new mission as a mobile outreach classroom. They will learn by doing and it is my hope that they will be empowered by their experiences in class and will then use their new-found knowledge and skills to make lasting positive changes in their lives and in the lives of all of us moving forward.
 
Mobile Outreach Classroom Design:

The existing configuration of the camper will determine the final design and components that will be needed in order to outfit it as a mobile classroom to fit our needs. In the below image I have created a hypothetical floor plan of the outreach classroom.
 
 
 
This is one way the classroom could look when complete and operational.



Budget and components needed to complete this project

Estimated Maximum Need to complete project: $33,000*
*We hope to make it a reality for much less.
- Micro camper - used or new. Estimated $15,000 – $25,000
- Outreach Classroom components and systems. Estimated $5,000 - $8,000
 
Use of Granted Funding

All funding granted will be used to complete the Mobile Outreach Classroom project as previously described. This project will be overseen and directed by ENP Executive Director Steve O’Neil and master carpenter Jim Hardy of Pisgah Forest, NC. Mr. Hardy may be contacted for more details if needed. Please contact me privately if you would like to contact him.
 
Status updates, images, and video documentation will be provided on this page as the construction on the Mobile Outreach Classroom progresses as well as on the ENP Blog and our YouTube Channel - links at the bottom of this page. 

 
Our Target Population/Numbers

Visitors to our nature and science center classroom, our volunteers and interns, the Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum elementary, middle, high school, and early-college aged students, and our local and regional outreach program participants we serve as follows.
 
We serve hundreds of Trails Carolina and Trails Momentum students from all over the world each year, as well as thousands of people of all ages via our outreach programming at our classroom  (pre-COVID) and via our outreach programming in public, private, charter schools and home school classrooms, camps, lodges, homes, and special events primarily within Transylvania, Buncombe, and Henderson counties as well as elsewhere in the Western North Carolina, Upstate South Carolina, and East Tennessee areas.
 
Transylvania County schools/organizations/locations/events/festivals where we have and hope to continue to present outreach programming services.
 
Trails Carolina
Trails Momentum
Eagles Nest/Outdoor Academy
Pisgah Forest Elementary
Brevard Middle School
Brevard High School
Rosman High School
Brevard Elementary School
T.C. Henderson
Rise and Shine
Mountain Sun
Boys and Girls Club
Cradle of Forestry
Brevard area scouts
Sycamore Flats Picnic area
Brevard College Students
El Centro
Camp Illahee
Camp Carolina
DuPont Forest Festival
Earthshine Lodge
White Squirrel Festival
Cedar Mountain Community Center
Mountain Song Festival
Riverfest in Rosman
Brevard College Campus Adventures day camps
Lake Toxaway Nature Park
Transylvania Farm Fair
Summit Charter
Davidson River School
Oskar Blues Brewery – Making a Difference Monday Fundraisers
Private parties and events
 
Regional schools/organizations/events/festivals where we have and hope to continue to present outreach programming services.

Henderson County Public Schools and Public Library System
Hendersonville City Schools
Private parties and events
Mountain View Intermediate School
Mountain Wildlife Days Festival
Asheville City Schools
Buncombe County Schools
Asheville School
Evergreen Charter School
Francine Delany New School
Artspace Charter School
Fern Leaf Community Charter School
LEAF Festival
Camp Ton-A-Wanda
Camp Falling Creek for Boys
Asheville Jewish Community Center
Friends of the Smokes
Chimney Rock State Park
NC Arboretum
DuPont Forest Festival
Fontana Village Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage - Gatlinburg, TN
Highlands Biological Station
Asheville Montessori School
Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE)
National Drive Electric Week

 
Rural and low-income Schools and Organizations

We provide full programming services to rural and low-income schools and other organizations
including those unable to cover our programming fee. We do this by providing several pro-bono
outreach programs each year to needy organizations and we are supported by two wonderful
benefactors who cover our fees in most of these situations.
 
 
How we envision a typical outreach program in action once our mobile outreach classroom is functional.

Schools/classes/camps/and other short term events procedures and operations
1. Outreach program booking.
We will advertise our services to all regional schools and educational organizations via in-person meetings, e-mailings, and our website.
2. Event day.
- Arrive at the event location and park the mobile outreach classroom in the pre-arranged location.
- Convert outreach classroom and vehicle from travel mode to program mode: deploy awnings, Install microscope station, sanitation station, field guide library, flat-screen monitor(s), weather/air quality monitoring stations, and micro-wind turbine, “touch table,” and tortoise and turtle pen (~40 min). Note: Prep time may vary depending on the chosen programming.
- Present programming to the group.
*Wildlife and environmental awareness and conservation programs (1 – 1.5 hours)
*Renewable energy and EV programs (1 – 1.5 hours)
*Didgeridoo concert/crafting workshop (1.5 - 2 hours)
- Break down outreach classroom (~20 min).
 
 
Multi-day events/festivals procedures and operations

1. Festival/Event program booking.
 
We will advertise our services to local and regional schools, educational organizations, local towns and cities event centers/tourism organizations, and event planners via in-person meetings, e-mailings, and our website.
 
2. Event day(s).
- Arrive at the event location and park in the pre-arranged event location.
- Convert outreach vehicle from travel mode to festival program mode: deploy awnings,
Install microscope station, monitor, weather/air quality monitoring stations, micro wind
Turbine, hand sanitation station, “touch table,” and tortoise and turtle pen (~60 min).
*Present a mix of our programming and/or have a “touch table” as well as a “tortoise pen” where visitors my meet our many education animals. Be available to rotating groups and public traffic throughout the duration of the event. (Note: Festival programming will only happen after the danger of the Delta Variant of COVID-19 has passed.)
- If the festival is a day-long or multi-day event our presenters would use the mobile outreach classroom’s climate control systems to keep the animals safe and healthy for the duration of the event. We human animals would use the camper’s bunk/kitchen/bathroom for our own life support during these multi-day events.

Financial Statement

We are a volunteer-operated donation-funded organization with a “shoestring” budget well below $10,000/year.
 
The majority of our material assets are contained within our classroom/office in the form of education materials, outreach vehicle, and our wildlife, environmental, and energy conservation projects and programs.
 
Our operating costs are very low. Our electric utility and outreach vehicle fuel needs are almost entirely covered by our classroom solar array that many of you may have helped build through our past fundraiser here on GoFundMe. The remainder of our needs are covered by our outreach program fees, donations, and fundraisers such as this one. Our programming fees have been almost non-existent since March of 2020 so this is why we have created this fundraiser so we can safely get back out there on the roads bringing nature and science knowledge and experiences to the next generation.
 
Special projects such as our Classroom Solar Array have been supported by donations to ENP from individuals and local charity-supporting organizations, our previous GoFundMe fundraisers, and the donations of components and time from generous like-minded project supporters.   If you would like to contact our primary supporters as a reference of our character and intent, feel free to contact us and we will be glad to send you their contact information. 

 
Contact Information
Steve O’Neil - Executive Director ENP
ENP Website: www.earthshinenature.com 
Earthshine Nature Blog: earthshinenature.wordpress.com 
ENP YouTube Channel: Earthshine Nature Programs
Facebook: Earthshine Nature Programs
 
Online Fundraising
GoFundMe
We are also listed as a charity on: www.smile.amazon.com

 
 
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Organizer

Steve O'Neil 
Organizer
Benton Hills, NC