Mock up of pavilion project

Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District (ERICD) today announced that it has received a generous grant from National Grid Rhode Island that will strengthen Portsmouth’s children’s love of the outdoors. A grant of $5,000 will help to create an outdoor learning pavilion, where children will discover farming techniques and history unique to Aquidneck Island.  Employee volunteers from National Grid will also help with the installation this Spring.

The pavilion will be located at the Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm, a five-acre Portsmouth Middle School (PMS) student volunteer-run farm that aims for kids to learn about agriculture with hands-on problem-solving experiences. Once the project is complete, PMS will hold STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education classes, as well as after-school programs at the farm.

“National Grid is delighted to partner with the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District in this novel project. Not only will it help teach students the importance of the state’s clean energy future on Aquidneck Island, but it reflects our commitment to educating more students about the STEAM fields,” said Terry Sobolewski, President of National Grid Rhode Island in a statement. “Collaborating with key stakeholders, leaders and educators will give children a better understanding of the clean energy network that all our customers and communities deserve.”  

PMS, volunteers, and many others have donated time, money, and resources to create this farm where children can learn about sustainable agriculture. Though in-person meetings are currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization plans to welcome children back on the farm when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, ERICD continues to lay the groundwork for future programs. This includes constructing the pavilion, partially funded by National Grid, which will provide a safe outdoor space for future gatherings.

Sara Churgin, ERICD District Manager, said, “This is a project that will positively affect the entire Portsmouth community. Students will be introduced to farming, an extremely important business, especially now in light of COVID-19. Food security is being threatened through this crisis, and a portion of what will be grown on the farm will be donated to Lucy’s Hearth in Middletown. We are so thankful to National Grid Rhode Island for donating time and resources to build a smart, sustainable future for our island.”

ERICD hopes to break ground on the pavilion in Spring 2021.