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Gingerbread House of the Roanoke Valley preschool has received a $15,000 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

The $15,000 will be spread over three years and the money will go to creating a natural outdoor learning environment.

“This is like winning the lottery to me,” said Tammy Moseley, the facility’s operator.

Halifax-Warren Smart Start applied for the grant. The Natural Learning Initiative and North Carolina State University College of Design will research and design the outdoor components for Gingerbread House.

Moseley looks for the first phase to bring a mud kitchen, playhouse, a natural teepee, outdoor music wall and outdoor art center.

“Our centers will be brought outside and this will be a dramatic play area for children for them to build           social and emotional skills,” Moseley said. “It builds on cognitive expression through play and imagination.”

The outdoor learning environment brings everything the facility has inside outdoors. “It’s a like a gigantic classroom. There are so many teachable moments outside. They’re learning about leaves, animals,” she said. “The end goal is trying to get them to want to go outside and get them in a natural learning environment. The things they do at school they’ll go home and ask for it.”

For instance, a garden teaches the children they can grow food on their own. “They love to watch little seedlings pop up.”

Moseley is thankful for this grant award and a previous grant which brought the school a concrete pathway, sandbox, stage, three trees and shade cells. “I’m very appreciative of these grants and what it means for the future of the Gingerbread House.”