Sorry, you must login to access this area.
If you are not a member of OPEI, please
CLICK HERE to fill out a membership application.

New Outdoor Classroom Debuts at Tampa-Area School, Thanks to TurfMutt Grant

November 1, 2017

Celebration highlights “Be a Backyard Superhero” contest winner’s creativity, award-winning teacher, environmental education

ALEXANDRIA, Va.  – Thanks to a $10,000 grant from TurfMutt, an environmental stewardship and education program managed by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) Research and Education Foundation, and Massey Services, headquartered in Orlando, a new outdoor classroom is debuting at Guardian Angels Catholic School in Clearwater, Fla. and is ready to help kids learn valuable science, math and other lessons about the environment and living landscapes. A dedication ceremony will take place November 9 at 8:15 a.m. at the school.

The new outdoor space is the result of one fifth-grader’s creativity and hard work. Student Marissa Weber of Palm Harbor, Fla. won the TurfMutt “Be a Backyard Superhero” contest earlier this year. Weber’s winning entry was a story depicting TurfMutt and the Outdoor Powers along with her original character “Earthy the Worm” fighting Dust Demon, a TurfMutt-branded evil character, to encourage healthy soil.

Teacher Sandra Hoolihan (center) and her students at Guardian Angels Catholic School appreciate the new outdoor classroom funded with a $10,000 grant from TurfMutt, an environmental stewardship and education program managed by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s Research and Education Foundation. Created with Massey Services, the outdoor classroom will help students learn science, math and other lessons about the environment and living landscapes. For more information, go to

The contest is sponsored annually by TurfMutt, which inspires and educates students in grades K-5 and their families, encouraging them to appreciate and care for the green spaces around them including their family yards, school yards, parks and more.

“We had more than a thousand outstanding entries this year, but Marissa Weber’s really stood out. It demonstrated imagination and a commitment to caring for green spaces,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. The TurfMutt program was inspired by Kiser’s rescue dog, Lucky, who is the program’s “spokesdog.”

As a result of Weber’s win, her teacher, Sandra Hoolihan, was presented with the first-ever National TurfMutt Teacher Award and a trip to the National Science Teachers Association annual convention in spring 2017.

“The TurfMutt program is a terrific way for kids to learn science lessons right outside their back door and in the schoolyard,” said Sandra Hoolihan. “”I appreciate that Marissa’s winning entry provided the school and students with so many educational benefits. It also gave me the chance to attend the NSTA Convention in California where I was able to present and share my experience with other science educators from across the country and encourage them to bring the same opportunity to their students.”

Massey Services installed the outdoor classroom and added significant value to enhance the school’s yard. The Massey team created a courtyard and learning garden renovation that was designed to be safe, water efficient, have minimal pest impact, and encourage the learning process. Additionally, the new design and the material used will significantly reduce the issues that were present when the project started, including flying, biting and stinging insects, harborage areas for pests and forage paths for rodents. “We were very excited to be part of this project and are very pleased with the results,” said Tony Massey, President of Massey Services. “Additionally, we have also arranged to provide ongoing education support to the educators responsible for utilizing the learning garden during the school year.”

“The timing of this wonderful prize couldn’t have been better! As part of Guardian Angels’ STREAM initiative, students are studying the relationships between soil quality, plant groups, and insects. The addition of the improved greenspace and irrigated garden gives us the outdoor classroom needed to provide meaningful learning experiences for children at every grade level,” said Mary Stalzer, principal of Guardian Angels Catholic School.

More details about the event:

WHO: TurfMutt “Be a Backyard Superhero Contest” Celebration Event

WHAT: New outdoor learning area is unveiled. A check representing the $10,000 grant will be presented, and the outdoor classroom will be toured.

SPEAKERS: Mary Stalzer, Sandra Hoolihan of Guardian Angels Catholic School, Kris Kiser of OPEI, Jeff Buehler of Massey Services and Casey Mindlin of Scholastic. Students from the fifth and sixth grades, including contest winner Marissa Weber, will attend the event.

WHEN: Thursday, November 9, 2017, 8:15 a.m.-8:45 a.m.

WHERE: Guardian Angels Catholic School, 2270 Evans Road, Clearwater, Fla., 33763

To enter the contest, students had to create an original picture using the TurfMutt characters. Students wrote stories to accompany their artwork showing how they are Backyard Superheroes and how they are combating the environmental villains Carbon Creep, Dust Demon, Dr. Runoff, and Heat Freak while working to save living landscapes. Students in K-2 wrote stories between 25-50 words, and students in grades 3-5 wrote 100-150 word stories. Scholastic hosted the “Be a Backyard Superhero” contest and received 1,013 entries.

About TurfMutt

TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) Research and Education Foundation and has reached more than 68 million children, educators and families since 2009. Through classroom materials developed with Scholastic, TurfMutt teaches students and teachers how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.” TurfMutt is an official USGBC® Education Partner and education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2017, the TurfMutt animated video series won the coveted Cynopsis Kids Imagination Award for Best Interstitial Series. TurfMutt’s personal, home habitat also is featured in the 2017 and the upcoming 2018 Wildlife Habitat Council calendars. More information at

Media contacts

Ami Neiberger-Miller, Four Leaf PR on behalf of OPEI, 703-887-4877,
Suzanne Henry, Four Leaf PR on behalf of OPEI, 434-972-7278,
Michael Barrett, Scholastic, 212-343-6570,