Brevard-based Muddy Sneakers will be expanding to the Piedmont with a $500,000 one-time appropriation from the North Carolina General Assembly. Muddy Sneakers works with fifth graders, providing hands-on, experiential learning in lieu of old-fashioned textbooks and more modern simulations. Partnering with educational institutions and local government, participating schools integrate into their curriculum at least six full-day expeditions to places of natural interest within a half-hour’s drive. Executive Director Ryan Olson does not want the excursions to be confused with field trips, as Muddy Sneakers focuses on, “the local over the exotic, the existing over the contrived.” The program aims to help students feel more confident, connected, and awake. The program piloted with two Transylvania County schools in 2007. It grew to include 1,300 students in twenty-eight schools, mostly located in Western North Carolina. The grant will allow the program to set up a second field office in the Piedmont to serve five more districts and admit 1,400 new students program-wide. Total instructional days for the upcoming year are estimated at 17,500.