Submitted photo: Working together: “The Solution Squad,” a STEM club at Farrington Grove Elementary, received a Vigo County Education Foundation mini-grant. The program will operate a little differently this year, with COVID-19 protocols in place.
By Sue Loughlin, Tribune-Star
Projects that teach students about Terre Haute history, encourage enthusiasm for reading and foster a love of the sciences are among those awarded grants from the Vigo County Education Foundation.
VCEF awarded 90 mini-grants totaling $54,062 for classroom enrichment opportunities in Vigo County School Corp. schools. The awards were announced Thursday during a FaceBook Live presentation, a format used because of COVID-19 precautions.
“All of these mini-grants are made for $750 or less, and it is amazing to see what great teachers are able to accomplish with that amount of money,” said Jane Nichols, VCEF executive director.
Among the recipients, Justin Allen, a third-grade teacher at Franklin Elementary, is part of a grade-level grant, “Through My Eyes ... Scrapbook of Terre Haute History” at the school. He also has a classroom grant, “Books in Hands, Smiles on Faces.”
The history project involved a collaboration of Franklin grade-level teachers and the art teacher. Students take a virtual field trip through the city, then produce a scrapbook they later show at the Literacy Fair, Allen said.
“This project makes learning about our city exciting. We often hear the students talking about their scrapbooks well after the projects are finished,” Allen said. “In many ways, the students start to take pride in the community they live in by learning the rich history of Terre Haute.”
The one specific to his classroom, called Books in Hands, Smiles on Faces, focuses on fostering a love of reading.
It allows his students to order a book to read during his Flashlight Friday events, which take place in class. “This is when students spread out and read by flashlight a book of their choice, giving them a relaxed, yet fun environment to read,” Allen said. “I have seen even the most reluctant reader enjoy this time. The best part is the students are allowed to keep the book to add to their personal libraries at home.”
The Education Foundation funding is important to the school, which has a free and reduced school lunch rate of around 95%.
“Every bit of funding that comes to our school is put to good use because of this,” Allen said.
Teacher Amy Johnson received a grant for “The Solution Squad: Solving Problems through STEM” at Farrington Grove Elementary. Funds are used for a STEM club.
The Solution Squad was formed to strengthen creative thinking and problem solving skills, Johnson said. “Our students do not get to spend a lot of time during the school day doing experiments and projects that focus on math and science. Our STEM club allows students to collaborate with others at a slower pace on a regular basis. Students discover that they can effectively solve problems. My hope is that students become confident and successful in math and science, while instilling a life-long love for the sciences.”
In the past, Solution Squad — which involves second-graders — has met after school, so it will be conducted differently this year. Students do projects each grading period.
In one of the projects, students used different materials — including trash or grocery bags — to make parachutes to see how they would land.
In another, they created little hot air balloons using a hair dryer to make them go up in the air.
Another grant-funded project, titled, “Look to the Stars: Attempt to Contact the International Space Station,” involves Jeff Hammers’ electronics class at Terre Haute North.
Nichols said the Education Foundation “is thrilled to be able to award funding to these creative and engaging mini-grant projects” that will help make memorable classroom experiences for students.
VCEF is a private 501c3 foundation established in 1984.
Since 1984, the foundation has granted nearly $3 million to VCSC schools and programs. “This is a testament to the generosity of businesses and individuals in our community and the belief in providing the best educational opportunities for our students,” Nichols said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.