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Grants help teachers supplement classroom supplies

By January Rutherford, Associated Press | Posted - Jan. 26, 2015 at 8:01 a.m.

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SEYMOUR, Ind. (AP) — Like most teachers, Amy Hartley has spent money out of her own pocket to buy things for her classroom.

Whether she's spending money on books or other supplies, the Brownstown fourth-grade teacher wants to make sure students have the tools to help them learn.

However, sometimes there are items she would like to get that are outside her budget.

Through Classroom Education Grants from the Community Foundation of Jackson County, Hartley and other area teachers are able to spend additional money to make teaching and learning more fun and engaging, The Tribune reported ( ).

A total of $4,895.98 was awarded recently to 21 area teachers by the foundation as part of the organization's annual grant cycle. The grants are funded by earnings from the Jackson County Unrestricted Endowment fund, created with private donations and the Lilly Endowment to meet community needs in the county.

Teachers must apply for the grants by proposing a project or explaining how they would use the money to benefit their students. Applications are accepted in the fall, and the grants are awarded in December.

Hartley used her grant to purchase 15 electrical circuit kits, called Snap Circuits Jr. 100, which allow students to conduct experiments to better understand how electricity works. Electricity is one of the state science standards for fourth grade.

Students had the chance to use the kits for the first time Monday.

"Electricity can make heat, motion, sound and light energy," student Elix Preston said of what he had learned.

By snapping the right pieces in the right places on a grid and connecting them, students were able to turn on a miniature light bulb and play the musical tune "Happy Birthday," among other things. The kits come with manuals providing instructions for 100 electric circuit projects, but Hartley said she hopes students will come up with their own ideas.

"Once they get the hang of it, that's when the creativity comes in," she said.

Student Ethan Fultz said the kits were easy to use, even though they looked complex.

"They might get harder, though," he said of the projects they could build.

Hartley said the equipment is a good investment because she can share the kits with other fourth-grade classrooms at Brownstown Elementary School, and they can be used for years.

On her own, she might have been able to buy a couple of the kits, she said. Thanks to the grant, all of her students can use the kits at the same time.

"It's an opportunity for discovery," she said.

At Redding Elementary School in Seymour, a group of fourth- and fifth-grade teachers are working to help students learn and understand algebra, so that they are better-prepared for middle school math.

Teachers Lois Bryden, Sandy Mellencamp, Brandy Musgrave and Amanda Wilson used a classroom grant to buy Hands On Equations, a math program that incorporates a more visual and hands-on method to teach algebra concepts to elementary school students.

Indiana's new standards for elementary mathematics include algebra. But learning algebra can be difficult, Bryden said.

"The goal is to bring an understanding to the abstract idea with a concrete, visual, hands-on technique of learning linear equations," she said of Hands On Equations.

Both Hartley and Bryden have received classroom grants in the past.

Hartley received a grant a few years ago to purchase an apple press for students to learn the process of making apple cider. Bryden used a grant to combine her hobby of baking bread with mathematics in her classroom.

"The Classroom Education Grants are a great opportunity to enhance our teaching and benefit our students," Bryden said.

Foundation President and CEO Dan Davis said he wishes all applications could be funded, but grant money is limited.

"The foundation takes a number of factors into consideration when awarding the grants, and we wish we could fund more of the requests," he said. "We've seen some innovative ideas proposed and put into practice by teachers throughout Jackson County, and we're excited to be a part of that important work."

Donations to the foundation's unrestricted endowment funds can increase the amount of money available for classroom grants and other grants administered by the foundation, Davis said.

Besides classroom grants, the foundation distributes scholarships and grants to nonprofit agencies and charitable organizations in the community. Last year, the foundation awarded $260,598.


Information from: The (Seymour) Tribune,

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January Rutherford

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