Last week we highlighted the Lowell Education Foundation (LEF) and its efforts to encourage innovation in classrooms by awarding grants to Lowell Area Schools (LAS) teachers. Teachers can submit an application for a grant up to the amount of $1,000. Each year in October, LEF distributes $20,000-$25,000 to 15 to 25 teachers. Three teachers at Bushnell Elementary School shared what they spent their grant money on to benefit students at the school. Other recent grants have been used for projects including Group Music Therapy Services for students in our special needs classroom, LHS Biology Lab projects, computers and iPads used for various projects at LMS, a math escape room, the art mural project at Cherry Creek, iPads for the orchestra program, looping pedals for the music program, digital microscopes, earthquake simulators for science, and monarch and pollinator gardens.
Kindergarten teacher Kelly Wilson was awarded a $925 grant last school year but due to scheduling, her project didn’t take place until this fall. Michigan Agriculture in the Classroom’s FARM Science Lab spent two days at Bushnell providing a STEM based experience. “Our day is heavily filled with math and reading curriculum. I was looking for something to supplement our science curriculum.” says Wilson of her reason for seeking money for this specific project.
Kindergarten students participated in a build a farm lesson where everyday food items such as oatmeal, crackers, and ice cream, and discussed where these things originate. Classes learned that crackers come from wheat and ice cream comes from dairy.
First grade students worked on a window garden lesson. They identified different parts of plants and talked about the steps in a plant’s life cycle. Each student was able to plant a seed and take it home to watch their own window garden. Lessons on the role a farmer plays in raising plants and how they provide food, fuel, and fiber were also passed along.
Wilson’s application not only benefited her students, but all of those at the building. “LEF is a great resource for teachers looking to think outside the box and give our students more, unique experiences.” she says about being able to submit an application to the organization.
Reading and writing workshops are a huge part of curriculum in LAS classrooms. First grade teacher Rochelle Cummings looked to further embrace this concept by being able to offer her students seating options other than at a desk or on the floor. She submitted an application this fall so that those who use her classroom would have additional flexible seating options while they read and write.
“Children need to practice reading and writing for long periods of time in order to become proficient.” she says. “I’ve noticed that children teeter on their chairs often. I think they do this because they need to wiggle. Flexible seating allows them to do both.” With the funds she received 10 wiggle stools, five move and sits, and 12 scoop chairs were purchased.
Through professional development, provided by the district, on topics such as technology, meeting students’ needs, or new curriculum, teachers continue to learn themselves. Cummings is thankful for the opportunities LEF provides. Her students were “thrilled” with the new seating options and have been putting them to good use.
Mackenzie Aaron is a special education teacher at Bushnell. She received a LEF grant in the amount of $495 to purchase various food items over the course of several weeks so that her students could participate in creating a recipe in the classroom. In addition to food items, visual recipe cards that have sequencing mats and visual representation of all the steps in the recipe were purchased to help supplement lessons.
“I wanted to provide a weekly activity for students to collaborate and be engaged in that would allow them to work on several important academic and life skills.” says Aaron. “I also wanted to expose students to different foods that they might not be willing to try at home.” She viewed her project as something which would excite her students and be an opportunity for a lot of learning. Those who took part in creating weekly food items learned patience, social skills, math, reading, communication, turn taking, kitchen safety, independence, fine motor skills, following directions, and sequencing.
Aaron agrees with those who are thankful for LEF and the important role the group plays for classroom development saying, “LEF makes teachers ideas come to life! LEF is offering teachers resources to extend their lessons and provide more to students. In the future she hopes to submit an application for a grant to add equipment and tools for a motor room for her special needs students. She feels these items would support students with sensory needs while helping to build gross and fine motor skills.
All Donations Matter
Without the support of the community and its generous donors, LEF would not be able to provide valuable additions to classrooms throughout the district. Grants are awarded in each building and any teacher in the district is able to apply.
Those who wish to support the efforts of LEF can do so by visiting their website. A one time donation can be given or monthly automatic deductions can be set up. Even $5 per month adds up. Donations can be made in memory of someone or in honor of a current teacher.
Photos provided by Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Cummings, and Ms. Aaron.