An entourage of Coastal Electric Cooperative employees, camera crews and school administrators burst into Bryan County schools Oct. 16 to surprise teachers with Bright Ideas grants from the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation to fund their innovative classroom projects.
In August, teachers applied for Bright Ideas grants to fund special classroom projects, and this month alone, the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation awarded more than $22,000 to winners in Bryan, Liberty and McIntosh counties to see those Bright Ideas become reality.
Funding for the Bright Ideas grants comes from Coastal Electric Cooperative members who allow their electric bills to be rounded up to the next dollar through Operation Round Up. Those nickels and dimes are pooled together and invested back into the community through the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation. Since the Bright Ideas program’s inception in 2002, more than $287,500 has been awarded to give local teachers the power to put their creative teaching ideas into action.
Below is a summary of project ideas from Bryan County’s 2018 grant winners:
Richmond Hill Elementary’s Salina Furlong won a $1,110.08 grant for her project, “Camera Compositions,” which will allow students to contribute to a special segment on the school’s daily news show. Students will develop speaking and interviewing skills while becoming more engaged writers.
Mary Boland’s $405 Bright Ideas grant will help her George Washington Carver Elementary students learn the basics of coding by creating their very own video games – encouraging critical thinking skills, collaboration and creativity. “With a growing need in the area of technology, we as educators must begin preparing our youth,” Boland said. “I’d love to provide students with their first experience with this type of technology, hopefully leading students to consider a career in a technology field.”
At Richmond Hill Primary, Susan Fennell won a $1,352.24 grant to fund her project, “Full STEAM Ahead!” The project will introduce students to coding by working together to program the movements of small robots. In addition, the project will provide opportunities for students to solve problems, design and think creatively.
Four of the day’s winners hailed from McAllister Elementary School – Sarah Taylor, Sheila Hicks, Joy Tinney and Paige Nobles.
Taylor’s $322.24 grant will allow students to observe an ecosystem in action, right in their classroom. “Terrarium for Taylor’s Class” will incorporate a real-life, self-sustaining environment complete with aquatic animals and plants for students to collect data and engage in scientific discovery beyond books and whiteboards.
“Do You Want to Build a Robot?”, Nobles’ winning $1,985.14 grant idea, will allow McAllister students to construct and code simple machines to solve real-world problems. Students will explore the engineering process – designing, developing, building and testing their robots – creating working models that represent what is happening in real life.
Tinney’s $1,959.94 grant idea goes far beyond its name, “Dirt!” The strategic outdoor habitat project will help students learn more about the human connection to nature and overall health in a hands-on and innovative way.
“DIY Meets Education” as part of Hicks’ $1,959.40 grant project. With it, she’ll create a “makerspace” in her classroom to encourage artistic expression and craftsmanship among her gifted resource students. On a miniature scale, students will rebuild damaged bridges, engineer kikes and levees to prevent flooding, and create architectural structures with symmetry and stability.
Three Richmond Hill Middle School teachers won Bright Ideas grants this year: Dennis Moore, Catherine Knight and Robert Hodgdon.
As part of Moore’s $1,898.42 “Sustainability Project,” students will learn about renewable energies and sustainability, as well as the latest innovations in growing horticultural and agricultural crops. Students will explore using wind power, solar power and battery storage technologies to grow plants throughout the school year.
Knight’s $1,799.96 grant idea, “Bringing Books to Reality,” will incorporate virtual reality to supplement classroom learning schoolwide. Knight’s vision is that students who have never traveled outside their hometown to see the world through virtual field trips. Science teachers can show students the ocean floor, for example, and social studies teachers can travel with their classes to the Egyptian pyramids. Literature will come to life as students take virtual field trips to the various settings in the books they read.
Hodgdon’s winning $2,125 project idea will get his students busy with “Vegetable Container Gardening Research” as citizen scientists who provide real data benefitting stakeholders from the local to national level. “Our classroom extends to our campus and our community,” Hodgdon said. “These activities provide students with skills that can transfer to careers in STEM. Gardening research also creates an interest in an outdoor family recreational activity that can be passed on from one generation to the next.”
Coastal Electric Cooperative is a not-for-profit electric cooperative providing electricity and related services to more than 19,000 member-consumers in Bryan, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties.