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Coastal Electric 'Bright Ideas' grants spur innovative class projects
Coastal Electric RHMS21
Checks donated to Richmond Hill Middle School

From funds to meet students’ basic needs during times of financial crisis to grants that will take education to the next level, 24 Coastal Georgia schools got a shot in the arm this month to the tune of $65,324.91.

The Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation awarded over $41,000 – the most ever in a single year – in Bright Ideas grants to teachers to fund their innovative classroom and virtual learning project ideas.

In addition, the Foundation presented $1,000 checks to 24 principals in Bryan, Liberty and McIntosh counties to be donated to their “principal’s funds,” with the intention the monies would be used to meet students’ and teachers’ needs throughout the school year to which only school staff may be privy.

Funding for Bright Ideas grants and Principals Funds 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.

Below is a summary of project ideas from Bryan County’s 2021 grant winners:

With six winners, Richmond Hill Middle School received the most Bright Ideas grants of any one school this year:

* “Dinosaurs Come to Life” with Tammy Luke’s $1,301.08 grant project, which will allow seventh-grade students to create poseable, small-scale dinosaurs and matching sleeve puppets that replicate the mandibular chewing actions of Mesozoic Era dinosaurs. The creatures will be used to produce videos of the dinosaurs’ prehistoric lives and posted on a student-coded and designed website.

* Tracy Thompson’s $1,960 grant will allow students to build, program and fly drones while learning scientific concepts involved in flight. Student teams will use block coding to program the drones to navigate simple obstacles autonomously.

* With Kristin Butkovich’s $1,537.98 grant, seventh-grade math students will design and create suspension bridge models, scan their models, and test whether their bridges would hold up under real-life conditions, such as adverse weather. Students will also calculate the cost of materials to construct life-size versions of their bridges using a cost comparison across companies.

* Andrew Robertson and fellow RMMS STEM teachers won a $1,948.75 grant for their “Programmable Holiday Light Display” project, in which students will use a combination of engineering and art skills to program a commercial light display to create a holiday art show. Eventually, the display could become a permanent board in front of the school showing upcoming events.

* As part of Robert Hodgdon’s $1,890.50 grant project, students will collaborate with wildlife specialists to survey and construct homes for animals such as owls, bats, Eastern bluebirds and tree frogs that have been displaced due to local land clearing for new subdivisions and infrastructure.

* Mary Bowdon won a $1,800 grant for her project, “Constellations are ‘Ozo’Mazing.” Students will create constellations, code small robots called Ozobots to graph the constellations on coordinate planes, and write stories about their created constellations.

Carver Elementary School won three Bright Ideas grants:

* Marcy Newberry’s $1,558.90 project idea, “Power House,” will provide students a hands-on, applicable way to learn electrical principles by designing, constructing and implementing a wiring plan for their own customized-build model home. Students will investigate naturally-occurring electricity versus human-harnessed electricity through the exploration of magnets, and produce an electric generator to light a bulb and turn a motor.

* “Freedom Park” will become a reality thanks to teachers Windi Holmes, Dr. Sheri Hundley and their $1,388.80 Bright Ideas grant. The patriotic-themed space will feature activities that challenge students to build and explore, while breathing free from face masks.

*With their $622.09 grant, Alexandra Fults and Brent Oberlin will bring “Hands-On Reading” to their students by way of reading comprehension construction tool kits. The kits will help students make new connections and pathways in their brains through the process of dual coding, which activates both sides of the brain while learning. This process will allow students to view reading like they view science, with an exploratory approach based on inquiry while they create meaningful and lasting connections that improve comprehension.

Three Richmond Hill High School teachers won Bright Ideas grants:

* Emma Fettes won a $1,490.40 grant for “Evaluation of Air Pollutants,” which features two project phases. First, students will work to understand the energy efficiency/inefficiency of the nonrenewable resource, coal. Students will research and evaluate the stages of coal, research industry standards for removing potential pollutants, and experiment to find which form of coal is the most efficient for energy production. For the second phase, students will evaluate gas emissions from a range of vehicles with various manufacturing dates.

* Josh Bulah’s $1,516.56 grant will create an “Outdoor Engineering Lab,” providing engineering students with additional creative space and access to more sophisticated equipment. Students will be trained on how to use a scroll saw, band saw, cordless drills and small hand tools, gaining knowledge in the engineering design process that they may not get otherwise.*

* “Gardening as Bridges,” a $1,973.26 grant project by Jeffrey Graham, will use gardening to promote cross-curricular collaboration among a diverse population of students while engaging in hands-on learning opportunities. Using garden beds and a greenhouse on campus, students will work collectively to design, maintain and harvest plants they research and choose to sow.

Since the Bright Ideas program’s inception in 2002, close to $400,000 has been awarded to give local teachers the power to put their creative teaching ideas into action.

“These children are our future and most valuable resource,” said Coastal Electric Cooperative CEO Chris Fettes, who presented donations on behalf of the Foundation. “We are here to support the dedicated people who work hard every day to provide a quality education and enhance our students’ quality of life.”

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