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Grants help bright ideas shine at RH schools
Coastal Electric Co-op Bright Ideas program doles out $20k in Bryan County
Bright ideas 1

An entourage of Coastal Electric Cooperative employees, camera crews and school administrators burst into Richmond Hill schools Oct. 9 to surprise teachers with 12 Bright Ideas grants totaling almost $20,000 to fund their innovative classroom projects.

Teachers applied for the grants in August, and this month alone the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation awarded more than $33,000 to winners in Bryan, Liberty and McIntosh counties to see those “Bright Ideas” become reality.

Since the Bright Ideas program’s inception in 2002, more than $320,500 has been awarded to give local teachers the power to put their creative teaching ideas into action.

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.

The following is a summary of project ideas from Bryan County’s 2019 grant winners:

G.W. Carver Elementary

• Wendi Homes and Sheri Hundley won a $1,522.09 grant for their “Sphero Hero” project, which was inspired when Coastal Electric IT Manager Terry Cook presented an activity using Sphero robots during one of the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) events. Students can program the sphere-shaped robots, allowing them to explore coding, creative thinking and critical visual art connections.

• Dawn Houck and Katie Sriratanakoul, also from Carver, are getting their students “Future-Ready with Robotics” and a $1,947.41 Bright Ideas grant. Using robot kits, students will plan and design to build complex robots. They can then code the robots to perform real-world tasks using measurements to achieve precise movements. Students who complete their robots will have the opportunity to participate in school, county, district and state technology competitions.

McAllister Elementary

• Melissa McPhillips won a $1,263.94 grant for “STEM Hands-On Learning,” which will provide a weather station for the school, allowing students to become meteorologists, collect data using real-world tools, and predict and report the weather.

• Vivian Huntoon and Sarah Taylor want to “Save the Bees” with their $1,831 grant, which will provide a solar-powered greenhouse, allowing students to grow plants that attract bees. Their goal is to provide the bee population with native plants needed to maintain and boost local colonies.

• Sarah Taylor is also “Digging Deeper” with a $1,649.19 she won, which will fund an after-school club for students called DIRT (Discover, Inspire, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Teach). It builds upon previous projects focused toward outdoor educational opportunities – a pollinator garden, bird feeding stations, nesting boxes, a poultry coop and raised vegetable beds. In addition to providing hands-on learning experiences during school, the project will extend the opportunity for children to “dig a little deeper” with organized after-school activities.

Richmond Hill Middle

• Dana Letson is taking students “Up, Up, and Away!” with a $1,568 Bright Ideas grant. The project will allow students to apply math and science concepts to guide an air-compressed construction paper rocket to hit a target 50 yards away from the launching pad. Students will design their rockets and test them within their specifications to see what rocket construction will achieve the goal.

• RHMS’s Robert Hodgdon’s $2,000 grant project will allow students to design and construct a drip irrigation system for a large, raisedbed agricultural research garden. Students will also develop their own research trials for common garden crops in the garden and develop a scaled model of a community garden.

• Mary Crippen, Dr. Elizabeth Bennett and Hodgdon worked together on Crippen’s grant proposal to make her $757.50 project a reality, “A Multi-Sensory Approach to Teaching Mathematics.” A classroom mini-kitchen will allow students to use mathematics practically through cooking, as well as create motivation within students who have historically struggled with math. Students with disabilities will use math in real-world situations while working on grade-level standards in hands-on applications.

Richmond Hill High

• Richmond Hill High school teachers won a total of four Bright Ideas grants this year. Rebecca Doty’s $1,941.98 project, “The Power of Technology,” will help prepare students for life after high school in a tech-savvy world. The project provides graphing calculators with various applications and color graphing capabilities.

• Levi Sybert’s $1,931.94 grant will introduce juniors and seniors to a plethora of outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, kayaking, camping, outdoor cooking, angling and orienteering. The project not only promotes students’ current physical, mental and emotional health, but also sparks interest in outdoor recreation activities that can carry through adulthood.

• Students in Emma Fettes’ classes will study “Energy and Emissions of Coal,” made possible by her $1,993.25 Bright Ideas grant. The project will help them understand the energy efficiency or inefficiency of coal by evaluating types of the fuel, researching industry standards for removing potential pollutants, and designing experiments to measure the amount of energy each type produces and which gasses each emits.

• James Flanagan, Susan Smith and Stephen Blessing won a $1,455.96 grant for “Bridge-Building Gardens: Growing As One.” The project promotes social interactions among socially-disabled and non-disabled students as they work together to build and maintain a community garden. In addition, the garden will provide an organic and energy-efficient location for teachers and other members of the community to grow healthy fruits and vegetables.

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