Bentonville Schools Foundation distributes grants to schools

Posted: February 24, 2018 at 1 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- The Bentonville Schools Foundation recently distributed nearly $191,600 to the schools as part of a new giving strategy aimed at supporting science, technology, engineering, math and the arts.

Schools were asked last fall to submit proposals for how they would use grant money to promote those subject areas, commonly referred to as STEAM.


The Bentonville Schools Foundation gets much of its revenue from an annual fall fundraiser and its Gold Rush Fun Run and 5-kilometer race, held each spring. During the 2016-17 school year, the fall fundraiser raised nearly $43,000 while Gold Rush brought in almost $58,000, according to the foundation’s annual report.

Source: Staff Report

The foundation granted $10,000 each to 19 of the district's 21 schools. One school received $1,600, which was commensurate with its need, said Marcus Osborne, foundation board president. Mary Mae Jones Elementary School didn't receive a grant.

The foundation was pleased with the applications, he said.

"We were very surprised, in a positive way, and excited to be able to support the schools," Osborne said.

Much of the foundation's giving in recent years focused on hardware investment, providing teachers a classroom set of iPads or laptop computers through the School District's 21st Century Technology program. The foundation also received and funded grant applications from teachers ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars each.

The foundation plans to hold the schools accountable under its new grant system.

"We'll come back in and assess the value of the investment and make sure they're making progress," Osborne said. "I think if they do what they said they were going to do, and in many cases continue to do what they were already doing, I think it will have a big impact."

West High School's money will go toward a "STEAM cart" that may be moved from classroom to classroom, said Principal Jonathon Guthrie. The cart will contain robotics-related kits and materials, as well as tools and consumables such as batteries, tape, glue and fishing line.

The cart and materials cost about $7,000. The school's remaining $3,000 will go toward professional development.

"The foundation is really good to support this," Guthrie said.

Creekside Middle School will use its money to create a "maker space" inside a multi-purpose room, and for a few mobile maker carts, according to its application. Maker spaces encourage kids to tinker, build, explore and experiment using things like crafting supplies, old electronics and cardboard.

The money will go toward buying the carts, 3-D printers and 3-D printing filament, storage and shelving and safety equipment. It also will pay for professional development.

Social Impact program

Lincoln Junior High School will put the foundation's money toward its Social Impact project, a program started last year by math teachers Jayna Moffit and Kim Shaw.

Social Impact calls on participants to complete a project that benefits the community, while incorporating something they've learned in school.

"We're asking them to really apply the things they've done in the classroom -- not to solve problems in the classroom anymore, but to solve bigger problems beyond the classroom," Moffit said.

In the program's first year last school year, about 160 students put nearly 1,000 hours into their projects and raised about $7,000. Those projects benefited 49 organizations, Moffit said.

Shawn Sproles and Macey Fielding, eighth-graders, participated in Social Impact last year.

Shawn and a friend designed and built a wooden toolbox, which they filled with items including hygienic products and a Walmart gift card. They gave the toolbox to a homeless man Shawn had seen multiple times downtown. He made a blueprint and used geometry to figure out the volume he needed the box to be, Shawn said.

Macey made about 80 goody bags filled with candy for the children at the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter. The project was inspired by her cousin, now an adult, who was in and out of children's shelters as a kid.

"She'd remind me that anything that would come in, like toys or clothes or candy or anything, made her feel like there were people out there who really did care for her," Macey said.

She said she used math to figure out how much candy would fit in the two different sizes of bags she had.

More than 500 students are expected to participate in the program this year. It kicked off last week and will culminate with a presentation night May 8.

Money from the foundation will help the students with their projects if they need it. Students will have to write grant proposals to the school's staff to get some of that money, Moffit said.

Not done giving

Osborne said foundation officials were surprised by the diversity of ideas that came from the schools.

"Each school has a different approach," he said. "We were encouraged by that. We know some (projects) will be successful, some will be less. And we hope they'll share that information across the district."

He believes the level of funding provided to the schools is sustainable, largely because local companies like the focus on promoting innovation and STEAM.

"They need students who have focused in on STEAM," Osborne said.

The foundation is not done giving this school year.

It's asking individual teachers to submit grant applications for their programs. The foundation expects to provide $25,000 to $30,000 through those grants.

Through the teacher grants, school grants and other initiatives, the foundation expects to give close to $250,000 this school year -- about double what the foundation typically spends, Osborne said.

NW News on 02/24/2018