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SPRINGDALE -- Almost $12,000 in classroom grants will go toward programs in robotics, biofuel engineering, music and journalism throughout the Springdale School District, several teachers told the School Board on Monday evening.

The nine grants, first announced in December, come from the nonprofit Springdale Public Schools Education Foundation. Executive director Chris Stecklein said the foundation aims to help great ideas that fall outside of the class budget and will have an outsize impact.

"Our objective here is to simply serve kids and serve teachers," who do the real work, he said.

About $1,200, for instance, will pay for a virtual reality system that could allow students at J.O. Kelly Middle School to learn and teach each other about biology by creating virtual ecosystems and figuring out how deer, bees or other organisms interact. A student newspaper that started last fall at Archer Learning Center and a program letting students design and manufacture custom parts for their robots at Central Junior High School each got $2,000.

"They are encouraged to take risks, to try," said Radene Worley, a library media specialist at Bayyari Elementary School who is using a $500 grant to support a maker space that encourages students to solve problems and build with their hands. One student constructed a full-sized model of an air hockey table low enough to the ground that her sister would be able to use it sitting in her wheelchair, Worley said.

Several of the grants will help encourage this type of experience and self-guided learning, the teachers said.

Caleb Johnson, a science teacher at Springdale High School, said his $800 grant will support a project growing algae to make biofuel, bringing biological processes described in textbooks to a scale students can see and work with for themselves. The work will help teach science the way actual scientists do it in a time when science is often misunderstood or dismissed, he said.

Programs at Knapp and Monitor elementary schools and Sonora Middle School also received grants.

The education foundation since it started in 2011 has given out more than $300,000 in similar grants thanks to donations from other charitable groups, district employees and others, Stecklein said. The next round will come this summer. In the meantime, the foundation is also accepting applications for student scholarships and working to raise money for a $90,000 project to put classroom libraries in all 90 kindergarten classes in the district.

"Thank you for all your work," Superintendent Jim Rollins told Stecklein.

On the subject of grants, the board also heard the Blue & You Foundation, affiliated with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, gave $38,500 to improve the track at Hunt Elementary School and connect it with the Raozrback Greenway. The project should wrap up by August, assistant superintendent Kathy Morledge said.

NW News on 02/13/2018

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