FAYETTEVILLE -- The Fayetteville Public Education Foundation distributed about $252,660 in teacher grants and student scholarships over the past year, celebrating those chosen at the annual Celebration of Excellence at the Arkansas Air Museum at Drake Field on April 30.
Teachers have used the grants to implement an innovative aquaponics system in the high school greenhouse, to give special education students a chance to learn adaptive behavioral skills with horses, to construct a stormwater management demonstration area and much more.
The foundation gave 59 innovative and pioneering teacher grants and 12 scholarships to seniors. This year's distribution came from the foundation's $4 million endowment, which generated $157,304 in grant awards and $19,772 in scholarships. Another $75,583 will be awarded in grants paid for by corporations, foundations and individuals, according to a School District news release.
"The foundation serves as a catalyst for emerging needs identified by teachers for projects that give our children a rich educational experience, while preserving public dollars for the work of schools," said Cambre Horne-Brooks, the foundation's executive director. "Whether it is an after-school theater group, a chance to learn a new musical instrument or the tools to create, invent or implement a new idea, we are always looking for exciting ways to encourage our students to try something different that will inspire and foster a further desire to learn."
Teacher Jade Cameron received one of the two largest grant of $10,000 this fall for an aquaponics system in the high school greenhouse to promote aquaculture and hydroponic plant production.
The system works by recirculating water from two large fish tanks through four plant beds, Cameron said. Nutrients from the fish waste feed the plants, and the plants filter the water to keep the fish healthy.
Cameron teaches plant science and green house management classes.
"The students came up with the project while we were brainstorming what to do in the greenhouse," Cameron said. "They helped to set it up. It's been really cool to see the kids learning that they can sustain these plants with the fish waste. It's cool to see how everything works together. They are learning, and it doesn't really feel like learning."
The aquaponics system and greenhouse also generate plants donated within the community or sold in fundraisers, Cameron said.
"We will continue to maximize its use and put food in cafeterias or donate it," she said. "It's exciting to see what the grant can do for students in the future and our community as well."
At the celebration, the foundation introduced two new funds to add to the endowment: the Benny A. Winborn Scholarship and the Spark Foundation Fund. They will be distributed annually through teacher grants for programs increasing access to and education around health and fitness in elementary schools.
Another $10,000 grant through the Truity Education Foundation went to Leah Rose at Ramay Junior High School for Google Expeditions Kits to take students outside the classroom through virtual field trips to destinations such as NASA or the Louvre.
The foundation awarded Erin Tremain $5,000 for the Ride to Grow Program. Tremain teaches in the special education department at Vandergriff Elementary School, which serves a large portion of Fayetteville Public School's students with disabilities, Horne-Brooks said.
Tremain said the nine-week program is a school-based equestrian therapy program tailored for students receiving special education services. It focuses on using horse-based activities -- riding, grooming, feeding, reading about horses, answering questions about horses, writing about horses -- to build communication skills, literacy skills, emotional regulation skills, fine and gross motor skills and social skills in students, she said.
The grant will pay for a therapeutic saddle for students with more severe physical disabilities, program material and curriculum development, she said.
"The program will start at Vandergriff this upcoming school year, then grow to additional schools in Fayetteville school system, so all students receiving special education services will be able to experience the program and benefit from equestrian therapy," Tremain said.
Another grant of $5,744 went to Dana Smith for a storage shed, native plant rain garden and rain water harvesting mechanisms at Lake Fayetteville.
The space will serve students at the elementary and high school level as well as those attending Fayetteville Virtual Academy, according to the grant. It will serve as a teaching tool for around 1,600 students annually, Horne-Brooks said.
Students in Clay Morton's AP Environmental Science class assisted with the research, budget and initial design of the stormwater elements, Smith said.
The stormwater demonstration area addresses issues of stormwater runoff at Lake Fayetteville Study Center while also providing a site for students and the community to observe several stormwater management tools in action, she said.
"A small group of students have gained real-world skills by being involved in the build process," Smith said. "Thousands of other students will learn about stormwater management design elements and tools that utilize biomimicry while visiting the study center on field trips."
NW News on 05/12/2018