Teachers and principals at 41 Springfield schools can move forward with innovative projects for their students thanks to grants they’ve received. The money, $276,869, comes from donors who gave to the Back to School Grant Program at the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools.
Dr. John Jungmann, superintendent of SPS, noted that Saturday is the 150th birthday of the district. "This is the best birthday present we've ever received," he said. "I guarantee it."
Forty-eight volunteers paired up to head out across the city to hand out the awards. Before they left, Pamela Anderson, director of Development at the Foundation for SPS, told them the money would go "to many deserving projects our teachers have put a lot of effort in requesting, and these project are innovating and inspiring and hands-on. They're the projects that go on to be models for future programs within the school system."
A $500 grant was given to Matt Burke, Exploratory teacher at Reed Middle School who said he was ecstatic for his students. He’ll use the money to buy a tent his middle schoolers will use to stay out of the sun while working in the Reed-Woodland Heights Community Garden and to purchase seeds and watering equipment. They’ll also set up under the tent to sell produce.
The garden provides many benefits for students, he said, including encouraging healthier eating.
"One of my long-term goals is thinking about changing their tastes and what they like to eat," he said. "So many of them don't eat vegetables at all, and so, you've already seen in their eyes when their plants germinate is like, 'I can do this.' Self confidence, healthy living and then team work because they're working with a team."
Another grant at Reed was given to librarian, Tammy West. She'll use the $747.56 award to purchase stationary bikes with desks on them.
"The idea is getting two of them. Students can pair up, those kids who maybe need to maybe have a little extra energy burn off during the day. They can't sit still during their class. They can come down, put their Chrome Book on the desk and pedal and just kind of work through their assignment," she said.
Teachers can also pair up to bounce ideas off each other while pedaling, according to West.
She got the idea for the bikes when reading an article about a similar set up on a college campus.
"I just started thinking, 'well, what can I do that would be similar to this for those kids who need to burn off that energy but yet still do their work?'" she said.
Reed principal, Debbie Grega, said the grants encourage teachers to think of innovative ways to engage kids in learning.
"And through these grants we get the funding to try those things out see if it's going to work and how we can spin things down a different bent a little bit to help kids really be engaged in school," she said.
The Back to School Grants total this year surpassed the goal the Foundation had set by more than $20,000. Grants were awarded in these categories: Student Experience, Modern Learning Environment, Classroom Projects, Community Engagement, Professional Development and Reading Roundup.