By Ed Harris
The Southington Education Foundation (SEF) listened to several past grant recipients talk about how their projects were successful and how they were received by students during a recent meeting.
Seven teachers, encompassing five different grants, told the foundation how the grants impacted the classroom, whether it met the desired objectives and outcomes and if the project was self sustainable.
“I have always been impressed with the variety of programs,” said SEF Vice Chair Jan Galati. Galati said she had visited classrooms and had seen many of these programs in action.
Thalberg teachers Chanel Curtin and Mandy Hubeny talked about their program, Classroom Planetarium, which was funded through a $1,000 grant. The grant money allowed the teachers to purchase two iPads, and the program, utilizing an app, is intended to allow students to view astronomy in a realistic, hands on approach.
Curtin said the program has helped change the student’s attitude toward science. “This changes their whole perspective,” Curtin told the foundation.
Hubeny agreed, noting that the students are finding new apps or letting the teachers know how to improve on the current app they are using.
“It’s getting them to go out and do their own research,” Hubeny said.
Flanders School teachers Joyce McAloon, Dan Murdzek and Krista Tibbetts talked about their project Give a Little-Get A.L.O.T. The acronym stands for Aspiring Leaders Of Tomorrow. The teachers received a grant of $3,200 from the SEF.
Their project challenges fourth and fifth graders at Flanders to develop a business concept. The students compete for a chance to make the idea a reality, with the idea with the most potential chosen and financed. The product is then sold at a local fair with management provided by the students.
“It was amazing to watch,” said Murdzek, detailing how the students came before a group of 13 teachers to pitch their proposal, interviewed for help and then manufacture the product.
This past year, the first for the program, the winning product was cupcakes, which were sold at a festival in Meriden. The students, with the help of Paul Gregory, produced 3,000 cupcakes.
Ultimately the program did not turn a profit, though the program, with a new product chosen, will be returning this year with a lower budget. The students decided to donate 150 of the remaining cupcakes to the Meriden Homeless Shelter.
To date, the SEF has helped fund more than $75,000 worth of projects in town. The bulk of the money given out in the grants comes from the group’s annual Fan of the Foundation fundraiser.
“It was wonderful to hear from our past grant recipients and learn how our students have benefitted from the programs and projects the SEF has funded,” said SEF Chair Dawn Miceli. “It’s one thing to read about the various ideas teachers have for their classrooms, but to hear first-hand just how effective and impactful each has been truly solidifies the SEF’s mission to instill a love of learning in our students. So many of the grants have been utilized across the curriculum and have a real project-based learning element to them.”