Bright Ideas in Action - Carolina Country
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Bright Ideas in Action

Education grants spark inspiration across NC

By Sarah Thompson

Bright Ideas in Action

For nearly 30 years, the North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have given more than 600 annual grants to support teachers creating innovative ways for students to learn through the Bright Ideas program. Since 1994, co-ops have issued more than $14.3 million in grants that have benefited well over 2.8 million students. Teachers can apply for grants every year to fund experiential projects and new classroom resources. Here are a few of this year’s projects, inspiring students across the state.


“Learning Science with LEGO®

Rutherford EMC

Teacher: Danna Ritchie, Catawba Heights Elementary School
Participating Students: 50
LEGO is more than a toy. Through Bright Ideas, students were given LEGO bricks to build race cars and compete against their peers as an example of force and motion. This project made the second graders excited to learn and gave the teacher a new resource to use with her future students.


“Drumming Around the World”

Roanoke Electric Cooperative

Teacher: Roger Brown, Bertie Middle School
Participating Students: 450
Through this project, students learned how to play the drums and apply their skills and understanding of rhythm to their own music. The project exposed students to a variety of cultural genres of music such as Cuban, African, Poco and Latin. The students performed a drum circle influenced by these genres, and capped off the project with a 30-minute concert in front of their peers and community.


“STEM Innovators” 

Lumbee River EMC 

Teacher: Sylvia Beckham, Seventy-First Classical Middle School 
Participating Students: 170

It’s difficult to teach students how to engineer, invent and innovate without the right materials. Middle school STEM Innovators are assured a wide variety of STEM projects and resources to let their imagination run wild. Some of the projects of this year’s STEM Innovators included solar powered cars, rocket building, 3D printing and coding LEGO robots. Next year, teacher Sylvia Beckham plans on teaching seventh graders how to build and fly drones. These projects are possible because of the classroom training kits made available by the support of Lumbee River EMC.


“STEMulating the Mind”

Tri-County EMC

Teacher: Rebecca Richards, Grantham Elementary
Participating Students: 300
Through teacher Rebecca Richards’ project, students learned how to program, code and engineer using supplies provided by Sphero Mini Education, as well as the help of local businesses in the industry. These resources allowed students to practice problem-solving strategies and challenged them to hone real world skills.


“Time to Cook”

Albemarle EMC

Teacher: Jennifer Robinson, Moyock Middle School
Participating Students: 200
Through this project, students learned the basics of cooking from budgeting for food, planning meals, reading recipes and, of course, how to create delicious meals. In class, the students made cinnamon sugar biscuits, cinnamon roll waffles and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato and bacon. The hope of this project is to encourage students to explore foods and gain confidence in the kitchen.


“STEAM Education”

Haywood EMC

Teacher: Sam Yancey, Haywood County Schools
Participating Students: 200
Through this initiative, students from second through fifth grade learned how to upcycle household and classroom materials using Strawbees-brand sustainability stations. This project helped students become experts in finding alternative uses for plastic materials. They were given the freedom to tinker, create and combine recycled materials to produce sustainable and innovative objects. Teacher Sam Yancey hopes this experience will shape the newest inventors that will remake the world into a better place by creating something new with something old.

About the Author

Sarah Thompson is the 2022 editorial intern for Carolina Country.

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