Bright Ideas Grants Foster Success for Students and Teachers
Grant program helps fund a variety of hands-on projectsBy Elizabeth Babcock
When I first learned about the funding opportunities made possible by North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives’ Bright Ideas education grant program, I wanted to improve our school’s computer lab by purchasing software and online subscriptions that would enhance instruction and support classroom teachers. Funding provided through the program over the years has done that, and so much more. The grant program has been a blessing for our entire school.
Bright Ideas grants funded a project that helped us procure some of the first eBooks in our rural school. Our computer lab has become a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lab. We now have technology-based learning that goes beyond online games and documents to the ability to create 2D drawings and turn those into 3D prints so students have an actual model to hold, use and share with others.
Bright Ideas grants have helped us fund a variety of other meaningful, hands-on projects. Many of these projects started small, and the grant program has allowed us to build on what we started with so that we can continue to add on to, edit, revise and improve project expectations and reach more students each year. Programmable robots, for example, have been used for countless engaging activities to provide learning opportunities in all subject areas. Students have used these robots for launches, obstacle courses, moving objects, making music, recording messages, creating characters, dancing — and, of course, for fun!
The grant program has been a blessing for our entire school.
Engineering kits have also been funded by Bright Ideas grants. These are some of our students’ most treasured projects. Students build a crawling robot from scratch, and they are able to make changes to improve the robot design. Students race others and are challenged to see how they can make them the fastest. They also have a weight challenge, where students solve problems to see how much weight they can get their robot to pull. And through the drawbot project, we learn about artists like Jackson Pollock, and students design a robot that mimics the style of that artist.
Bright Ideas also funded several projects from Osmo that have changed our school. Osmo kits make iPads even more interactive with reflective pieces and stands. There are dozens of interactive apps and activities that cover concepts in all areas of our kindergarten through fifth grade curriculum. (Osmos are also a parent night favorite, and some of the teachers love the Words games so much that we catch them playing with them during breaks!)
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Osmo project is the difference it’s made for one particular student. She struggled to make connections and engage in her regular classroom setting, but with the support of Osmo, she is now able to connect and learn in her classroom.
Our goal with our students is to motivate and encourage them to be successful and productive members of society who think critically and solve problems. Like hundreds of schools across the state, we couldn’t do this without the support of the Bright Ideas education grant program.
About the AuthorElizabeth Babcock is instructional technology facilitator at LaFayette Elementary School, served by South River EMC.