Washington County Public Schools Education Foundation’s ‘minigrants’ awarded to teachers for creative projects
Herald Mail – May 20, 2017 – CJ Lovelace
It was a busy Friday morning at Hickory Elementary School as excited youngsters took part in field-day events outside.
But inside, teacher Jennifer Clinger had just as much fun.
Clinger was surprised with a giant check for $4,935 — the largest grant awarded this year through the Washington County Public Schools Education Foundation’s annual minigrant program.
“Very surprised. I was not expecting the award,” she said. “I forgot it was being announced today until I saw them with the balloon, and then I realized that was what was happening.”
The foundation awarded a total of $16,500 through more than a dozen grants to teachers across the county, as well as provided three $500 scholarships to Williamsport High School students who took part in the FAFSA Frenzy program.
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
“Today’s the most exciting day for the foundation,” said Christina Williams, foundation manager and a member of one of the two teams that surprised teachers Friday.
The foundation’s largest award — a “maxigrant” as it’s now called — will enable the Hagerstown-area school to purchase “makerspace” equipment, such as tools, art supplies and building materials, allowing students to “create and make anything,” said Clinger, a Gifted and Talented Education, or GATE, teacher.
“It involves a lot of creativity, some curiosity when they’re taking things apart to figure out how they work,” she said. “We’re just really excited to see how this rolls out and get the students in there and get them started making things, seeing what they are able to do and create.”
The foundation received nearly 80 applications for minigrants this year, with two other elementary schools, Fountaindale and Cascade, also being awarded money for makerspace projects.
The majority of funding made available for the minigrants comes from the teachers themselves, said Williams, noting that many give a portion of their paycheck toward the yearly effort.
“It has to be related to something in the curriculum, but it may be funding that they’re not getting from the school system itself,” she said. “So those are funds we’re putting back into the classroom. … It supports the teachers. They all strongly believe in that.”
Several students and administrators helped foundation officials stage a surprise at the front door of Emma K. Doub Elementary School for when teacher David Dulberger arrived after a walking field trip with his class to nearby Washington County Technical High School.
Dulberger plans to use his $160 minigrant to buy two bluetooth basketballs, which can be connected to an iPad application and tracked to help students understand physics and the laws of motion involved in the sport.
“I’m excited to get some technology into the P.E. classroom and do some things with physical education and technology,” Dulberger told a couple of student reporters who live-streamed the presentation on the school’s in-house news channel.
Pangborn Elementary teacher Benjamin Hurley was another teacher to get a surprise interruption by Williams’ group, who presented a check for $1,000 to support computer-science instruction that will benefit hundreds of students at every grade level.
“We’re just thrilled,” Pangborn Principal Eric Meredith said. “This has just been a great thing from year to year.”