Charles England teachers use grants for fun, educational projects

Charles England teachers use grants for fun, educational projects

Several teachers at Charles England Elementary School received an extra boost in the form of EnergyUnited Bright Ideas Grant funds to support classroom projects.

EnergyUnited awarded over $40,000 in Bright Ideas education grants to 37 teachers to fund classroom learning projects. Students at schools in Catawba, Forsyth, Guilford, Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Rowan and Alexander counties, will participate in Bright Ideas projects funded by EnergyUnited this year.

Charlotte Teague, a fifth-grade science teacher, received $820 in funding to purchase virtual reality equipment for her project, Keeping it Real with Virtual Reality: Bringing Real World Experiences to Low Income Students.

Teague said that students are more engaged and interested in a subject whenever she can use equipment to take virtual field trips.

“I might talk about the ocean, but some of my kids have never been to an ocean,” Teague said. “We talk about force in motion or friction and maybe they have never been to Carowinds and been on a roller coaster. They can “virtually” ride a roller coast and see how it speeds up and how it slows down and different things like that.”

She said the grant money will be used to purchase five virtual reality goggles and five iPods for technological support to cover a variety of subjects. Teague said the equipment is another tool to encourage students to learn.

“It engages them so much more when they can see and they can do things, instead of having to sit and be still,” Teague said. “It helps to supplement something our kids might not understand or have not ever seen.”

Catherine Miles teaches English as a Second Language at Charles England. She received $1,989 for her gardening project, Growing Learners Together. She is working in partnership with EC teacher Kelly Carter.

Miles said they chose a perennial garden as the project to help her students feel more connected to the school community and the other students.

“A majority of my students garden at home, so a lot of them may not be able to ace a math test compared to some of our non-ESL students, but they understand gardening,” Miles said. “Some of my students grow tomatoes, chilies and help their parents in the kitchen. So when they come to school, I am hoping to give them a chance to succeed and to be able to teach, hopefully in everybody’s classroom and across the school. Gardening touches on so many subjects; mathematics, science, or you can write poems.”

With the funding, Miles plans on purchasing soil and composts as well as a variety of edible perennials, such as blueberries, blackberries and dwarf fruit trees. She said she hopes the garden will bring an added element to the school.

“I think school gardens have a lot to offer,” Miles said. “This will be a location where all teachers and students feel welcome. I am hoping over the course of years that this garden will thrive and be a benefit to Charles England for years to come. … Just explaining the project to other teachers, they have been very supportive and have had different ideas how they can help.”

Third-grade teacher Kaaren Haworth received $1,553 in grant funding to create STEM Saturdays events.

Haworth said she wanted to create the event to encourage parent involvement in STEM activities. She said she wanted a Saturday event to give students a chance to spend more time participating in fun events.

“We had a STEM night, but it was only a brief time. This would be a little bit longer and they would have a specific project, like maybe they have to build a bridge,” Haworth said. “They would have a problem that they need to work together with their family or other schoolmates solving this problem using science, math and technology.”

Haworth said she will use the funding to purchase equipment, such as programmable robots, and supplies to be used during the STEM Saturday event.

She said the point of the project is to encourage community involvement and to encourage students to become more active in STEM.

“We want our families to learn more about STEM,” Haworth said. “Even though I am doing this as an event, most of these items will be reused in my classroom. The philosophy behind it is that we don’t really know what the jobs of the future will be so we need to teach our students so that they can be prepared for the future. We can teach them problem solving, teach them how to work together, teach them things that will teach them the skills they will need for the next steps.”

All of the teachers said they were extremely grateful for the additional funding to support these and other projects in the school. They said if it wasn’t for these grants, many of them would not be able to do these projects.

“When we come into the classroom, we are concerned about making sure our students are safe, making sure they are fed, making sure that they are clothed, so a lot of the things we purchase for our classroom goes toward that,” Miles said. “Grants like this give us that extra boost to do all those fun things we want to do.”

Sharon Myers/The Dispatch
Photo Credit Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch