Every little bit helps.
The Mansfield Education Foundation, following this philosophy, recently delivered more than $153,000 in grants to the school district to support innovation in education.
While this may seem small, considering the funding is spread around, the money is going a long way to help teachers provide students additional opportunities for learning.
"They give teachers the opportunity to think outside the box, to be innovative and creative, to give students new and exciting learning experiences that go above the curriculum," said Linda Bacsik, director of the Mansfield Education Foundation. "Every grant allows students to have a new learning experience."
In all, 38 grants were awarded for ideas that included sensory stations, technology initiatives and career-readiness projects.
"We have certain guidelines that we go by. We look at creativity, innovation, impact on the numbers of students and if the project or program aligns with Vision 2020 (The district initiative)," Bacsik said. "We have a committee that reviews the grants made up of foundation board members and district administrators."
Some of the projects that have been funded from the recent distribution of grants include:
▪ The Cultivating Classroom – Mary Orr. Grant funds will be used to purchase materials for an 8x20-foot greenhouse and four raised garden beds. Additional materials will include rain barrels, soil and gardening tools.
"The greenhouse and raised beds will allow students the opportunity to experience science in a unique and hands-on way," Bacsik said. "It will give our FALS students the opportunity to study alongside general education students on campus and offer a potential long term skill to inspire and educate them to be productive citizens. This will be a positive outlet for some of our at-risk students to gain a sense of pride in their school."
▪ Coding Drones through Obstacles for the Future at STEM Academy - Grant funds will be used to purchase three sets of CoDrones. These drones will assist students in exploring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) concepts at a foundational level while challenging them to engage in critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration simultaneously.
▪ Seuss on the Loose on the West Side - The schools in the Legacy feeder pattern, known as the West Side schools will celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday by reading together on March 2 (National Read Across America Day). Intermediate, middle and high school students will take three groups to the six elementary campuses and read Dr. Seuss Books, pass out stickers and book marks to celebrate the day.
▪ Let’s Grow with Hydroponics, at Tarver Rendon - Grant funds will be used to purchase items to create a hydroponic organic garden to be set up among two classrooms, the science lab and the library.
"An indoor classroom garden is an innovative way to approach math and science skills which will keep students engaged," Bacsik said. "This will increase the student’s sense of connection with nature, therefore developing a desire for environmental leadership and responsibility."
▪ Global Environmental Change: Is there a Controversy, at Lake Ridge High School -
Grant funds will be used to purchase additional labquest probes to monitor changes in the environment. The students will use inquiry labs to identify changes in the weather, air, soil and water in the community.
"This project will allow students to use multiple hands-on activities to relate several topics to each other," she said. "Students will act as environmental scientists and will collect real everyday data."
Another popular project of the Mansfield Education Foundation are mini-grants. These are grants for $250 or less that can make an immediate impact in the classroom. The foundation recently distributed $5,000 worth of these.
The mini-grants are an opportunity for teachers to ask for small things they want for their classrooms. These requests get the community involved as well by posting each mini-grant on the foundation website with a PayPal button. Anyone can donate $10 or more toward these projects/programs.
"I think it gives people who think their small contributions don’t mean anything a reason to say 'I can make a difference,'" Bacsik said. "Some of the grants receive full funding and others may only receive partial donations. The foundation finishes out those partially funded grants. My board members go to campuses and present checks to the teachers that have won a mini-grant."
Teachers often have to pay out of their own pocket for supplies, etc. And in a time when even taking a tax deduction on such could be in jeapordy, Bacsik said the MISD will alway do everything it can to help its instructors.
"MISD will always provide a superior education for students no matter what the state does with funding," she said. "The foundation is an additional support to the teachers and students of this district."
The foundation raises funds in a variety of ways. The board of directors spreads the word about about how the grants have benefited thousands of students in MISD. Bacsik and her board spend many hours speaking to individuals, businesses, corporations and other foundations.
The foundation also has two fundraisers each year, an academic recognition banquet and golf tournament. In addition, they also participate in the Miles 4 Meredith 5K, from which a portion of the funds raised go to the foundation.
"I have the best hard-working board there is," Bacsik said.
The Miles 4 Meredith 5K is a fundraiser by the Meredith Hatch Foundation, named in honor of the former MISD board member who passed away in 2008.
"The community can help by making donations. Any amount can make a difference," Bacsik said. "We have grant requests from $100 to $10,000. Individuals/businesses can also designate funds for specific subjects, grade levels and schools."
The foundation website provides directions on how to donate. Interested persons can also sponsor a golf team or sponsor a table at the banquet. Visit www.mansfieldisdfoundation.org.