Bright Ideas Grant winners

Last Wednesday, 11 A.L. Stanback teachers were awarded seven grants totaling $7,700 as part of Piedmont Electric’s annual Bright Ideas Education Grants for innovative classroom projects.

Eleven A.L. Stanback Middle School teachers were surprised with seven grants totaling $7,700 last Wednesday.

On Oct. 24, disguised as a simple afternoon pep rally, floods of students filled the gymnasium as the band, cheerleaders, and bulldog mascot – a real bulldog – welcomed students in perfect rally fashion.

Hidden to the side were Piedmont Electric representatives, holding the large signs that each teacher would soon hold, depicting their respective grant amounts. 

Piedmont Electric donates a sum of money to K-12 educators across Orange County and the state each year in the form of grants to individual teachers, all part of their Bright Ideas Education Grant awards. 

Since 1994, Piedmont Electric has awarded local educators over $460,000 in Bright Idea Grants for innovative classroom projects, their website reads. Teachers can apply beginning each April for grants up to $2,000, which are awarded each November. 

This year, A.L. Stanback had a record number of applicants for the grant, and therefore recipients. Out of this year’s 18 Bright Ideas grantsin Orange County, A.L. Stanback received seven, the only school to receive more than one grant. 

Other schools awarded included Cameron Park Elementary, Grady Brown Elementary, Gravelly Hill Middle, Partnership Academy, Cedar Ridge High, Orange High, Carolina Friends, Phoenix Academy High, R.D. and Euzelle P. Smith Middle, and Morris Grove Elementary Schools. 

Grants went to fund new programs and projects such as various science, engineering, weather, and literary classroom projects.

A.L. Stanback grant recipients will use their funds for various types of projects covering studying the seasons, energy transfer through coding, hands-on learning with plush microbes, new reading center seating, and far more. 

Elen Wilkinson was awarded $751.39 for her project “Mini-Makerspace.” This “Mini-Makerspace” will be a place for students to interact, explore, collaborate, and create. She plans to use these funds to purchase basic supplies for the space to use in the after school program. These supplies will help students identify challenges and brainstorm, and create, test, and evaluate solutions.

Awarded $1,369.90, Heather F. Bowes’ project, titled “Energized Coding” will gives students the opportunity to dig deeper into various types of energy. They will learn energy transfer through coding and problem solving with electronics like the Sphero robots and Makey-Makey conductivity testers, Bowes grant application noted. 

Kimberly Clark was awarded $379 for her project that will explore all facets of microbes through interactive learning. “Micro Curiosities” will allow students to get a visual of "cells of the body, to the probiotic creatures that improve health, to the microbes that make bread and yogurt, to the aquatic amoebas and paramecium, to a wide range of pathogens,” through Giant Microbes, education plush microbes and cells that allow a memorable and hands-on learning experience. 

Kristie Mabry was awarded $1,844 for her project, “Mission- Makerspace!” which will push beyond the bounds of STEM bookwork education. STEM is the incorporation of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. This makerspace will allow students more opportunities to “incorporate problem solving, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration while enhancing the content,” she said in her application. This space will use everyday house materials and ideas to help students make real world and hands-on connections. 

Marsha Absher, an Exceptional Children Inclusion Teacher at Al Stanback, was awarded $300 for her “Reading Wow Factor” project. These funds will allow her to provide students with inviting, comfortable seating options that will develop motivation and stamina which will ultimately lead to improved literacy, her application stated. Research has shown the positive value of such classroom seating, with benefits including increased engagement and collaboration, improvement in focus and physical health, and development of empowerment and metacognition. 

Thomas Fisler and Heather Bowes were awarded $1,143 to help students collect, measure and record light and heat energy from the sun as it hits their school garden. Their project, “Sun’s Energy in the Garden” will gather information that will be used to evaluate the seasons. This will be correlated to this region’s ecosystem, plants ability to survive this climate and how one could manipulate and use this energy. This project will touch on multiple NC science standards, the applicants noted. 

A group of teachers were awarded $1,925.15 for their project titled “Nature Nomads.” The teachers included Nancy Huskins, Kenisha Smith, Trudy Patton, Elen Wilkinson, Wesley Barnhouse, Lori Edmonds, and UNC student volunteers. 

This project’s goal is to show students the “critical importance” of connecting to the world of nature and therefore, disconnecting from electronic diversions. “Our present generation is being raised with no attachment to the natural world due to the onslaught of technology,” the applicants wrote. “Time spent outdoors inspires creativity, increases physical activity, relieves stress, and gives students an authentic connection to others and nature.” 

As the grants were awarded, teachers beamed as their passion projects were funded, securing the ability to get their ideas off the ground.