The Arlington Education Foundation provided more than $10,000 in mini-grants this October to improve local classrooms.
The foundation approved their latest round of mini-grants which help Arlington teachers with a variety of projects and the Arlington School Board approved the funding during their Oct. 22 board meeting.
In total, 16 projects were funded out of 26 applicants. Alan Boatman, assistant principal at Arlington High School and project director of the Arlington Education Foundation, said that $10,169.92 is going to schools spread throughout the district.
Local teachers can submit applications to the foundation, which are judged based on a rubric on their ability to support academic goals, will last into the future, promote inclusivity, are innovative and involve family.
“There are certain projects that really excite the group. We like thinking outside the box, innovation,” said Boatman.
The grants are meant to help teachers accomplish projects that are normally outside the district’s funding. “Things that are outside the capacity of the school to fund,” said Boatman.
One of the recently approved grants was for $490 which was used “to create a ‘social justice’ library in his classroom … in our efforts to be more inclusive and diverse,” he said.
Boatman said there is an English curriculum the district uses for all of its classes so a classroom-specific library isn’t part of the budget, but can be funded through the Foundation’s grants.
The district’s Transition Program, which helps students with developmental disabilities gain skills to become functioning adults, also received one of the recent mini-grants to purchase fiber and drum carders that can be used to process fibers.
“The goal is to have kids learning how to do this project so they can create items and market them at youth fairs and the farmers market here in town,” said Boatman.
The garden project at Eagle Creek Elementary is one of the favorite projects that came from the mini-grants, said Boatman.
Eagle Creek Elementary students have been using the garden to grow plants for a couple of years now because of past grants.
Students got to see first hand the process of plants growing, said Julie Polkinghorn, a teacher at Eagle Creek Elementary.
“We had some kids try the cucumbers we grew who had never tried a cucumber before,” she said.
They also learned about kindness and empathy as they gave away the flowers they grew, she said.
“I think the students have learned a lot about cooperation and teamwork,” said Polkinghorn.
This year’s grant will help provide outdoor classroom seating for the garden and help produce raised garden beds designed for students with disabilities.
“The raised garden beds are for students who are in a wheelchair or for students that have mobility issues,” she said.
Eagle Creek also has an area that they plan to set up for vertical growing.
“We have a lot of room for a wall trellis that is perfect for vertical growing,” said Polkinghorn.
Any groups that want to help with lumber or garden supplies for the garden can contact Polkinghorn at Eagle Creek Elementary, she said.
The Arlington Education Foundation has provided the mini-grants to local teachers for seven years and has provided about $73,000 in total to the district.
“The foundation started as an offshoot of the initial fundraising when the frame of the BPAC [Byrnes Performing Arts Center] was built in the mid-2000s,” said Boatman.
In addition to the grants, they also help organize other initiatives such as the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides books to local children.
Their efforts are done largely through fundraising, such as their wine tasting event in October or the upcoming Santa Breakfast on Dec. 1.
“We’re always looking for more fundraising ideas,” said Boatman.
More information about the foundation is available at their website at www.arlingtonedfoundation.org.