Alton teachers showcase grant-funded projects


ALTON — The Alton Education Foundation (AEF) hosted its 6th annual Guardians of Education recognition/appreciation event on Wednesday at Post Commons in Alton.

Established in 2001 as a 501(c)(3) organization, AEF seeks to supplement and enhance opportunities for Alton students and staff by funding non-tax-funded programs.

Unlike the COVID-19 of the past two years, this year’s event was billed as an open house where AEF members could visit teachers and discuss their projects.

Rob Miller of Alton Middle School has been participating for years. Her plan this year is to purchase a 3D printer to give computer technology students in the main building at Alton Middle School the ability to print projects developed in their 3D design and modeling classes.

The printer, along with the computer software and spools of printing filament, will cost around $1,000. After that, Miller noted that the project is pretty much self-contained.

“With 3D printers, you can buy a spool of printing filament for around $20 to $25, and it will last us most of an entire year,” he said.

Miller said the printer boosts students’ confidence and enthusiasm for technology when they can turn their ideas into something tangible.

“It translates to higher self-esteem and increased confidence in other academic areas,” he said.

Julie Osborn and Julia Spencer of Lovejoy Elementary presented their kindergarten learning model, Keeping the Kinders Busy. The model provides teachers with additional material to reinforce students’ skills. Skills include spelling, rhyming, math, phonetics, and handwriting. In addition, the project also values ​​goal setting and rewards, reading comprehension, and science.

“We’ve had success using it for homework,” Spencer said. “They keep their skills sharp.”

Karla Barnhart and Edie Banks from North Elementary presented their project titled HOPS: Homework, Organization and Planning Skills. According to Barnhart, the project is designed to help Grade 5 students learn the skills to organize themselves and prepare for independent living. Each student receives binders to organize all school materials; they earn points for a free lunch if they stay organized.

“Once we’re organized, we start working on work and completing homework and doing self-monitoring,” Barnhart said. “It’s something they’ll need once they get to college.”

Barnhart said the couple applied for the grant after the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. This school year was the first time it was really implemented, and welcoming students has been a success.

“They think we’re buying them lunch for them, it’s the coolest thing in the world,” Barnhart said.

Meme Evans from West Elementary introduced Convert a Bench. According to Evans, the project began a few years ago when the greenhouse near the school was badly damaged by a storm. After the greenhouse was rebuilt, a black fence was placed around the perimeter.

“Then we started talking to the kids to make plans,” she said. “They were all sitting on the floor and they didn’t like it.”

The benches are made from a lightweight material which, when folded up, creates half of a picnic table. According to Evans, it costs around $1,000 for four sets which are two benches each. Each set will accommodate four to six students.

Jen Herring and Lanea DeConcini from East Elementary presented two projects. The first was an outdoor classroom called Butterfly Garden next to the East Elementary playground. The project has been in the works for about eight years and has cost between $16,000 and $20,000 during that time. The AEF grant will finance the last works necessary for the realization of the garden.

“People exposed to parks, trees, or wildlife may experience benefits such as physical activity, reduced stress, and increased motivation,” Herring said.

The other project is a digital school announcement. The project began with a grant from DonorsChoose which allowed the school to receive two televisions and audio equipment. The duo then turned to the AEF for another grant, around $5,000, to hang televisions in every hallway. Each monitor has a Chromecast component.

Students can submit videos, images and special projects to broadcast on the monitors. Additionally, monitors can view weather updates and honor rolls.

According to Herring, the project was born out of the desire of a college student, Fletcher Bumper, to get on television.

“It was a big motivation for him,” Herring said. “If he was doing his class work for the week or doing well with his reading notes, we would let him shoot a video.”

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