The foundation’s annual “surprise patrol” went around to schools Monday, Oct. 16, and Tuesday, Oct. 17, handing out big checks and balloons to lucky teachers.
Janis Vause, the foundation’s executive director, said teachers can apply for innovation grants, impact grants and mini grants. Priority grants of up to $4,000 are available to elementary schools and up to $6,000 for secondary schools.
The foundation funded a total of 467 grant applications with $282,932, spread across 21 schools and the district office.
“To me what this signals is they care enough about their kids to want to enhance, to make things better in their classrooms,” Vause said.
Winners include Gramercy Elementary School teacher Kimberly Hamm, who got $597 for a field trip to a planetarium and math games; Horace Mann Elementary School’s Amanda Fields, who got $586 for a classroom library; and Anne Tollefsen at Polk Elementary School, who got about $488 for rock and mineral sets.
Heritage Elementary School teacher Brittaney Gann got $6,999 to buy virtual reality kits for the school’s third-grade class. She got the idea when Google did a presentation at the school where she previously worked in Nashville.
“It’s new, and it’s technology,” Gann said. “A lot of our kids will probably never leave the state of Utah, so letting them experience different cultures and places I just felt it would be a really cool thing.”
The grant will go toward smartphones that will be folded into Google Cardboard, creating virtual reality glasses. A teacher tablet will allow Gann to remotely take her students anywhere, from the Great Wall of China to the moon.
“It will be so fun for me to watch them experience it,” Gann said.
Vause said the foundation has had a grant program for many years, but the surprise patrol — where officials surprise teachers with a bit of fanfare — has taken place for about the last five.
New Bridge School — a science, technology, engineering and math-focused school — received 36 grants. They’ll go toward funding a lot of hands-on learning in the form of science fair equipment, math manipulatives, Legos, STEM kits and gear sets.
Assistant Principal Sonja Davidson said the school pointedly combines STEM subject matter with project-based learning.
“So much of our learning is hands on,” she said. “We want to give students the opportunity to build and manipulate and use the design process.”
Two second-grade New Bridge teachers even got more than $1,000 to build a greenhouse the entire school will get to use.
“They’re going to integrate math, science and writing into the growing pieces,” Davidson said.