Prize Parade greeted with cheers, tears Education Foundation of Martin County hands out grants to teachers with promising projects

Friday, October 12, 2012

  By Tyler Treadway


HOBIE HILER/SPECIAL TO TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS Lisa Rhodes, executive director of The Education Foundation of Martin County (left) smiles as she presents Kelly Kemp, the varying exceptionalities primary teacher at J.D. Parker Elementary School of Science, Math and Technology, with an oversized check for $630 in grant money to be used for Kemp's "Touch 2 Speak" program as Nancy Lyons, the foundation's program coordinator, stands by at J.D. Parker in Stuart on Friday.

MARTIN COUNTY — At most of the 15 classrooms, there were big smiles and raucous cheers when the Education Foundation of Martin County Prize Parade showed up Friday with red balloons and over-sized checks representing nearly $15,000 in grant money.

But when foundation members came to Kelley Kemp's classroom at J.D. Parker School of Math, Science and Technology with a $630 check, there were tears.  "We really need this so badly," said Kemp, who, truth be told, was crying and smiling simultaneously.  Kemp teaches intellectually delayed children in kindergarten through second grade, and she applied for a grant to buy a point-and-touch computer for kids who have trouble using a mouse to negotiate a computer screen.

"I have children who don't speak," Kemp said. "There's one little boy in particular who I was thinking of when applied for the grant. I think this will open doors for him and all the children. 

As I was writing the application for the grant, I was thinking, 'How could they deny us?'"

Lisa Rhodes, the foundation executive director, replied, "We didn't."

The foundation's Prize Parade is patterned on the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol, which hands out checks to sweepstakes contest winners. 

The winners of the foundation's Innovative Project Grants are teachers throughout the Martin County School District who develop proposals for STEAM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) projects that go above and beyond regular classroom work.

"We like for them to be hands-on projects that bring learning to life," Rhodes said as she prepared the next giant check for the next presentation.

Almost all the teachers receiving grants Friday were at elementary schools, although applications are accepted at all levels.  "Our district's teachers are great across the board," Rhodes said. "But at the elementary level they seem to be a little more willing to go outside the box. And that's great because we want to get kids hooked on math and science early."

Jeanine Webster, a foundation board member who was on the grant selection committee, said the winners are chosen in a blind test.

By the time the fourth grant was awarded Friday afternoon at J.D. Parker, word that the Prize Parade was on campus had gotten around; and about 200 fourth- and fifth-graders were gathered in the school lobby. 

They broke into cheers, whoops and hollers when they learned the $2,400 grant for the "Reaching for the Stars" project would be used to help them learn astronomy and includes a field trip to the Hallstrom Planetarium at the Indian River State College in Fort Pierce.

Education Grants

The Education Foundation of Martin County Prize Parade handed out 15 grants totaling $14,707.32. 

The winners were:

Mary Ayres, fifth grade, Palm City Elementary, $1,500, "Apple iPad Classroom Enhancement": Students use iPads to complete simulations of dissections, explore space and cell structure and create projects.

Allison Bayko, kindergarten, Warfield Elementary, $487.94, "Poddy Training": Students get early hands-on computer training at an "iPod Station" in the classroom.

Mary Conrad, first grade, Jensen Beach Elementary: $750, "Books to Brag About": Students create and publish books with photos and text based on local places and events they enjoy.

Kali deWindt, third grade, J.D. Parker Elementary, $1,500, "Taking a Closer Nook at Common Core Standards": Students use Nook Simple Touch electronic readers to improve reading skills.

Jean Ferreira and Jonathan Tolliver, fourth and fifth grades, J.D. Parker Elementary, $2,400, "Reaching for the Stars": Students study astronomy, take a field trip to the Hallstrom Planetarium at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce.

Jennifer Gironda, sixth grade, Indiantown Middle School, $500, "Arts Passport": The third of seven "gateway packages" to produce resources for using visual arts to teach a variety of subjects.

Siddhi Gulliskson, seventh grade, Indiantown Middle School, $470.80, "Who Dunnit? Gel Electrophoresis & DNA Fingerprinting": Students learn how biotechnology is used in forensics.

Elizabeth Jekanowski, third through fifth grades, Jensen Beach Elementary, $266.17, "Writing Music with Technology": Students learn how to compose short pieces of music with computer program.

Kelley Kemp, kindergarten through second grade, J.D. Parker Elementary, $629.97, "Touch 2 Speak": Intellectually delayed students use touch-screen computers.

Nancy Mejias, third grade, Citrus Grove Elementary, $1,459.34, "Robotics LEGO Engineering": Students build and program robots with LEGO building blocks and help from a NASA engineer.

Jollyn Nolan, kindergarten through second grade, Jensen Beach Elementary, $279.99, "Working with Borrowed Bricks": Students program an autonomous robot.

Julie Schnitzer, kindergarten through second grade, Bessey Creek Elementary, $995, "LEAP (Letters Education Autism Phonics) into Learning": Autism Spectrum Disorder students learn letter sounds by associating them with animals.

Holly Viccaro, all classes, Pinewood Elementary, $2,499.22, "My Florida Home": Each class learns about Florida's environment, then creates a skit, video or other medium for a literacy festival.

Jodi Wintercorn, kindergarten through fifth grade, J.D. Parker Elementary, $360, "African Storytelling": Students learn African culture through music and storytelling.

Brooking Bullock, fifth grade, Palm City Elementary, $360, "Have a Ball Learning": Working with Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies scientist, students learn science while making ice cream.

 © 2012 TCPalm. All rights reserved.