Archive for Thursday, July 20, 2006

Starside teachers awarded grants

July 20, 2006

Two teachers at Starside Elementary School want to make sure students have opportunities to learn outside the classroom.

For their efforts, they have earned a total of nearly $9,000 in grants from the Sprint Foundation.

Reading Specialist Tana Priddy will use $4,301 to buy books for students to keep at home. The program is a continuation from previous years.

Third-grade teacher Sara Dilday will use $4,646 to start a mini-robotics club for elementary students.

Dilday, who started a poetry night for Starside third-graders, wants to give elementary students another option for after school activities.

This year, she will sponsor an after-school club that will use Lego blocks to build a robot. Although there are competitions at the elementary level, Dilday said those schools are far away and this year she would like to focus on learning.

The Lego-block robot will have an electronic brain the students will program. The fourth-and fifth-grade students in the program will work together in groups of two or three to build the robot and then program it to perform specific tasks.

"It's kind of a mechanical engineering and computer software," she said.

Dilday said parents would come to a meeting sometime in September to learn about the after-school club. It will accommodate about 45 students, who will work on the project from October to April.

Dilday said another elementary teacher in the Kansas City, Kan., school district has a similar project, and she hoped to set up a friendly competition between local schools.

"It's just to provide another type of activity for kids who might otherwise just be going home to a house by themselves," she said.

At the end of the program, Dilday said she would like to have a parent night for families to come and see their child's Lego-block robot. She said the students would learn important problem-solving skills, cooperative learning, mechanical and computer skills from the project.

Priddy is continuing her project to bring reading home to as many Starside students as possible. Her program began three years ago with a grant from the De Soto Education Foundation to give books to kindergarten students. Last year, she obtained a Sprint Grant for the project and extended it to first-grade students as well.

This year, the grant will cover all students from kindergarten to second grade. The kindergarten and first-graders will receive 48 books apiece for their at-home libraries. The second-grade students will receive eight chapter books each to take home and keep. Priddy said the books would be distributed throughout the school year.

"They're small travel books to go on vacation; that way the access is definitely there and they have quite a few titles to choose from," Priddy said.

She said the kindergarten books would also be in Spanish to transition English as a Second Language families to reading in English.

"A definite need is that it's hard to find books at particular levels of students," she said. "This is a way to get books at a level they're actually reading at home."

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