Cabarrus mini grant program increases number of projects funded
Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2014
More than $18,000 in grants will fund dozens of projects to engage 13,000-plus students throughout Cabarrus County Schools.
The Cabarrus County Education Foundation will host the annual grant ceremony for its classroom mini-grant program Nov. 19 at the county’s Education Center.
Forty-three applicants will get amounts from $170 to $500 to help support innovative educational efforts.
This year’s funded applicants represent a 39 percent increase from last year and a 31 percent increase in the total money allocated to classroom projects, said Rachel Wilkes, executive director of the foundation.
Last year, roughly 9,300 students participated in the funded projects. Applications are judged according to their sustainability, creativity, cost and alignment with Cabarrus County Schools’ goals, Wilkes said.
“I believe support is on the rise because the success is tangible,” Wilkes said. “The projects are exciting, and people can easily connect the idea of a healthy, well-rounded and challenging education with a healthy community.
“Cabarrus County Schools is the third top employer in this county, and its 30,000 students are our future.”
The education foundation also helps fill gaps made by changes in the education system on a federal, state or local level, Wilkes said.
“Not only is there a need financially, but our presence and our programs are a morale booster for teachers and employees,” she said.
Paula Shrum, technology facilitator at Wolf Meadow Elementary, helps with the school’s garden, outdoor classroom, where students learn about plant cycles, insects, ecosystems and soil quality. Students also maintain a compost bin and a worm farm.
The school started the garden in 2013, the first year that the foundation awarded grants. In the next grant cycle, the school bought a hydroponic vertical gardening tower.
Using that tower, the school’s students won first place for their educational booth, and third place for their cherry tomatoes, at the Cabarrus County Fair.
“We could not have completed these projects without the funding from CCEF,” Shrum said.
“This year, our goal is to build a greenhouse on campus so that we can add to our outdoor classroom. We want our students to have a solid foundation in the plant biology and food science.
“We have a curriculum that spans from seed to stomach. Our Edible Garden Club gives our students a hands-on, authentic learning experience in the garden.”
Twenty garden club students contribute to the garden work regularly, but all 600 of the school’s students get to enjoy the bounty.
Shrum said CCEF seeks out and supports educators who want to make a difference in students lives.
Bethany Gregory, a history teacher at Central Cabarrus High School since 2011, is the project leader behind an effort dubbed “The Digital History of Central Cabarrus High School: From the Space Race into the New Millenium.” Open to 10th-grade STEM students and AP European History students, the program aims to have students analyze the history of the school and create a digital archive.
Students will scan yearbooks, conduct oral histories and research the school’s role during the Space Race of the 1960s, which pitted the U.S. against the Soviet Union for early dominance in space and resulted in the first manned moon landings.
“Other than a very brief and general history passage of Central Cabarrus on the school’s website, no group has explored the historiography of Central Cabarrus High School, and a digital archive of the school does not exist,” Gregory said.
The school was built in 1966 with federal funding, Gregory said. She came up with the idea for the program after community members and alumni expressed interest in the history of school and its role in the Concord community.
Laura Shepherd, band director at Harris Road Milldle School, created a project that will allow roughly 120 seventh-grade band members to work with composer Mekel Rogers and create a piece of commissioned music.
“I want the kids to have a relationship with the writer of a piece of music,” Shepherd said.
After the piece is composed, Rogers will visit the school and work with students before they perform the song in May at the Carowinds Music Festival, and for the band’s spring concert.
While there are many brilliant ideas out there to make learning fun and exciting, Shepherd said, the money to realize them isn’t always available.
“Without programs that offer grant money, many opportunities would just die on the cutting room floor, so to speak,” she said. “The grants I have been awarded by this foundation have made a difference in the lives of kids. Through this program I have seen kids grow physically, socially, emotionally, academically, musically.”