Teachers awarded grants from QCEF

By Gary Weckselblatt

The Quakertown Community Education Foundation has awarded three $500 mini-grants to district teachers, who applied for the funding to obtain additional instructional tools that enhance student learning.

The money went to:

  • Quakertown Elementary STEM Club advisors Ryan Wieand and Steve Wysocki for robotics materials.
  • QE social studies teachers Wysocki and Christa Held, to stage the musical "How the West Was Really Won."
  • High school biology and AP Environmental teacher Tina Sullivan, for a vermiculture project (the controlled growing of worms).

"These grants are geared to assist teachers with innovative curriculum ideas," said Ron Jackson, the School Board's representative to the QCEF Board. "This is not about buying books or light bulbs. It's not about funding traditional curriculum. We're offering money for those teachers who go above and beyond with their curriculum."

The robotics materials include allowing robots to compete against one another. The hands on learning will push "higher level thinking and problem solving" among students, according to the mini-grant proposal.

Students build their "Claw Bots" by following directions. But they need to be creative to adapt the bots to the challenges of competition.

The Vex Robotics Playing Fields and Challenge Kit will "push the kids to program their robots," Wieand said. "It's allows them to take another step in the learning process. I'm extremely appreciative of the grant."

The musical, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 18, at QE, will encompass events such as the Westward Movement, the Gold Rush, The Cherokee Trail of Tears, The American Civil War, the Underground Railroad, the Transcontinental Railroad, Chisholm Trail Cattle Drives, and women who changed the country.

"Students exposed to acting and singing about the topics they study reach new levels of achievement and mastery," Wysocki said. "They are also more apt to seek out opportunities to perform and present themselves in public throughout the rest of their school careers due to this kind of 'whole brain' experience in elementary school."

By creating the vermiculture in Sullivan's classroom, the knowledge of students "could be expanded to understand the nitrogen and carbon cycles," according to the proposal, written by Veronica Best, an AP Environmental Science student. "Students can also experience the process of decomposition first hand, and understand the effects recycling materials could have on the Earth."

Though it didn't come from the QCEF, Jeff Bonsall, a technology teacher at Strayer, has received a $1,000 Empowering Educators grant from the PPL Foundation.

The funds will be used for the "Strayer Makers," a design and engineering club for seventh and eighth graders.

Gary Weckselblatt, director of communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.

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