Frisco ISD teachers are always looking for new ways to make learning fun and more engaging for students.
Many of their ideas become reality thanks to the support of the Frisco Education Foundation. Each year, the non-profit awards grants to educators throughout the District to enhance learning in the classroom.
“Delivering the grants to unsuspecting teachers is by far one of the best experiences!” said Geneva Polster, president of the Frisco Education Foundation Board of Trustees. “It’s wonderful to witness the excitement of the teachers and students as we help make a difference in their daily teaching and learning. I am proud to be a small part of something that impacts our teachers and students in a significant way.”
This month, the Foundation delivered 44 grants worth more than $75,000 through its Grants for Great Ideas program. There were three District-wide grants and winners at 27 Frisco ISD schools.
Among them was Margo Warne, the counselor at Allen Elementary, who asked for funding to purchase multi-sensory tools such as stress balls and fidget toys that students can use to help manage their emotions and improve concentration. The idea is to give each teacher a “brain box” with a sand timer and various objects that students can use for short periods of time in the classroom. The goal is to support academic achievement through social and emotional learning.
“I want students to have access to these tools in the classroom, where they will be readily available for their instant use,” Warne said. “Sometimes we all need some additional support with focusing and using mindful strategies to self-regulate. The purpose of the brain box is to build coping skills, help students become more aware of their emotional needs and allow them to identify themselves which tools work best for them. This can help students refocus their attention, regain control of their emotions and de-escalate potential conflicts.”
At the beginning of each school year, educators across FISD are invited to propose an innovative idea or project and describe how it would benefit student learning. A committee selects winning applications and provides funding to supplement supplies provided by the District.
“Reviewing grant applications always puts a smile on my face and sometimes makes me wish I was a student again so that I would have the opportunity to learn from the great ideas the teachers have submitted,” Polster said. “Our teachers are creative, outside-the-box thinkers who are making learning fun and exciting for our students.”
This year, winning grants included everything from materials for a middle school community garden to ukuleles for elementary music classrooms. Several projects will enhance opportunities for students through technology, including a 3D printer, robotics kits, coding activities, gadgets for library makerspaces and more. View the full list of winning grants.
Funded projects would not be possible without the grant awards, which range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
“It’s such a small figure, but it is going to have a huge impact,” said Heather Sears, a seventh grade Texas History teacher at Clark Middle School who received $228 for augmented reality boards and cards that will virtually transport students to the Alamo as it appeared in 1836. Grant co-applicants were fellow teacher Kayde Coldiron and digital learning coach Kimberly Howard.
“We can’t go back in time and we can’t go to San Antonio, so we are bringing the past and San Antonio to them,” Howard said. “This will literally bring history to life.”
The District’s social studies curriculum coordinators also received funding to utilize the technology on a trial basis in fourth and seventh grade classrooms across FISD. Students will learn about important historical figures and events in an engaging, hands-on way.
“They will get to experience the Battle of the Alamo like they are there living it and watching it,” Sears said.
The Frisco Education Foundation has awarded more than $850,000 in grants to FISD educators since 1999. This year’s delivery was supported by CoServ, Frisco Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, Frisco Women's League and many other generous donors and volunteers.
In addition, this year FEF gave nearly $30,000 to schools across the District through a Give Back Campaign, bringing its total grant support for the 2018-19 school year to more than $105,000. Campuses received a percentage of the donations made to FEF by school staff through employee payroll contributions the previous school year. Each school principal and FEF campus liaison will have the discretion to allocate the funds however they choose.