Three teachers from Bates County were recently awarded grants through WGU Missouri’s “Fund My Classroom” initiative. Andrea Martin, a first-grade teacher at Miami Elementary School in the Miami R-1 School District in Amoret, received a $300 grant to create an after-school STEM club. Stephanie Lovelace, a school counselor in the Ballard R-2 School District in Butler, received a $439 grant that will be used to purchase an elementary social skills kit for 5th grade students. Jackson Duncan, a 6th grade teacher in the Ballard R-2 District, received a $300 grant that will be used to purchase an Oculus Quest headset for his classroom. All three teachers learned they were selected for the grants in May when they were surprised with check presentations at their schools
Martin’s school does not offer many extracurricular activities geared toward elementary students, so she has decided to start an after-school STEM club for students in 1st through 6th grades, separating the younger and older grades from each other into two different groups. She hopes that by starting a free extracurricular STEM learning club, more students will be able to grow their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and take ownership of their learning, using the process of design, building, testing, troubleshooting, retesting and reflecting. She also hopes to make students aware of the different career choices they could have in their future. The grant Martin received from WGU Missouri will be used to buy STEM supplies for building, including rubber bands, popsicle sticks, clothespins, pipe cleaners, tape, cups, Play-doh and balloons. The funds will also be used to add a water bottle rocket launcher and propellers for future transportation STEM projects.
The $439 grant awarded to Lovelace will be used to purchase a Second Step Elementary Classroom Kit for grade 5 called “Confident and Responsible.” The kit includes activities, award-winning videos, and guided classroom discussions to help students understand the complexities of feelings and reactions so they can be ready to learn and deal with emotions and problems responsibly. Ballard R-2 currently doesn’t offer a social emotional learning curriculum, and Lovelace feels that by having this kit available for elementary students, they’ll be able to obtain the skills needed to deal with gossip and peer pressure. She believes they’ll also gain skills that will help them self-regulate their emotions so they can focus while in class and be fully engaged. Lovelace plans to tailor these lessons for all K-12 students, who she spends time with each week.
Duncan’s $300 grant will be used to purchase an Oculus Quest virtual reality system for his classroom. Duncan has been using his personal Oculus Quest in his classroom to help expand on various subjects in ways that would not be possible otherwise. Adding another device to his classroom will double the number of chances for students to take part in this innovative learning experience. The virtual reality component brings his teaching to life, allowing students to experience subjects in different ways. For instance, students can experience what it was like being in the trenches during World War I, travel through a virtual Jurassic Park to encounter dinosaurs face-to-face and create their own solar system and learn how gravity affects them. The Oculus provides a unique teaching experience that motivates the students to learn whatever subject matter is connected to it and keeps them fully engaged.
The innovative classroom projects were among 50 across Missouri chosen by WGU Missouri to receive funding. The nonprofit, fully online university issued a call in March for K-12 teachers across the state to nominate proposed classroom projects by April 17 for the opportunity to receive full or partial funding through its “Fund My Classroom” initiative. Nearly 200 nominations were received statewide. Most grants were awarded during Teacher Appreciation Week, which ran from May 2-6.
“We received nominations for some amazing classroom projects, and we are happy to bring so many to life through this year’s ‘Fund My Classroom’ initiative,” said Dr. Terrance Hopson, Regional Vice President of WGU Missouri. “When it comes to expanding classroom curriculum and employing innovative techniques to engage and challenge students, teachers are often limited by costs. This initiative is an opportunity for WGU to give back to teachers, who go above and beyond to educate our students, by providing them with funding they can use to further enhance learning both in and out of the classroom.”
To learn more about the “Fund My Classroom” initiative and the work WGU Missouri is doing to help teachers advance their careers, visit missouri.wgu.edu.
About WGU Missouri
WGU Missouri is a competency-based, online university created to expand access to higher education for Missouri residents. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the fields of business, K-12 teacher education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing. WGU Missouri faculty members serve as mentors, working one-on-one with students, offering guidance, support, and individualized instruction.
Established in 2013 through a partnership with nationally recognized Western Governors University, WGU Missouri is open to all qualified Missouri residents. The university is nonprofit and self-sustaining on flat-rate tuition of about $7,600 per year for most programs. Degrees are granted under the accreditation of Western Governors University, which is accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Nursing College programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE*), and the Health