CHAMPAIGN – Sue Davis will focus her students' attention on farming to teach them lessons about mathematics, social studies and economics.
Hands-on lessons help Davis introduce concepts of geometry to second-graders. And she said thinking about farming also helps her young students understand their community.
"Community is one of our focuses, and we live in a farming community," said Davis, who will use her $500 Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation grant to buy blocks, Fiddlestix and Zomes so her Kenwood School students can build farm buildings; to pay for a field trip; and to purchase other teaching aids.
"When you talk about corn, kids think you get it at the store," she said. "They have no clue. Not many of them have gardens. We're a farming community, we're close to corn and soybeans, but to them, it's just plants out there."
Davis' program is one of the proposals by Champaign and Urbana teachers picked for funding by the foundation this year.
More than $30,000 was awarded this year, said Foundation Executive Director Gail Rost. Topics have included multilingual education, cultural diversity, assessment tools and integrating arts in regular curriculum.
Since the foundation was started in 1988, it's awarded more than $363,000 to teachers.
Judith Gordon used her $3,231 grant to buy musical instruments to help Edison Middle School students learn international music.
"This program started with English as a Second Language students, kids who maybe can't participate in other activities because they don't know enough English," Gordon said. "Often they don't have instruments and can't get into musical activities."
She's using her money to purchase guitars and percussion instruments soother music-loving students, including sixth-graders, can get involved.
"It's a natural for kids," Gordon said. "They like rhythm. They learn music principles and they learn to play. We try to help them identify with school, develop love for music and raise their grades."
Kenwood's back in session this week, and Davis is starting her youngsters on geometry.
"I took pictures of barns and children can pick out geometric shapes," she said. "We'll learn the structure of a dome, look at farming books and we'll work on building barns and silos with Tinkertoys, blocks and other play materials."
Nechele Johnson is one of two Urbana and two Champaign teachers replaying a project introduced by Champaign South Side teacher Donna Reed last year with do-it-again grants.
Johnson teaches kindergarten through fifth-graders with special needs at Prairie School. She's using the grant to teach them and other children to accept and embrace differences.
"We did Korea and the focus was on how we're all alike but in some ways different," Johnson said. "I read them a story about children in Korea and we made dragon puppets that made a big impression. We talked about the way we feel about angels, how they make us feel safe, and the fact that that's exactly how they feel about dragons."
She said even before they start kindergarten, children begin to realize some people are different.
"We have the severe and profound program at Prairie and they see some children don't look or walk like they do," Johnson said. "My goal is to help them see that's OK. We're all special in special ways."
CHAMPAIGN-URBANA SCHOOLS FOUNDATION GRANT WINNERS
– Kevin Kuppler, curriculum specialist, $4,000 for "Simple Machines and Me."
– Sherri Murphy, Franklin Middle School, $432 for "Using Audiobooks to Reach the Hardest to Teach."
– Judith Gordon, Edison Middle School, $3,231 for "Latino and International Music After-School Program."
– Bob Smith, Washington School, $2,975 for "Carnival of the Animals."
– Laura Pinsof, curriculum specialist, $3,990 for "School-University Social Studies Collaboration Project."
– Robert Holthusen, South Side School, $3,095 for "Get on Board with the SMART Board."
– Ellen Baranowski, Kenwood School, $2,180 for "Prairie Stories: Integrating History, Science and Writing."
– Sue Davis, Kenwood School, $500 for "Building our Community."
– Beth Mears, King School, $802 for "Make and Take Math Workshops for Literacy and Math."
– Kevin Helmick, Gary Apfelstadt and Theresa Feller, Urbana Middle School, $2,500 for "Engaging Adolescents in Robotics Engineering and Teamwork Challenges."
– Debbie McDermott, Urbana Adult Education, $1,456 for "Using Museums for Intergenerational Learning."
– Katherine Barbour, Urbana Middle School, $1,850 for "Hands-on History Project Collections."
– Rebecca Troyer, Champaign Early Childhood and Brenda Wiggins, Garden Hills School, $500 each for "Learning Activity Take-Home Packs." Mentor Mary Beth, Urbana.
– Candace Hatchett and Sandy Newport, Bottenfield School, Nechele Johnson, Prairie School, Gail Beck, Leal School, $625 each for "Multiple Language Link-up." Mentor Donna Reed, Champaign.
– Lynda Wingler, Prairie School, and Gary Apfelstadt, Urbana Middle School, $1,100 each for "Scientific Illustration: Drawing the World Around You." Mentor Sharon Lash, Champaign, retired.
– Marianne Abbey-Smith, Bottenfield School, $900 for "The Power of Peace." Mentor Sharon Lash, Champaign, retired.
Champaign Rotary Endowment for Educational Excellence, the Junior League of Champaign, the Urbana Endowment for Educational Excellence, Carle Foundation Endowment for Educational Excellence.