School should become a bit more dynamic for many city students this year because 10 teachers and an administrator have won $8,787 worth of mini-grants to run special programs.
The grants were awarded by the Orleans-Niagara Teacher Resource & Computer Training Center in Cambria. Among the projects selected for funding are learning chemistry and biology through the baking of bread and the making of ice cream, running a weeklong Shakespearean drama experience, turning lunchroom paper and leftovers into fertilizer to create a garden, and building an energy-efficient model home that is heated and cooled with power generated through solar panels.
Rosanna Sandell, the school district's director of research and development, said the Lockport staff picked up a large number of grants because they put a lot of effort into their grant applications, thoroughly explaining why their projects deserved to be funded.
The effort, she said, gained Lockport's staff almost 18 percent of the $50,000 in mini-grants the teacher center handed out last month.
Sandell said the projects are creative in that they find interesting approaches to get curriculum across to students or help students become more engaged in both the academic and social aspects of school life.
Lockport High School biology teacher Erik Bernardi, for example, received a $1,000 grant, the maximum amount awarded, to fund his "Science in Food" project.
At a recent School Board meeting, Bernardi said he got the idea because he figured he could best "get to students' minds through their stomachs."
He said he was using the money to purchase a professional mixer, other equipment, cook books and supplies with the objective of making things like bread and ice cream to show students the chemical and biological reactions that are involved in creating those foods.
High School English teacher Debbie Martin will use her $1,000 mini-grant to finance a program called "Shakespeare Festival: Bringing the Bard to Life."
Sandell said that program will be led by thespians from Buffalo's Shakespeare in the Park program and will last a week. It will involve students in theater workshops that cover everything from acting in Shakespearian dramas to how to fall and duel with swords on stage. It will culminate in the production of several one-act plays that feature city students.
High School biology teacher Julie Tette received an $864 mini-grant for her mini-greenhouse composting project, Sandell said. "She's having her students collect paper and organic plant waste from the cafeteria to place in composting bins so they can start a garden next spring to grow lettuce in," she said.
Gary Caudill, a high school technology teacher, received a $487 mini-grant to help the students in his "Principals of Engineering" course learn how to "build a model house with an eye toward environmental conservation."
At North Park Middle School, teacher Nancy Jo Roth received a $1,000 grant to run a "Character Education Through Team Building" program which provides various board games for children to play with a goal of stressing the development of interpersonal skills.
"This program encourages pupils to interact and learn how to get along with other people," Sandell said.
Bernadette Smith, a vice principal at Emmet Belknap Middle School, won a $750 grant to fund a program called "Everybody in School Everyday."
"The idea is to encourage perfect attendance by offering students rewards such as T-shirts and other things for good attendance," Sandell said.
Loran Xapsos, a fifth-grade teacher at George Southard Elementary School, received a $982 grant to buy special educational games to help her pupils improve their literacy skills.
Other teachers receiving grants are: Julie D'Amico of George Southard Elementary School for $347; Teresa Tracy of DeWitt Clinton Elementary School for $61; and Molly Appolito of the Lockport Opportunities Project at Charlotte Cross School $1,000.