FLORENCE, S.C. – The School Foundation will distribute $145,413.80 in major grants to five recipients for the 2019-2020 school year.
The grants were announced at a reception held Monday at the Floyd Conference Center on the MUSC Health-Florence Medical Center campus.
“Each year, our teachers spend many hours researching and compiling these grant applications,” Trisha Caudler, chairwoman of the foundation’s grants committee, said in a news release. “It is exciting to see the vision they have for our students and their desire to provide them with the skills necessary to succeed in school and in life.”
Debbie Hyler, executive director of the foundation, said she continues to be amazed at the dedication and talents displayed by F1S educators.
“Going into the schools and seeing firsthand the collaboration and passion our educators have for improving our children’s educational experiences is certainly a rewarding experience,” Hyler said.
The foundation’s largest major grant, $50,000, will go toward the refitting of an activity bus into a STEM bus made by STEM U, LLC, for use by all of the schools in the district.
STEM is an educational acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Chris Rogers, the STEM director of the district, said the idea for the bus had come from Superintendent Richard O’Malley. O’Malley, who Rogers said works all the time, texted him about the creation of a bus for the district.
Rogers said O’Malley wanted to purchase a bus, but Rogers soon found out that there was an extra high school activity bus that would just need to be refitted.
The inside of the bus will include interactive technology providing students with immersive zones of virtual and augmented reality, aerospace and aviation simulation, 3D printing and design, advanced technology encompassing principles of art, robotics equipment, drone engineering, 1:1 smart devices connecting principles of computer science and interactive smart panels.
Each zone will provide students with opportunities to explore and solve real-world problems while providing exposure to STEM-specific careers and local industry challenges.
The bus will allow elementary and middle school students a chance to start exploring STEM careers while giving high school students a chance to expand their curriculum in a specific STEM field.
The foundation awarded $33,501.32 for the continuation and growth of the Count 5! program at the R.N. Beck Early Learning Center and the Woods Road Child Development Center.
Floyd Creech, the Florence One Schools readiness director, said he is thankful for the grant and added that he wants to continue to grow the program.
One of the major goals of the continuation and growth of the program is to triple the enrollment in the Count 5! Program. The Count 5! Program expounds the virtues of the five golden keys to a better future by Helle Hickman: movement, sleep, nutrition, routine and love.
Code to the Future
The foundation awarded $20,000 to continue the computer science immersion program, Code to the Future, at Savannah Grove Elementary School.
Haley Taylor of Savannah Grove said the grant will help tremendously.
The grant will provide funds for year-two curriculum and materials for the program already occurring in the school. Kindergarten and first-grade students will utilize Lego pieces to construct figures and engineer real-life models of coding proponents. Second- and third-grade students will utilize LEGO We-Do Kits, which allow for students to engage in 21st century learning with a specific focus on the sciences (earth, life, space and physical) as well as mathematical and engineering practices. Fourth- through sixth-grade students will use LEGO EV3 Mindstorm Kits.
Google Expeditions for Elementary Learners
The foundation awarded $14,886.29 to the REACH program to provide a cutting-edge technology experience through Google Expeditions for Elementary Learners.
“We were really excited to apply,” Brittany Smith said. “It’s been awhile since since REACH applied for one. We wanted to write a grant for technology that would have a big impact on our community and our schools.”
With the Google Expedition kits, REACH students will be able to virtually visit Italy as a part of a Renaissance unit or the Globe Theatre when they study Shakespeare, virtually take a field trip to France in their French language class and virtually explore the parts of the body in their biology class.
The REACH program — reaching exceptionally able children — serves gifted and talented students from third through sixth grade at all 14 elementary schools in the district.
The foundation awarded $14,203.23 to the Florence One Schools Adult Education Program for the creation of the Visualizing, Operationalizing, Individualizing and Customizing Education for Students (VOICES) grant.
Carol Hill said the grant would be used for virtual reality to allow adult education students to explore a career path more in depth.
The grant will create multiple possible pathways for adult students to earn academic and workplace credentials simultaneously. These pathways will include certifications in areas of high need to local employers and of high interest to current students: welding, health care and mechanics.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Finally, the foundation awarded $12,822.96 for the Keep Calm and Carry On program at Dewey L. Carter, Wallace Gregg, Greenwood and Timrod Elementary Schools.
Jennifer Danford said the grant was huge because it allowed kids who have experienced trauma to have an outlet. She added that she would love to expand the program further in the coming years.
The grant will provide for the installation of calm-down boxes for students to use to regroup or calm themselves before rejoining their classmates in every classroom of Carter, Greenwood and Timrod. Boxes are already in place at Wallace Gregg.
The grant also will provide for a sensory path where students can follow an exercise routine to calm themselves at Carter, Greenwood and Timrod.
Wallace Gregg and Greenwood also could receive a sensory room for students to be engaged in calming activities.
The School Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was created to provide resources and support to administrators, teachers, and students of Florence One Schools. The foundation became the largest private endowment for K-12 public education in the state in 2006. From 2015-2018, the foundation provided $553,426.01 in grants to the schools within the district. Overall, the foundation has awarded $1.67 million in grants to the district.