SISD receives grant for students to have Internet service at home

Donnie Bryant donnie.bryant@empiretribune.com

Only two school weeks have passed but forces were busy at work all summer, procuring monies to increase excitement and success in the learning of Stephenville ISD students.

Gilbert Intermediate Principal Kristen Carey teamed up with Curriculum and Instruction and Special Programs Michelle Mcnutt and Technology and Advanced Academics Karol Howell in a mission to nab a grant that for the district's fifth graders is destined to open the doors of education to a curriculum that is both relevant to the 21st century and fun.

They were notified Thursday, Aug. 31, that Gilbert was to be the recipient of the Texas Lending grant needed to purchase air cards for at home access to the Internet, laptops and technology carts.

The grant funds are a boon to the school as a new style of teaching is introduced into the fifth grade curriculum.

Problem Based Learning, or PBL, is a cooperative style of learning requiring students to take a more active role in the instruction process,working on true life situations in a group in order to come up with solutions.

“Students are given a true problem, and they have to research in order to figure out how best to solve the problem in the group,” Carey explained.

Such a teaching and learning technique would be difficult to implement without the technology necessary for students to engage in the research and communication necessary to the task assigned.

Carey had already budgeted for 10 laptops prior to being notified of the school's award status. But it seemed obvious that more laptops would be required, making the grant all the more instrumental to the success of the PBL approach.

“The whole purpose of the grant is to provide Internet access for students at home.” Carey said. “So we will be able to provide a laptop and an air card the students can check out from school and take home for the evening. Then they are able to work on their projects and to collaborate with their peers. They will be working in discussion groups?all related to PBL.”

The grant is managed by the Education Agency under the direction of the Region 10 Education Service Center. The funds awarded will provide three carts of 30 laptops each.

Further good financial news for the district was the endowment of funds from the National Football League in conjunction with the National Dairy Council. The two entities are responsible for the funding of grants through Dairy Max and local dairy farm families in a bid to encourage young students to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The program is called Fuel Up to Play 60.

“We have written three different grants for three different schools?Central, Chamberlin and Hook,” said Education Foundation Director Mindy Wooley. “The schools will have a 'kick off' and follow it up by teaching healthy eating and physical fitness. We are going to do this through the P.E. Program.”

The 'kick off' is an organized event to promote excitement among the students and everyone involved in Fuel Up to Play 60 and will be held later in the fall.

“Chamberlin and Central will be doing a 2K run,” Wooley said. “Hook is doing a tour of the AgriLife Center. They will have a dairy person speak with them, and Heidi Westbrook (executive director of Cross Timbers Agribusiness Association) will take them through the new center. They'll get to see how things are done. And they'll get some yogurt and milk.”

The program will be an ongoing venture throughout the school year.