© 2024 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Below the overview of the district are links to KBIA's coverage of Columbia 93 district schools, updated as more stories are published. Columbia 93 at a glanceThe Columbia 93 school district currently includes 32 different schools. In 2014, the district had a k-12 enrollment of 17,204 students, which is 2% of the total k-12 enrollment for the state. Enrollment has been slightly increasing in recent years, 2% since 2011. While a small percent, that amounts to almost 400 more students. There have also been major re-drawing of attendance areas with the addition of Battle High School. Middle school attendance areas shape high school boundaries 00000178-cc7d-da8b-a77d-ec7d2f9e0000The changes have affected all schools in the district, including causing high school attendance to increase and overcrowding at one middle school at least.

Small grants help teachers create excitement about learning

Ashley Reese
Small grants help teachers create excitement about learning

  The students in Mrs. Neales’ class were all smiles as they sat on the music-themed rug, merrily strumming their ukuleles while the rest of the class sang along.

The ten ukuleles were purchased through a $625 grant by the Links of Learning program. This program awarded over $98,000 to Columbia area teachers this year.

Morgan Neale is the music teacher at Alpha Heart Lewis Elementary in Columbia. She applied for the grant that provided these instruments last year, and was just awarded a second grant for 10 more ukuleles.

“We’re waiting for those to come and the students ask me every day if they are here yet,” Neale said.

The extra grant will allow Neale to finally have a classroom set, something her students can’t seem to wait for.

“So finally we can have our own ones and I don’t have to share,” Alex said.

Neale said the money she receives from grants isn’t used for classroom essentials, but for those extra little things that make the kids that much more excited about learning.

“Think of how excited any of us are to open up a surprise from a friend… It’s almost like that to our students. When my students open up one of those boxes of ukuleles, their eyes light up and they’re so excited to get it out and try it,” Neale said.

She said the grants allow her and her fellow teachers to provide those gifts to student learning without having to dig into their own pockets, something that the district typically frowns upon.

“This is an opportunity for me to provide some things that my students might not otherwise have a chance to use in the classroom if I didn’t get that little extra bit of cash to set aside,” she said.

Over at Benton Elementary school, a group of girls  huddled on another rug, this time piecing together a Lego robot while scrolling through directions on the STEM lab’s SMART board. The girls are one of Benton’s four Lego robotics teams.

Like the ukuleles, the equipment required for these Lego robots was provided through small grants.

school, technology
Credit Ashley Reese / KBIA

Heather McCullar is the STEM specialist at Benton. She’s the recipient of this $700 Lego robotics grant. Over the years, she said she’s written and received several similar grants.  She said grants have paid for the school’s outdoor greenhouse and math garden, as well as books, science technology sensors that connect to iPads, and the Lego robotics teams.

“I think it provides them some of those extra materials, extra supplies, extra projects that kind of expand on what they’re learning, but aren’t necessarily incorporated in your traditional curriculum, McCullar said.

The Lego robotics team itself helps the students expand and develop their problem solving skills and apply the math and science concepts they’re learning in class in a more exciting and engaging way.

When I asked the students about it, they also mentioned they’ve learned skills such as programming that they wouldn’t have learned elsewhere.

“In Lego robotics I know that trial and error and fixing mistakes and how to build things,” Kelli said.

McCullar said she believes these extras provided through small grants help keep students interested in school. The grants at Benton haven’t just helped with Lego robotics, but with a lot of the clubs the school offers.

“We would not be able to do definitely what we have already done. Most of our programs and materials that are above and beyond what’s in the regular classroom has been purchased through grants. So all of our outside areas, most of our hands-on materials that we use to supplement what’s in the classroom has been purchased through grants,” McCullar said.

McCullar said she knows grant writing can be overwhelming to new teachers, but she encourages everyone to apply for these small grants if there’s any way they think it will help better their students’ learning experiences.

“But there’s money, there’s always money out there. It’s just a matter of knowing what it is that you want to do and where to go to find that money,” she said.

Even though they may be small in sum, the grants awarded to teachers through programs such as Links of Learning really can make a big difference. 

Related Content