Education Foundation Grants Advance Creative Toolbox for Brownwood ISD Teachers
Article by: Sara Musgrove
“I’m always looking for ways to build students’ self-confidence and health, provide new opportunities, and incorporate core curriculum into my lessons,” said Kim Harvey, East Elementary School’s Physical Education teacher. “I’m excited to have students track their progress, collaborate in teams to solve mathematics and ELAR concepts.” Harvey recently received a grant from the Brownwood Education Foundation for her “Climbing New Heights” project. “I’ve been wanting to find something to help build the students upper body strength,” Harvey said. “I saw an article of how a school used a climbing wall to challenge students physically.” When the BEF began accepting applications for grants for the 2021-22 school year, Harvey applied and received the grant, which will be used to purchase Ultraverse climbing walls, climbing holds, a climbing wall obstacle set with DuraHoop holds, and a curriculum guide. “The transverse climbing wall will improve students’ balance and strength. Included are several obstacles that students will strive to overcome,” Harvey said. East Elementary students, currently preschoolers through third grade, will be able to use the obstacle course, climbing wall, and curriculum to not only challenge and grow their physical abilities, but Harvey works with homeroom teachers to help advance the students’ in-class lessons on strengthening English, mathematics, and reading capabilities. Their in-class lessons receive hands-on application during physical education.
The BEF also granted funds for Angela Fabbiani, the Gifted and Talented (GT) Specialist. “I’m always searching for ways to integrate STEM activities as well as extend and enrich learning,” Fabbiani said. Students in fourth through sixth grade GT at Coggin Intermediate School will soon begin working with Cubelets, enhancing their robotics knowledgebase. “The grant provides funds to purchase three complete sets of Cubelets, or Robotic Building Blocks,” Fabbiani said. “Cubelets are an introduction to robotics, coding, and design thinking. These building blocks support students in the basics of robotics, providing students opportunities to think critically while solving problems. This product allows teachers to introduce a difficult concept in a way that is easier for elementary to middle school students to understand.” GT students have been able to work with unique tools because of Fabbiani’s past projects, such as 3D printers. Cubelets and robotics tools will expand students’ capabilities as they begin working toward similar advanced subjects in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Fabbiani discovered Cubelets through her continued search for improved classroom experiences, and applied for the grant after seeing multiple uses for the Cubelets tool. “My classroom instruction begins and ends with what I feel is best for my students,” Fabbiani said. “Coding and programming are far from my area of expertise, yet students need hands-on opportunities to problem solve. The Cubelets seemed to be a good fit. I also felt that Cubelets would be the bridge between Tynker, a coding program that begins in the primary grades, and the Robotics program that begins in fifth grade.”
STEM initiatives allow enhanced learning opportunities for students within Brownwood ISD. As students move from elementary, into intermediate and middle school, they receive multiple opportunities to learn coding, robotics, and other high-tech education. Edward Yantis, a Computer Science and Robotics teacher at Brownwood High School, also applied for and received a grant for a 3D Mapping Experience at BHS. “It isn't an 'experience,' but it is gaining experience using drones to collect imagery of a location; taking the hundreds of images and loading them into rendering software (Pix4D); and producing a 3D exact-to-scale survey-image of the location,” Yantis said. “This is a high-skill/high-pay occupation currently in demand.” This experience package will continue expanding the opportunities for students in the Career and Technology Education (CTE) program at BHS. “The grant award will be used to purchase a professional-grade drone (and accessories) capable of capturing high-quality images from a specific pre-programmed flight path; commercial rendering and mapping software; and a computer workstation capable of rendering the very large amounts of data into a deliverable 3D product,” Yantis said. Adding more tools, software, and hardware served as a feasible method of continuing the existing prospects available at BHS. “This was a logical way to extend our FAA commercial drone pilot license partnership with Ranger College,” Yantis said. “I brainstormed ways to provide students with experiences that would enable them to be 'jobs-ready' when they graduate from BHS. Recalling when the Notre-Dame Cathedral was destroyed by fire, a copy of a recent 3D survey of the site was being used to help exactly reconstruct it.” Students in the Evolving and Emerging Technologies class will be able to learn practical concepts and skills from this experience. The CTE program continues to expand with not only students but tangible tools for the trade.
BEF’s grants for the 2021-22 school year were made possible through generous donations from the community, as well as ongoing fundraising efforts. “The Brownwood Education Foundation works diligently to serve the teachers and students in this district,” Fabbiani said. “The Foundation provides some exciting experiences for students that would not be possible without their fundraising efforts. I cannot wait to see the learning come to life and hear about the successes of all the other grant recipients.” Harvey, Fabbiani, and Yantis are only three teachers of many who have determined to implement creative initiatives within their classrooms, further developing BISD as a district of choice.