Niles Education Foundation to fund six school projects

The Niles Education Foundation will award more than $16,000 to projects geared toward enhancing and enriching the learning environment in the Niles Community Schools.

Last month, the foundation chose six projects to fund out of a record number of 21 applications.

“I can’t tell you how excited we were to get 21 projects,” said Jane Brandstatter, of the education foundation. “That’s exciting for the district, although it makes it difficult for us to choose because we have limited funding.”

Sue Majerek, projects coordinator for the foundation, said the following six projects were selected to receive funding:

Portable microscope lab

Oak Manor Sixth Grade Center wants to further enhance the level of learning for its approximately 240 students by purchasing eight microscopes and accessories. Instead of using computers to view images of microscopic organisms, students will be able to actually collect their own samples and conduct their own experiments. Melissa Prestine, who submitted the project application, requested $1,000 for the first year and $200 the second year to replenish microscope supplies.

“It is going to going to impact every single sixth grader who comes in contact with it,” Brandstatter said. “It is a huge impact for a really low dollar amount.”

Hot boxes

The culinary department at Niles High School requested $949.95 to purchase five “hot boxes” to be used by the culinary arts classes of the Berrien Career Center, located in the school’s CTE wing. The “hot boxes” will be used to transport food off site during community events and for participation in competitions at Lake Michigan College and local festivals. The project was submitted by Jayson Zoll.

Our food: growing, preserving, sharing and consuming

Zoll also submitted the project titled, “Our Food, Growing, Preserving, Sharing, Consuming.” This is a cooperative project between the fabrication, culinary arts and AgriScience programs of Niles community Schools. Students will work together to implement a food growing and preservation program that will include canning, pickling, dehydrating and freezing fresh foods in season.

Crops will be grown by AgriScience students and preserved by the culinary and AgriScience students. Machinery and processing racks will be constructed by fabrication students. The products will be processed to USDA guidelines. Primary use of the funds will be for equipment and start-up supplies. Equipment needs are canning jars, food dehydrators, water bath and pressure canners, tapered auger press food mill, pickling crocks, vacuum sealers, apple grinder and cider press. Total cost is $3,500. Several areas will collaborate for the project, including the culinary arts CTE program, AgriScience and natural resources CTE program, Niles and Berrien Springs Home School Partnership programs, Lake Michigan College FAB Lab and Viticulture Education programs and Eastside Connections School’s Niles Community Gardens.

Summer My Way

The Summer My Way summer camp is a collaborative effort between Niles Community Schools, Niles-Buchanan YMCA, Niles District Library, Lakeland Healthcare, Berrien County 4H, City of Niles, Lake Michigan College, Four Flags Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Southwest Michigan. The camp will take place at Ballard Elementary School, Niles District Library and the YMCA.

Through funding, the camp will be offered free to Niles Community Schools youth. The objectives are to improve academic performance, increase minutes of physical activity and increase social responsibility.

Guided reading

Liesa Zenk from James Ellis Elementary applied for a project to build and organize a developmentally appropriate leveled library of books to meet the literacy needs of young learners in a Guided Reading Format.

Research shows that the most important factor in helping students become stronger readers is to provide them with as many “appropriately leveled” texts as possible, especially non-fiction.

This library will be for kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Ellis would like to purchase sets of books from Pioneer Valley books. The cost for this project would be $4,600.

Technology upgrade

Steve Bizoe, music teacher for Howard/Ellis Elementary, requested funds in order to update technology in the classroom by providing an iPad, projector, Apple TV and speakers. He plans to use more music technology in the classroom with programs such as “Garage Band,” “Smart-music,” “YouTube” and “iTunes” through the iPad.

The music room currently does not have a projector or school-owned speakers. The projector would be used to display lyrics and musical examples to the entire class. The Apple TV would be used to connect the iPad to a projector. The total project cost is $995.95.

The mission of the Niles Education Foundation is to acquire and grant resources exclusively in support of Niles Community Schools for programs and projects aimed at enhancing, enriching and supplementing learning opportunities for students, staff and community.

The money going to these projects was collected through donations and fundraisers.

Projects were chosen based on scope of impact, innovation and other factors.

“We want to help make sure the children in this community have a good education and all the possible resources available to them,” Majerek said. “It’s all about giving them that extra boost.”

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