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Members of West Newton's third grade team recently won a $2,000 ING Unsung Heroes Grant to create a B.L.A.S.T. Lab: Bringing Life and Sciences Together. Pictured are: (back row l-r) David Baker, Kellie Keaton, and Tracy Clay and (front row l-r) Jessica Weaver, Chansley Wren, and Lakia Williams.

West Newton elementary school third graders will soon have a new science lab thanks to their teachers—Tracy Clay, Lakia Williams, Kellie Keaton, David Baker, Chansley Wren, and Jessica Weaver. The third grade teacher team was recently awarded a $2,000 ING Unsung Heroes Grant to create the new B.L.A.S.T. Lab: “Bringing Life and Sciences Together.”

“The B.L.A.S.T. lab was chosen because of the need to improve science CRCT scores,” explained Keaton. “This lab will allow the students to have hands-on activities relating to the science standards. Students can make connections between the real world experiences and the classroom, hence the name B.L.A.S.T—bringing life and science together.”

According to their grant application, the lab will be stocked with a variety of materials and literature that will enhance the students’ science learning experience. It will also feature a computer station for research and the creation of a class newsletter and wiki. Students will utilize an interactive workbook where they will note findings from their experiments and observations. The workbook will also be used to chronicle explanations of new learning and to make connections to prior knowledge, which can be used as a reference guide in the future. In the lab, students will create a diorama of the five Georgia Habitats, examining the effects of weathering and erosion. They will also create their own fossils, observe the differences in various types of rocks, as well as learn about temperature, magnetism and the effects of pollution.

“The purpose of the lab is to give designated time for the students to experiment with materials and make discoveries,” Keaton said. “Students will be expected to track their new learning in interactive notebooks, make connections to other areas of the curriculum, and share their findings with other students and the school community.”

She noted that the lab will offer opportunities for the students to make a difference within the community through recycling projects that will be developed.

The team was one of only 100 finalists in the nation to win a $2,000 ING grant—and only one of two in Georgia.  They are now in the running for one of the three top ING grants of $5,000, $10,000, and $25,000.

“The grant was written for third grade use at this time,” said Keaton. “Should we be awarded further grants, funds will be used to share the lab across all grade levels.”

“We are excited to have such exceptional staff members at West Newton who are always thinking of creative ways to help our students be the best they can be,” said Dr. Takila Curry, principal of West Newton Elementary School.

For more information, contact Ms. Sherri Davis-Viniard, director of public relations for Newton County Schools, at