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The Newton County School System recently received three grants from the General Mills Community Action Council to support additional resources for science and math instruction. The students of Newton County have been the beneficiaries of the generosity of General Mills and their employees for a number of years, as grant funds have provided thousands of dollars to supplement the shrinking budgets that have resulted from the downturn in the economy.  We all appreciate what General Mills does, not only for the school system, but for all of the community organizations they support that work with a large number of our students and families.

Now, more than ever before, it is critical that every student receives a strong foundation in science and mathematics to ensure success in high school and college, and especially in a competitive and rapidly-changing job market.  Through interactive, hands-on supplementary curriculum materials in science and mathematics, students learn about real world applications and gain a better understanding of how important these academic areas are in our global society.

At West Newton Elementary School a grant submitted by Instructional Coach Sabrina Grant will benefit over 500 students in Grades 2-5 who will be using  Aha!Science, an online learning program which reinforces students’ foundational knowledge with

digital simulations and hands-on activities and experiments.  Aha!Science units are based on National Science Education Standards and integrate the scientific process into instruction, examples, student interactions, games, and inquiry-based activities. Lessons create the foundation students need to become successful science achievers who are comfortable with the process of identifying questions and discovering the path to learning about and finally answering these questions.  Games build fluency in science concepts and vocabulary.  Students write and explain their thinking in journals, reinforcing LA skills, and the science curriculum links back to math skills.  Aha!Science also inspires learning with integrated STEM projects integrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  An example of this integrated learning is the unit called Imagine Mars which asks students to create a model community on Mars and share their findings.   Lessons include concepts from Life Science such as environments, plant and animal biology and the human body; from Earth Science, including astronomy, geology, weather, and oceanography; and from Physical Science, including energy, force and motion, light and sound, and states of matter.

Terry Badertscher, a science teacher at Cousins Middle School, has written several grants to support outdoor garden areas at the school.  This year the school received a General Mills Grant to enhance student learning in plant biology, environmental studies, and nutrition by expanding the outdoor gardens and getting more and more students involved.  Students will participate through their science classes, as well as through the school year after-schools and summer after-school programs.  Students will be responsible for building and preparing garden beds, and planting and maintaining the gardens.  They will also build compost bin for organic waste that can also be used in nurturing the garden.  Students will learn to be stewards of the earth, as well as compassionate and caring individuals through a program to work with local churches and other community organizations to help provide food for needy families.  Once the food is grown and harvested, the school’s Home Arts classes will learn to process the food grown by canning and freezing the food so it can be distributed and used for a longer period of time.  Funds from the grant will be used to purchase building materials for expanding planting beds, seeds and plants, planting soil, fertilizer, and mulch.  The grant will also help pay for equipment such as hoes, shovels, trowels, and hoses, as well as supplies for freezing and canning food for preservation.

 The largest grant in this latest round of grant awards was submitted by the NCSS Grants Coordinator, Dr. Kathy Garber on behalf of the 28 participants in the K-5 Mathematics Endorsement program funded by the federal Math Science Partnership grant.  Upon completion of three courses in college level math, teachers, instructional coaches and an elementary principal will have the Math Endorsement added to their education certificates.  During the course of the two years in which teachers have received instruction, they have learned of numerous resources available to help students make the leap from concrete to abstract concepts in elementary math.  The grant will fund multiple resources to reinforce concepts taught through the students’ math textbooks. Teacher resource books such as Activities to Undo Misconceptions in Mathematics  will provide multiple strategies for teaching and reinforcing math concepts.   Children’s books that integrate mathematics into literature will be used in cross-curricular learning centers.   Finally, math manipulatives for helping students see math concepts first in concrete ways, then moving on to abstract mathematics thinking and problem-solving.

Manipulatives are concrete objects which include items such as attribute blocks, geometric shapes of different colors and sizes that may be used in classification or patterning tasks and base ten blocks for representing and performing operations on multi-digit numbers.  Students in nine NCSS elementary schools will benefit from items purchased with funding from this grant.