Increasing the variety of reading material available to students was a popular goal among projects that sought funding this year from Berks County Community Foundation’s annual classroom mini-grant program.
The Community Foundation awarded $2,300 to six projects in four school districts. Four of the projects involved an expansion of available reading material. The other two projects are a musical production and a kit for incorporating engineering into other academic subjects.
1) “Learning For You”Centers will promote individual responsibility and student choice for 75 eighth-grade Hamburg Area Middle School students as they access age-appropriate material at their own discretion to ignite a love of reading and math, Hamburg educators said when applying for funds. They added that recent research has shown higher engagement levels among students when they are given choices. Teachers will track outcomes through online surveys of students and the total number of books signed out. This project received $500 from the Public Education Foundation Fund for Instructional Innovation and the Ben Franklin Trust Fund, which are both administered by the Community Foundation.
2) A “paper circuits” program will allow 125 fifth- and sixth-grade students at Reiffton School in the Exeter Township School District to incorporate engineering into English and social studies classes through the use of a kit. Paper circuits are electronic circuits built from copper foil tape, LED (light emitting diode) stickers, and batteries. The circuit is built by taping components in the correct sequence. Paper circuits enhance existing projects by, for example, adding an electronic design component to a social studies map of a geographic region. Students will use STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills) to incorporate a circuit into their work and troubleshoot until it functions properly. The project received $500 from the Berks County Association of School Retirees Scholarship and Grant Fund at the Community Foundation.
3) Northeast Middle School Theatre Club’s fifth musical production will give 54 club members and other members of the student body in the Reading School District building a chance to learn skills ranging from set design and production to singing and dancing. A $500 grant for the production of Once on This Island Jr. was awarded from the Public Education Foundation Fund for Instructional Innovation, which is administered by the Community Foundation.
4) A take-home book bag program for 150 Schuylkill Valley Elementary School kindergartners aims to encourage them to read with their family members. Research shows that reading to and with children helps improve academic growth and create positive communication, said teachers, who added they will evaluate the program’s effectiveness by comparing twice-yearly reading assessments. This initiative received $270 from the Ben Franklin Trust Fund of the Community Foundation.
5) An Exeter Township School District initiative will provide new selections to ninth-grade students who have struggled to find books that engage them. This initiative received $265 from the Ben Franklin Trust Fund of the Community Foundation.
6) A choice-based “Contemporary British Literature Unit” will better engage Hamburg Area High School seniors than a curriculum that offers only traditional choices, such as Beowulf and works by Shakespeare, Hamburg educators said in their application. Students are more motivated to read, read more deeply, and perform better on related assignments when they are interested in the books they are assigned to read, the teachers continued, adding that they expect students’ test scores and proficiency levels to improve after completing a variety of activities and projects with other students who are as interested in the same book that they chose to read. This project received $265 from the Ben Franklin Trust Fund of the Community Foundation.
The classroom mini-grant program will next accept applications November 1, with a deadline of December 15. Apply at bccfgrants.academicworks.com. This program has provided about $50,000 in grants across Berks County. The program accepts donations here: https://bccf.org/donate/