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Bright Ideas Grants Fund Innovative Classroom Projects

Sometimes, an innovative or creative idea for a classroom project just needs a little support. That’s why Jackson EMC’s Bright Ideas grant program provides educators with up $2,000 to support classroom projects that could not be funded. This academic year, Jackson EMC gave a total of $50,000 in Bright Ideas grants for 34 classroom projects in 20 area middle schools. These are just some of their stories.


Julie Wilkerson, Radloff Middle School, Gwinnett County

Julie Wilkerson, a 30-year veteran math and science teacher, applied for a Bright Ideas grant so her sixth grade students could complete more project-based learning assignments as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics team at Radloff Middle School in Gwinnett County.

She created a project called, “Solar Cars to Solar Lives,” where her students could work in pairs to design and build solar-powered model cars from kits she was able to purchase after winning a $2,000 Bright Ideas grant from Jackson EMC.

Wilkerson’s Bright Ideas project promoted cooperation and engineering design concepts. Her students learned the basics of design, aerodynamics, gears and mechanical engineering as they chose the appropriate design and necessary gears to make their wheels and axles turn. After students completed their solar cars, Wilkerson and her STEAM team colleagues held a race to determine the fastest car.

“The Bright Ideas grant enabled my students to complete more rigorous and detailed projects,” said Wilkerson. “We were able to bring science, technology, engineering, arts and math alive for our students. These grants help increase their understanding and knowledge of STEAM and the skills necessary for our ever-changing world.”


Joe Pearce, Westside Middle School, Barrow County

​Joe Pearce, an educator with 27 years of experience teaching band and music appreciation, applied for a Bright Ideas grant after seeing his colleagues at Westside Middle School in Barrow County win the grant funding. For years, he wanted to purchase multi-instrument chromatic tuners for his students but the funds weren’t available.

“So, I decided to try for a Bright Ideas grant,” Pearce said. His efforts were rewarded when Jackson EMC awarded him a $640 Bright Ideas grant to purchase 55 enharmonic tuners.

The tuners clip to the instruments, read vibrations from the instruments when played and show the results of a musical pitch on a display that students can see immediately.

“This simple device allows our band students to know if they are playing the correct pitch as indicated in the music,” Pearce said. “Now, they can make adjustments on-the-fly, correcting mistakes of which they may not have been aware.”

He added: “Using the tuners allows the students to improve their evaluation skills. While they are sustaining the pitch, they can evaluate the pitch for quality of tone, correctness, volume and other musical factors.”


Joe Herbert, Hull Middle School, Gwinnett County

​Joe Herbert, a theater arts and social studies teacher at Hull Middle School in Gwinnett County, applied for a Jackson EMC Bright Ideas grant as a way to teach light­ing and sound engineering to his students. Before becoming an educator, Herbert gained real-world experience performing improv comedy on the main stage of the celebrated Whole World Improv Theatre in Atlanta.

Many of Herbert’s theater students would like to take advantage of the increase in film and video production opportunities in Georgia.

“This grant has enabled our students to learn about two essential jobs in live theater and video productions very quickly,” said Herbert, who used his $2,000 grant to purchase two variable white stage lights, two powered speakers, a soundboard and a spotlight.

Students take turns operating the light and sound boards and performing on stage. The direct experience both speaking in the spotlight, and operating the spotlight and adjusting the sound provides students with opportunities to understand all aspects of theater productions.

“Several students can practice lighting techniques while others are reviewing scene exercises — all at the same time, and I see students teaching each other,” said Herbert.

“This grant will benefit students and the community for years to come as it will enable us to create a full-time theater program starting next school term,” said Herbert.


More About Bright Ideas Grants

What is it like to be awarded a Bright Ideas grant? One educator provides his perspective

Local educators can also learn more about the process to apply for a Bright Ideas grant.