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Enlightened Learning With Bright Ideas Innovation Grant

“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” - Socrates

Stimulating a student’s interest in a new idea or concept is often the most difficult part in getting them to learn. Having the resources available to excite those thoughts is a barrier for many teachers with innovative ideas, so in 2016 Jackson EMC funded $65,705 in Bright Ideas grants to provide necessary tools and technology for classroom teachers so they could bring their innovative ideas to life. This money went into 53 classrooms. Here are three of their stories…

Jim Roberson

Berkmar Middle School, Gwinnett County


Literacy for the Deaf

Jim Roberson is charged with teaching a second language; not Spanish or French. He’s teaching English to deaf children who use American Sign Language at Berkmar Middle School.

“In English, words have multiple meanings, but we only have one sign,” he explained. “Deaf students can’t make sense of the word in print because they don’t have those multiple meanings built up in their head.”

Think about the various meanings for the word “run.” You can run an errand, run for president, your pantyhose can run, your nose can run and you can run a race. When a student reads a book and they only understand one meaning for “run”, they can become confused.

“You have to understand that word has multiple meanings in your mind,” he said. “The English language may have more idiomatic expressions than any other language and that creates obstacles, too.”

Roberson used an innovation grant to purchase a literacy program that uses sign language.

“Without the proper tools to help them learn, many deaf and hard of hearing students never learn to read passed a fourth grade reading level,” Roberson said.

Dana Harrell

West Jackson Middle School, Jackson County


The Stories We Sing

If you listen closely, you can hear our country’s history in the folk songs we sing. Yankee Doodle Dandy, for example, teaches us about life during the American Revolution. Dana Harrell, choral director at West Jackson Middle School, wants to empower her students to tell these stories and make them their own. Using grant funds, her students will do everything from arranging and recording music to designing the artwork for the CD cover and marketing their recording for sale.

“We are learning a variety of American Folk Songs, all which are in the public domain so that they can be arranged without permissions and fees,” Harrell said. “The students are coming up with ideas about how to change the songs to make them more exciting to listen to.”

In all, her chorus will record their versions of 13 traditional songs using their new sound equipment and will sell the music as a fundraiser for the chorus.

“This has been an adventure in music, history, marketing, recording and working together,” she said. “We will continue to use our recording equipment in the classroom, primarily as a tool to listen to our progress on music we are rehearsing, evaluate and make appropriate changes.”

Recordings from the chorus will be available at: http://danaharrellsonlineportfolio.weebly.com/the-stories-we-sing-cd.html

Tina Kinchen

Westside Middle School, Barrow County


3D Physical Science

Two students are fighting in a corner of the classroom; a couple of group members disagreed over whose turn it was to weigh the copper cube on the balance.

“I’m always surprised by what they are interesting in-that task in lab they all want to do,” said Tina Kinchen, physical science teacher at Westside Middle School.

This type of disagreement is happy chaos. If not for the Bright Ideas innovation grant, Kinchen said her students wouldn’t have the resources for these hands-on labs. Today, students are learning about density using cubes and cylinders made from different materials. A cube made of copper and one made of plastic may be the same size, but their density is very different. That’s not an easy concept to wrap your mind around unless you can physically touch them, weigh, measure and compare the two.

“Last year, trying to teach some of these physical science concepts without these resources—even electricity and magnetism—you can watch videos and talk about it, but giving the students the opportunity to manipulate things and work collaboratively with other people in their discovery – that interaction isn’t possible with a worksheet.”

Now Accepting 2017 Bright Ideas Applications

Bright Ideas is a grant program from Jackson EMC that funds creative, innovative classroom projects developed by state certified educators in public middle schools in Jackson EMC’s service area.

Educators can earn up to $2,000 for classroom projects. Projects must involve students directly, provide a creative learning experience through innovative teaching methods, provide ongoing benefits to the students, and create opportunities for teamwork.

Grants will not be considered for professional development, field trips, student fees, salaries, incentives, furniture, smart boards, computers, printers, software or hand-held electronic tablet-like devices. However, if electronics and/or equipment are an integral part of an innovative project, they may be considered.

Grant applications will be judged by an independent panel of college-level educators and administrators. Grant recipients will be notified and awarded funds in October 2017. Grant funds must be used in the 2017-2018 school year, and grant awardees must submit a grant report at the end of the school year.

All 2017 applications must be completed online and received by Jackson EMC on Friday, June 2 for consideration. For a complete list of criteria and to apply for a Bright Ideas grant, visit www.jacksonemc.com/brightideas.