Brownwood Education Foundation grants provide toolbox for teachers

Special to the Bulletin
Brownwood High School staff members are pictured with replicas of checks from the Brownwood Education Foundation.

East Elementary School physical education teacher Kim Harvey said she's always looking for ways to build students’ self-confidence and health, provide new opportunities and bring core curriculum into her lessons.

Harvey recently received a grant from the Brownwood Education Foundation (BEF) for her Climbing New Heights project.

“I’m excited to have students track their progress, collaborate in teams to solve mathematics and ELAR concepts."

“I’ve been wanting to find something to help build the students upper body strength,” Harvey said. “I saw an article of how a school used a climbing wall to challenge students physically.”

When the BEF began accepting applications for grants for the 2021-22 school year, Harvey applied and received the grant, which will be used to purchase Ultraverse climbing walls, climbing holds, a climbing wall obstacle set with DuraHoop holds, and a curriculum guide.

The transverse climbing wall will improve students’ balance and strength and includes several obstacles students will strive to overcome, Harvey said.

East Elementary students, who are preschoolers through third grade, will be able to use the obstacle course, climbing wall, and curriculum to challenge and grow their physical abilities. Additionally, Harvey works with homeroom teachers to help advance the students’ in-class lessons on strengthening English, mathematics, and reading capabilities. Their in-class lessons receive hands-on application during physical education.

The BEF also granted funds for Angela Fabbiani, the Gifted and Talented (GT) specialist.

“I’m always searching for ways to integrate STEM activities as well as extend and enrich learning,” Fabbiani said.

Students in fourth through sixth grade GT at Coggin Intermediate School will soon begin working with Cubelets, enhancing their robotics knowledge base.

The grant provides funds to purchase three sets of Cubelets, or Robotic Building Blocks, Fabbiani said. Cubelets are an introduction to robotics, coding, and design thinking. These building blocks support students in the basics of robotics, providing students opportunities to think critically while solving problems.

The product allows teachers to introduce difficult concepts in ways that are easier for elementary to middle school students to understand.

GT students have been able to work with unique tools because of Fabbiani’s past projects, such as 3D printers.

Cubelets and robotics tools will expand students’ capabilities as they work toward similar advanced subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Fabbiani discovered Cubelets through her continued search for improved classroom experiences, and applied for the grant after seeing multiple uses for the Cubelets tool.

“My classroom instruction begins and ends with what I feel is best for my students,” Fabbiani said.

Coding and programming are far from her area of expertise, yet students need hands-on opportunities to problem solve, Fabbiani said.

"The Cubelets seemed to be a good fit," she said. "I also felt that Cubelets would be the bridge between Tynker, a coding program that begins in the primary grades, and the Robotics program that begins in fifth grade.”

Edward Yantis, a Computer Science and Robotics teacher at Brownwood High School, also a grant for a 3D Mapping Experience.

Yantis said it isn't an "experience," but it is gaining experience using drones to

• Collect imagery of a location.

• Load the hundreds of images into rendering software (Pix4D).

• Producing a 3D exact-to-scale survey-image of the location.

“This is a high-skill/high-pay occupation currently in demand,” Yantis said.

 He said the grant will be used to buy a professional-grade drone and accessories, rendering and mapping software and a computer workstation capable of rendering the very large amounts of data into a deliverable 3D product.

“This was a logical way to extend our FAA commercial drone pilot license partnership with Ranger College,” Yantis said. “I brainstormed ways to provide students with experiences that would enable them to be 'jobs-ready' when they graduate from BHS."

Yantis recalled when the Notre Dame Cathedral was destroyed by fire, a copy of a recent 3D survey of the site was used to help reconstruct it.

The Brownwood Education Foundation's grants for the 2021-22 school year were made possible through donations from the community and ongoing fundraising efforts.