Dysart Education Foundation announces mini grants

Fa Taupau, left, Associate Director of Nutrition Services and Paul Stanley, Director of Nutrition Services from Dysart Unified School District SFE- Southwest Foodservice Excellence stand at the company's booth during the Dysart Education Foundation's annual golf tournament Oct. 2 at Falcon Dunes Golf Course. SFE was one of the top contributor's to the foundation's record fundraising haul. (Submitted photo)

By Jennifer Jimenez
Independent Newsmedia

The Dysart Education Foundation recently made selections for the Fall 2017 mini grants.

The grant money is designed to focus on projects to help students learn in the Dysart Unifi ed School District for the 2017- 2018 school year. Funding for the grants comes from the district’s United Way campaign and community contributions to the foundation.

Billie Laird, President of the foundation, said community involvement is critical for good public education and an education foundation can work to bring the district and the community together.

“ I am so pleased to be a part of this small but mighty group of hard working community members. In addition to giving back, I think we view our participation as a chance to pay forward by investing in the future of our community and making sure that our children have a better chance to succeed and excel,” Ms. Laird said. “When we turn down teachers with great ideas and deserving students who might not fi nd their ways to college without some additional help, it helps keep us motivated.”

The mini grant application process includes criteria based on originality, professionalism and the benefi ts to students. Chareeze Abarquez, who is a music teacher at Cimarron Springs Elementary School, received $ 1,204.32 to buy a set of ukuleles for her classroom. Students will have the opportunity to compose, learn and play music using the stringed instrument.

Ms. Abarquez said the Dysart Education Foundation plays an important role in the district. They raise money to give back to teachers and students and give students an opportunity to apply and receive scholarship money for college.

“ Their efforts to enrich the classroom experience helps refresh and motivate teachers and students, eventually having a positive impact on students. This organization truly cares about the community and supports the future of education,” Ms. Abarquez explained.

As a fi rst-year teacher, she said being selected for the mini grant was a humbling experience. Ms. Abarquez said her mission is to learn, practice and apply life skills and culture through music.

“ I want students to enjoy music and be able to learn and refine a musical skill which they can take and grow on for the rest of their life. Music is an integral part of society, so knowing there are people who are helping my vision become a reality overwhelms me with such joy and excitement,” Ms. Abarquez said.

Ms. Abarquez said the ukulele is a relevant instrument in today’s pop culture. She said the mobile instrument can inspire students to get their own and play at home or with friends. Adding, learning the ukulele is a once- in- a- lifetime opportunity for some students and will do her best to inspire their musical creativity.

“ The ukulele gets more difficult the longer you play it. Just like when you learn a new skill; you must learn the basics, practice, and then build up to more skills. While learning this instrument ( or any instrument), students start to develop discipline, patience, perseverance, enhances coordination, improves memory, and gives students a sense of achievement,” Ms. Abarquez said. “Although the journey of learning an instrument is not always easy, students will start to see what their hard work has created when they are able to play a scale or perform a whole song. Giving students that opportunity to be confi dent in their craft helps create a positive learning environment.”

Dysart High School teacher Justin Greathouse received $1,204.32 to purchase a 3D printer for his chemistry and physics classes. Chemistry students will build polyatomic models and physics students will use the printer to design, engineer, calculate and build their own devices.

Mr. Greathouse said grants like these are vital to innovation in teaching and learning, saying the Dysart Education foundation makes it possible to deliver a skill and technology that the district could not otherwise afford.

“ Physics has the potential to create items to test forces on objects that apply to real world applications. In chemistry, learners will have the capacity to make the microscopic, macroscopic. Moreover, we can innovate using Project Based Learning, using ideas like creating the right chemical formula for food and beverage items, and then printing our own brand logo,” he explained. “ There is a world of potential in my head as the facilitator, and so I can’t wait to see how the students expand on that with their own ideas.”

Mr. Greathouse said his leaners leave with the ability to create and publish their own website and now due to the mini grant, they will leave with the capacity to operate a 3D printer and for that he is grateful.

Denise Hall of Riverview School received a $ 1,450 grant to purchase student- centered fl exible seating options for her classroom that give students their own way to personalize their learning environment.

Natalie Aragon from Canyon Ridge School, was awarded $ 937.63 to create a sustainable tortoise ecosystem that takes students outdoors to investigate ecological relationships.

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