Alabama Power Foundation grant motivates teacher to innovate curriculum was originally shared on July 12, 2023 as an article from the Alabama News Center. It was written by Carrie Kwarcinski. Read the post in its original format here.
Merry Martin dreamed of inspiring her students to greater heights, using robots and drones. But it wasn’t until she was awarded a Scholar Grant from the Alabama Power Foundation that her dream took off.
After receiving the Scholar Grant, Martin, a fourth-grade teacher at Ashland Elementary School, was able to add advanced technology, including virtual reality goggles, thermal energy devices, Hummingbird robotics kits and 3D pens and printers, to her classroom in rural Alabama.
The Scholar Grant awards recipients with funding of up to $7,500 to help students succeed in math and/or English. Public school teachers in grades two to eight can use the grants to pay for professional development and instructional tools.
Martin said, “I had always wanted to do the things I was able to do this year in my classroom, but I never had the money for it.”
Martin was excited about the Scholar Grant, knowing the resources would provide “high impact” for her classroom. The materials she always hoped to use in her classroom, like robots and drones, typically didn’t fit within the school’s limited budget.
She was able to purchase three Hummingbird kits, each containing four robots. The kits allowed her class to not only learn and play with robots but actually build and program them.
“I feel like they’ll be talking about it for the rest of their lives,” Martin said. She said the experience is also sparking passion for school among some of her students who previously were not engaged. “It rejuvenates them and gives them a purpose,” she said.
After building the robots, students programmed them for lights, sound and motion with sensors through Snap! coding. The process also required the students to trouble-shoot issues and find innovative ways to solve problems; they were amazed by their ability to design and produce a robot that they could interact with, Martin said.
“That coding uses parts of your brain that you normally would not use. It makes them stronger critical thinkers.” She said the students will be able to apply their experiences and what they learned in high school, college and their future careers. “We’re laying that foundation for years to come.”
In fact, as part of the experience, students learned about career paths that are emerging with the rise of robots and other technological advancements. “Also, letting them know that those typical stereotypes of girls and boys – who does this and who does that in terms of careers – they’re not confined to that,” Martin said.
The different types of projects in Martin’s STEAM class improves students’ math, reading and art skills, as well as confidence in their ability to succeed. Martin said this class has also sparked students to get involved in other programs at school.
In all, the Alabama Power Foundation offers five different education grants with a focus on supporting underserved communities. The grants are available to public schools where 50% or more of the student population receive free or reduced-price lunch.
Applications for the next round of Classroom Grants, which provide teachers up to $1,000 for supplies to enhance the classroom experience, open Aug. 28 and close on Sept. 8.
To learn more about the Alabama Power Foundation’s fall grant cycles, visit powerofgood.com.