Westerville educators are excited about a dozen grants awarded by the Westerville Education Foundation last month – that is because the grants are estimated to benefit nearly 10,000 district students.

Colleen Moidu, the foundation's executive director, said this grant cycle invests more than $20,000 in projects, and it's the largest and most impactful in the foundation's 25-year history.

As a media specialist for Huber Ridge and Whittier elementary schools, Judy Gawelek said she's excited for the opportunities a grant will bring to the students at both schools.

She was awarded a $2,703 grant along with media specialists Sara Benge, Lori Boyd, Monty Maceyko, Elizabeth Meta, Bethany Solich and Pam Todd, allowing all elementary schools to benefit from Science, Technology Engineering and Math in the Library: Using Folk and Fairy Tales to Inspire Problem Solving.

With this grant, students will be introduced to STEM principles by approaching folk and fairy tales from a STEM perspective, Gawelek said.

"We are purchasing materials for the students that will allow them to design and test solutions to the problems that literary characters face," she said.

"It will give them some insight into solving everyday problems and expose them to classic stories in literature."

Gawelek said Westerville school libraries are in the first year of piloting a new curriculum that brings together traditional library studies such as literature and research with 21st century skills in technology, design and media.

"The library is a unique space where all subjects come together," Gawelek said. "This grant is a collaborative effort involving all the elementary media specialists, and will benefit all the elementary students in the district."

Thanks to the Westerville Education Foundation, she said, the students at Huber Ridge and Whittier elementary schools will have new opportunities to become critical thinkers and hopefully, have some fun in the process.

Heritage Middle School math teacher Anne Bates said 180 sixth-graders will benefit from a grant awarded to her and teacher Kristen Legerski for a semester-long Literacy Skills and Career Exploration Class.

The $700 grant allows them to administer the Gallup Strengths Explorer assessment as well as a career inventory assessment, which is part of the Naviance program the district provides for students.

"Once the students have some careers of interest and learn their top three strengths from Otterbein senior instructor and strengths coach Patti Wilson, the student will go through several strength-based sessions to learn about their strengths and the strengths of their classmates," Bates said.

The students will travel to Otterbein University to take a campus tour and be a part of a career fair, which will be led by Otterbein students and faculty.

"Throughout the class, the students learn more about themselves and their strengths," Bates said. "The goal is for them to learn a bit more about themselves as a learner and help to have academic, behavioral and social success throughout their academic career and beyond."

Other grant recipients, their school, amount of grant and purpose include:

* Jason McQuown, Alcott Elementary School, $1,700 for a 3-D printer to support, address and extend grade-level curriculum in all subject areas.

* Angie Crego, Blendon Middle School, $700 for a peer-to-peer recognition program that will recognize acts of kindness within the school and school-sanctioned events.

* Betsy Denney, Naomi Schone, Robert Stranges and Deb Ubry, Fouse Elementary School, $5,000 for Leader in Me. The program is intended to build positive character attributes in staff, students and parents to promote a strong and sustainable learning community that will empower children to work together.

* Eric Cacioppo, Robert Frost Elementary School, $1,000 for the Frost Fab Lab, a small-scale workshop offering digital fabrication where students can think, problem solve, learn and create.

* Joy Dietz and Miriam Aichler, Robert Frost, $650, for Life Skills Maker Space to create an interactive life skills Voice and Choice area. The project encourages problem solving and critical thinking through hands-on activities.

* Debbie Pellington and Lisa Lunn, Genoa Middle School, $588 for Reading Around the World to connect sixth-graders with content-based fiction and nonfiction books. The books will be used to facilitate student-to-student connections through text and allow all levels of readers to feel successful.

* Amber Cunningham, Hanby Elementary School, $800 for Hanby Helping and Nurturing while Demonstrating Self Regulation Room, a sensory-specific tool to assist children with emotional regulation and de-escalation.

* Alex Tresoline, McVay Elementary School, $2,194, for an interactive white board to create academically valuable and cross-curricular lessons for students.

* Liz Schar, Westerville Central High School, $1,831 for an Artists Collaboration Cafe, a relaxed alternative setting to promote student and teacher community, rapport-building and learning.

* Jean Trimble, Walnut Springs Middle School, $2,600, for a Black History Month celebration with award-winning author Doreen Rappaport as guest speaker.

Grant funding comes entirely from community contributions.

For more information about the Westerville Education Foundation, go to westervilleeducationfoundation.com.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla