PASCAGOULA -- The state Department of Marine Resources handed out 18 grants to Coast schools, including a $5,500 grant to Cherokee Elementary School in Pascagoula.
The grants are part of the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, which aims to promote environmental stewardship. Cherokee gifted-education teacher Lisa Wood said she applied for the grant in May and was excited to find out the school had received it.
The money partially funded a science lab at the school which had become an empty classroom after the fifth grade was transferred to Trent Lott Academy. The grant paid for lab tables, stools, a world map rug, books and a refrigerator for perishable science experiment supplies.
"The idea was to have a dedicated space for science and to have the materials at our fingertips," Wood said. "It makes it more interesting for the kids and allows them to do things more hands on."
A group of students were viewing wings and legs of locusts, butterflies and honey bees through microscopes in the lab Thursday afternoon.
"It looks like cow footprints all connected with some legs," fourth-grader Will Mitchell, 9, said of a silkworm larva.
Will said his favorite subject is math, but he liked making balloons blow up with air using vinegar and salt in the science lab.
The lab has been in use since January by all the teachers, and Wood said gifted-education students from other Pascagoula schools also use it.
"We're teaching them to be environmental stewards," she said. "They learn about things like renewable energy and acid rain." Wood recalled the students' reactions when they learned sea turtles in the ocean can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, which is what they eat.
"It's amazing how much those things can stick at that age," she said.
Another class had pots of seeds growing in a window sill.
Fourth-grader Felicity Browning, 10, said she was looking at "some insect stuff" in the lab Thursday. She said she had learned about pollution and the life cycle of the sunflower.
Felicity's favorite lesson so far involved making "soil" from crumbled Oreo cookies, chocolate pudding and gummy worms.