On Wednesday, 12 teachers from South Mississippi will be awarded Leo W. Seal Innovative Teacher Grants.
The grant, sponsored by Hancock Bank and named after the late bank presidents Leo W. Seal Sr. and Leo W. Seal Jr., both instrumental in the development of the Gulf Coast, are meant to encourage innovation in education and provide educators with the resources to tackle new projects.
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Kim Jordan, a teacher at College Park Elementary's gifted and talented program in Gautier, will use her grant to help her students better understand other cultures. She has been soliciting videos from people in other countries that describe but don't name the country. Her students must figure out what country the video describes. They also fill out "passports" as they gain understanding of the countries, and are designing apps that people from an assigned country would enjoy using. Jordan has gotten videos from Latvia, the Philippines, Christmas Island, South Korea and New Zealand.
'I just want (the students) to have a global understanding,' she said.
Tania Tellier-Brooks' ninth-graders look at the Gulf every day. She wanted to do something to incorporate that everyday experience into her science class. She will use the grant to buy equipment to test for coastal water health, including technology such as gel electrophoresis and PCR.
Daniel Munger, St. Stanislaus High School, Bay St. Louis: Students prepare to be home and car owners of the future by becoming their own advocates for home and auto repairs. Activities teach students life skills such as plumbing, wiring, roofing, siding, drywall, laminate flooring, painting, heating and air conditioning theory and financial success planning.
Terese Evans, St. James Elementary School, Gulfport: First- through sixth-grade students create and donate original works of art to institutions focused on and committed to helping children. Students' direct involvement in supporting those organizations helps enrich their understanding of art and the value of giving back to their community.
At Hancock High School, the three levels of physics Keene Golding teaches focus heavily on engineering, so for his grant proposal he wanted something that would teach his students engineering skills. Professionals in the industry told him how much work they now do using drones, so he will use the grant to buy a GPS-stabilized drone.
Though he has some ideas for projects for the drones -- inspecting certain things from overhead, programing them to fly certain routes -- he said he would also allow students to come up with their own projects. Golding said, 'Drones and that type of technology are in these kids' future. A first look at it in high school is an advantage.'
Alicia Verweij, Roseland Park Elementary, Picayune: Using robots and 3-D printers, elementary school students find solutions for real-world problems. Computer science helps students improve imagination, enhance creative expression, build confidence, learn computer programming and 3-D printing skills, solve problems, and prepare for future jobs.
Each year, Leigh Hanna teaches an 'earth and space' elective class at Pascagoula High School. It's pretty easy to come up with projects for the earth part of it. Space? Not so much. So with the Leo W. Seal grant, Hanna intends to buy telescopes for the class, so students can feel almost as connected with studying space as learning about earth.
Michele Brasher, an instructor at Trent Lott Academy's gifted and talented program in Pascagoula, intends to use her grant money to expand a unit her kids already love: Flight. She will buy drones and teach her students all aspects of using them.
'We're trying to expose them to careers . With drones you feel like you're on the cusp of technology," she said. 'We try to hit on a bit of everything so they can take it with them and see where it goes.'
Billy Carroll of the Moss Point Career and Technical Education Center: Students study science, technology, engineering, and math through dragster racing. The science of Speed 2 Dragster Kits and the Impulse G3 Race System engage students in hands-on learning as they build and race carbon dioxide-powered miniature racing cars to demonstrate STEM concepts.
An idea for a student community-service project -- restoring the Katrina-damaged arches at Pass Christian's Live Oak Cemetery -- has turned into the Coast's only student-led tours. They're coordinated by Lori Fisher and Jane Bunn of Pass Christian Middle and Elementary schools.
For several years, Pass students studied the city's history and the fascinating people buried in the cemetery. The students lead tours the weekend after Halloween. The grant will allow them to buy equipment to enhance the project.
'The arches are under reconstruction,' Fisher said, 'and should be placed this summer and fall, but the tours have drawn so many people and involve so many students, they'll continue on. Once the arches are in place, we'll take on another project.'
Amy Ashley, a math teacher at Our Lady Academy in Bay St. Louis, intends to use her grant to buy STEM kits to help her students see how science, technology, engineering and math apply to the real world through simulations.
Seventh- and eighth-grade students will likely use them as part of an after-school program, and the kits will be incorporated into high school classes. The idea of adding STEM subjects and helping students connect class work to career choices is not unique, but is perhaps more important at an all-girls school. Educators have been encouraging more girls to go into male-dominated fields.
'We work to show them that they can do it,' Ashley said, 'that they are just as capable, if not more so. That they can achieve great things in science and math.'