By Kierra Pixler, Managing Editor
Christmas came early for a group of Belton ISD educators.
The Belton Educational Enrichment Foundation (BEEF) and BISD administrators surprised teachers and paraprofessionals across the district Tuesday, delivering grants for a wish list of items to enhance opportunities for students and staff.
BEEF awarded $60,041 in grants to elementary, middle and high school educators for resources such as robots to teach coding, virtual reality headsets for foreign language classes, class library sets and engaging math games.
Sparta Elementary third grade teacher Beth Duncan was among the dozens of educators who applied for grants for projects expected to begin in Spring 2019. Her grant proposal,“For the Love of Math” outlined math products that integrate multiple Texas education standards and make the subject fun for kids. “We’re going to incorporate these with our beautiful math wall that the students created, and we’re going to bring math to life for all of our students,” Duncan said.
Another tool that will surely liven up lessons is an innovative device called an augmented reality sandbox for North Belton Middle School’s science program. The hands-on device allows users to build their own interactive topographic maps by shifting sand. NASA engineers are using a similar technology to simulate the actual Martian landscape, which will aid scientists in improving future missions to the Red Planet.
Using technology in the classroom to build these types of practical skills is exactly why CGI Technologies and Solutions, Inc., a Belton IT company that makes software, donated $2,500 to be used for an innovative teaching grant toward a STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project.
Chris Flor of CGI, and a BISD Board Trustee, told a group of NMBS students of the need for STEM education. “One of the problems that we’re facing is that there’s about a million jobs in the STEM fields that we’re not able to fill in the United States. It’s important for me to get you jazzed about robotics and programming so that you go on to high school and into college and hopefully pursue a STEM field. Maybe even work for CGI,” he said.
The $2,500 CGI donation, combined with an additional $500 from BEEF, will be used to kickstart the NBMS Robotics Club and pay for BioLoid STEM Standard Robot Kits.
NBMS science teacher Kelsie Finn said the kits will easily integrate with calculators that students are already using.
“We can do a whole bunch of programing for things like using heat sensors and creating cars that move based on what we code into the computer and the calculators,” she said.
Founded in 1992 as an independent, nonprofit corporation, BEEF was established by friends of the school district with a mission “to enhance the quality of education by engaging the community to provide grants and scholarships for the students of Belton ISD.” Annually, BEEF awards student scholarships for college high school seniors, scholarships for paraprofessionals to further their education and innovative teaching grants.
“The BEEF grants give teachers a chance to receive funds to buy supplies and tools for education that they might not be able to get otherwise,” BEEF Board President Juli Bryan said. “We like to act as a supplement to BISD. “We want to encourage and reward teachers and paraprofessionals that are going above and beyond for their students. And of course, reward the kids too.”