A trio of Polk County Middle School teachers have recently received grants to help with classroom initiatives.

Science teacher Dale Rush, also Polk County Middle School’s Teacher of the Year and the Polk County Schools District Teacher of the Year, received a Bright Ideas Grant through Rutherford Electric Membership Corporation. This grant will enable sixth grade students to explore the properties of electricity using the Elenco Snap circuits Classic kit as part of a comprehensive, hands-on unit.

Students will be challenged to build and reflect upon increasingly more difficult and complex circuits and devices as their skills increase. In collaboration with other projects, students will build an understanding of basic electrical concepts, study the use of electricity in the home and build a circuit of their own.

Social studies teacher Eric Eaton also received a Bright Ideas Grant. His “Garden of Three Cultures” grant focuses on a multi-disciplinary learning garden for students that helps them research and explore the food and plants from African, European and Native American cultures that were found in or came to North Carolina in the 1500s-1700s.

Students will use the gardens for hands-on and research experiences that will connect their study of history to science by having students research the foods of various cultures who settled early North Carolina and how those foods influenced the culture and early settlement of our state and nation. Science skills are combined in this unit as students explore plant growth and planning for cultivation. The harvest from these gardens will be utilized in Life Skills classes, school cafeterias or donated to local food banks.

Science teacher Andrea Hill received a Grow It Forward grant from the Community Foundation of Western Carolina. This grant stemmed from the deficits noted through surveys in relation to students’ attitudes toward school and learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to these surveys, many students who scored high on last year’s Science EOG felt negatively about returning to in-person learning and being back in the classroom setting.

The goal of Grow It Forward is to improve students’ attitudes through social-emotional learning while creating a garden that ties to the sixth grade science standards. Pam Torlina and Liz Dicey of Conserving Carolina have been an excellent partner and resource in learning more about planning and growing pollinator vegetable gardens and have agreed to help PCMS throughout the process. The money provided through the Community Foundation’s Learning Links grant will be used to purchase raised garden beds, seeds and other supplies to aid the students in creating their on-campus gardens.