An iPad, a green screen and some video editing software made the recent total solar eclipse more memorable for some California Middle School students.
A recently-awarded grant through CenturyLink Teachers and Technology to sixth-grade science teacher Jane Bishop provided the unique technology pieces, which students used to deliver their own "news" reports on the cosmic event.
"The kids loved it," said Principal Matt Abernathy.
In addition to the CenturyLink $5,000 grant, the middle school also received another $5,000 grant this spring from Lowe's Toolbox for Education. That money purchased about 30 Chromebooks, allowing the district to redirect the money, it would have spent on the 1:1 device initiative, to other programs, Abernathy said.
"Without being awarded these tech grants, it would be difficult for a district, in general, to keep up with the flow and progression of technology," he said.
Those 30 Chromebooks combined with another 120 purchased by the district this summer, which were distributed to students during registration. At that time, students also signed posters, which will be formatted by the school art department and then presented as a "thank you" to the local Lowe's store, he said.
"This is a little more personal; we're going to put some effort into thanking them," Abernathy said.
Grants are helping more California classrooms each year.
Hundreds of grant programs are available.
"The hurdle is finding someone with the time to fill out the application" and complete the process, Abernathy said.
As fellow teachers see the results of grant awards, like Bishop's green screen tech, Abernathy said he expects more will try to apply for them.
"I think it can be addictive," he said.
Not all grants are as sizeable as these. Some chain stores offer $500 grants quarterly. If the need is simple, like school supplies or hygiene items, that might be all a teacher needs.
But when the large grants come in, that helps not only the grant recipient, but other programs or projects in the district. As with the Lowe's grant, the money the district set aside for those 30 Chromebooks helped move along other projects, like the entry door replacements across the district.
"When there's free money out there, it's something you hate to pass up," Abernathy said.