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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Lawrence Township Education Foundation awards spring grants to fund more than 20 new programs


By Nora Carnevale

The Lawrence Township Education Foundation recently announced its award of $62,000 to support more than 20 new programs throughout Lawrence Township Public Schools. The foundation presents awards in response to teacher requests in the fall and spring of each academic year. The grants provide funding for projects and programs that would normally be outside the regular budget.

Elementary school grants will be provided for several new programs. All district elementary schools will receive financial support for a program for first graders to receive enhanced outdoor learning experiences through observation and discovery. A ceramic frieze will be created at Eldridge Park Elementary School, and Slackwood School will receive sensory equipment to enhance the autistic support program.

“Children with autism and sensory disorders can benefit from certain types of equipment that stimulate the fundamental senses, such as a weighted snake tool that has been used. It organizes the student’s sensory system. Sensory stimulation tools help to increase balance, sensory integration and focus attention,” Ivy Cohen, executive director of the Lawrence Township Education Foundation, said.

Hands-on learning kits will be implemented for second- and third-grade students at Lawrenceville Elementary School, and Ben Franklin Elementary School students will benefit from non-fiction leveled reading books and interactive math software.

A major highlight of the grants is the addition of 3D printers at Lawrence Intermediate School and Lawrence Middle School. At LIS, students will have access to a 3D printer and the technology lab will feature Minecraft EDU.

“The Minecraft EDU program for fifth graders is a huge thing. It is such a popular game among that age group, and it really has an educational component,” Cohen said. “It has everything from architecture to math to science.”

LMS students will be able to use the 3D printer in their technology lab to explore careers relating to science, technology, engineering and math, or as the district refers to it, “STEM.”

“The kids are super excited about the 3D printers. We are excited to be able to implement them. They see them on TV and hear about them but to have them in the building and really see how they work is very exciting to them,” Cohen said.

Cohen said she believes the district will keep taking steps forward in terms of the technology it makes available to students.

“I think kids are starting earlier and earlier. They are exposed to so many things at such young ages, then teachers have these ideas and they ask us for the money. We make sure that what we are giving aligns nicely with the curriculum, and that the school has the tools to implement it, such as hardware, software and licensing,” she said.

Another highlight of the many new programs being implemented as a result of the grants is an artist-in-residence program with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Company at Lawrence High School.

“The English department has a challenge of teaching Shakespeare to modern students. The early English barrier can inhibit the students from fully appreciating and understanding it,” Cohen said. “The artists will engage students in in-depth activities exploring and expanding their understanding.”

A complete list of the grants can be found at: www.ltefnj.org.

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