Grants Fund Outside-the-Box Education in Boardman

BOARDMAN, Ohio – The students in Katie Becherer’s West Boulevard Elementary classroom will certainly have somewhere to sit, but it won’t be in the traditional chair-and-desk combo that students have been accustomed to for years.

With a $500 grant from the Boardman Schools Fund for Educational Excellence, Becherer will be able to create a classroom conducive to movement. It will feature wobble stools, wobble cushions, fidget bands and bicycle peddlers for under the desk. Already, she’s using yoga ball chairs and pillow chairs, she said.

“Kids are wired to move and when they’re not given that chance to move, they can become a little bit distracted or even sometimes disruptive,” Becherer said. “By creating that movement, it gives them a natural outlet to put their energy into.”

On Tuesday, the fund announced grants totaling nearly $10,000 to teachers in the school district.

Along with Becherer’s kinesthetic classroom project, other projects being brought to the forefront include Osmo technology for problem solving, coding and physics puzzles at Stadium Drive Elementary School and West Boulevard Elementary; Qball Technologies for interactive speaking at Stadium; rubber boots and tablets for outdoor learning at Center Intermediate School and Glenwood Junior High School; literacy centers for hands-on activities at West Boulevard; and science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics based supplies at Glenwood Junior High.  

“These teachers had an idea of something they wanted to do in their classroom, something they felt was lacking,” said Edie Davidson, president of the Boardman Schools Fund for Educational Excellence. “These were the grants that we felt were more sustainable, reach the most students and that aligned with our curriculum here in Boardman.” 

The nonprofit organization has given $60,000 in grants since its inception in 2009, Davidson said. Each teacher can apply for up to $1,500.

“You hear enthusiasm and out of the box thinking, but you hear about the connection to the kids,” said Tim Saxton, superintendent of Boardman Local Schools. “We have teachers with great imaginations and great energy.” 

The teachers are currently ordering the supplies they need for their projects and they will be implemented as soon as possible, Davidson said. To track the progress of the projects, the nonprofit’s board will go out and observe what they’re doing, she said.  

The funds allow teachers to be creative and to impact the lives of students, said Laura Frost, eighth grade science teacher at Glenwood Junior High. With her Reboot Boardman project, students will be receiving rubber overboots, Amazon Fire tablets and iPod Touch devices for outdoor learning, she said.

“[Students] will be documenting species everywhere we go and they will be analyzing populations and how they change over time,” Frost said. “Megan Turillo teaches ecosystems and food webs, and it’s our dream to create a food web of Boardman.” 

Allowing students to be more connected with Boardman from place-based learning is Frost’s end goal, she said. The need for children in education is changing and they need real life learning opportunities, she said. 

“Their learning is impactful and it’s not just doing something for a grade or to present in front of the class,” Frost said. “We are collecting data for real research for the park, for a scientist somewhere, for the EPA. It could be anybody.”

Pictured: Seated are Boardman Schools teachers Dana McKnight, Krista Schmied, Megan Turillo, Cindy Bassett and Tamara Socie. Back row, left to right, Tim Saxton, superintendent; teachers Dawn Fleming, Dan Conway, Jenn Bennett, Gina Hammerton, Katie Becherer, Laura Frost, Casey Putko, Tim Harker, Eric Diefenderfer; and Edie Davidson, president of Boardman Schools Fund for Educational Excellence.

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