WEST BARNSTABLE, Mass. — When Falmouth High School art teacher Jane Baker was looking for a meaningful project for her students, she turned to Antarctica.

Baker invited Rebecca Gast, associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, to inspire the students with photos of her 2011 research expedition to the South Pole.

To buy the materials needed to create large-scale watercolor paintings based on Gast’s photos, Baker turned to the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank’s Charitable Foundation Trust.

Each year, the trust awards hundreds of “mini-grants” to local teachers for innovative educational programs that might not receive funding otherwise.

Baker’s students enjoyed the “Portraits of Antarctica” project so much that she applied for another mini-grant for a new portrait project.

At the Tilden Arts Center at Cape Cod Community College, Baker and other teachers from 43 schools across the Cape and Islands received grants totaling more than $40,000. This year, the trust received a record-breaking 172 grant applications, and 89 grants were awarded.

Diane Falla, the chairwoman of the trust committee that reviews the applications, said she was struck by the diversity of the projects and the “collaboration between the arts and sciences” in projects like Baker’s.

“It’s really very gratifying to see all the students who will benefit,” Falla said.

Baker’s new portrait project – “An Art Bridge to Understanding” – will allow the students to exchange portraits with refugees in Beirut and curate a gallery show. The mini-grant will help to purchase a video camera for the project.

“A normal high school budget doesn’t pay for things like that,” Baker said.

Since its inception in 2000, the trust has awarded more than 800 mini-grants totaling approximately $300,000.

This year, the trust unveiled a mini-grants website, where teachers can search for past projects by grade level, school or subject.

Cape Cod Five CEO Dorothy Savarese said they hope the website will encourage teachers to reproduce each other’s successful projects.

“That’s always been a goal, but we’re hoping the website will help catch that fire,” Savarese said.

Based on the “oohs” and “aahs” from the teachers in the arts center’s auditorium, the ideas are already spreading.

One project that garnered a lot of praise from the audience was “Little Library Trail Houses” by Annie Dolan-Niles, Pat Andrulot, Bob DelVecchio and Pat Policastro of Cape Cod Regional Technical High School. A collaboration between the early childhood education, carpentry and horticulture departments, the project will place miniature houses containing books and games along a nature walk near the school.

Dolan-Niles, who has taught early childhood education at the high school for 15 years, got the idea from local libraries that have put together more simple “story walks.”

“You take apart a book, laminate the pages and post them at various stages,” Dolan-Niles said. “The idea is children will go on the walk and read. We wanted to do something a little more substantial.”

The carpentry students will build the houses, the horticulture department will place them along the trail, and the early childhood education department, which runs a laboratory preschool to prepare students to become teachers, will fill the houses with “interesting, magical things for children,” Dolan-Niles said.

“I love the idea of combining literacy with being out in nature and physical activity,” Dolan-Niles said.

Christine Yezukevicz of Hyannis West Elementary showed off her grant-funded project – “525,600 Minutes – A Year in the Life of a Kindergartner” – which is still in the works. Her students are creating scrapbooks over the course of the school year using photos, construction paper, stickers and other decorations.

The project is based on the state kindergarten standards, Yezukevicz said, like identifying sequential order.

“It’s gotten harder to teach that standard,” Yezukevicz said. “Kids don’t have scrapbooks and photo albums anymore.”

The students’ handwriting, handprints and photos will show how they’ve changed from the first day of class to the end of the year.

“It’s been really, really fun for them,” she said. “They’re loving it.”