KENNEBUNK  – Grants amounting to more than $110,000 have boosted educational excellence for students in RSU 21, according to The Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel.

The addditional funding in 2016 and 2017 has allowed the school district to create new programs and initiatives to boost student learning and offer specialized training to teachers.

“RSU 21 teachers come to us with intriguing and exciting grant proposals each month during the school year. These staff members are finding innovative, effective ways to engage with their students through programs both in and out of the classroom, said Jackie Teguis, president of the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel. “Their commitment to educational excellence is incredibly inspiring.”

She said the past year has been an exciting one for the foundation and has allowed RSU 21 to explore new avenues to connect students with new ways to learn through grant funding.

“We were able to fund over $110,000 in a wide variety of grants this year thanks to the generous support of individuals, families, and businesses from our community,” Teguis said.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Teguis said that the EFKA also launched a new micro-grant program, creating a streamlined application process for grants under $750. The new program, which was based on feedback from RSU 21 educators, was able to successfully fund seven grant requests, and the EFKA expects the program to continue to grow over time.

“Our new micro-grant program was developed based on input from RSU 21 staff members who wanted the ability to fund programs that may have tight deadlines or are smaller projects,” she said. “We are pleased we were able to streamline our process to enable our educators to take advantage of these great opportunities.”

Grant funding helped the district bring a NASA astronaut to RSU 21 to give presentations about space to students. Dr. Jessica Meir, an astronaut and a native of Caribou, Maine native, visited the school district in May 2017 and talked with students about NASA, space exploration, and careers in science.

Teguis said that she also gave an evening presentation open to the community and her visit directly supported the district’s STEM initiatives, encouraged student aspirations, and offered a powerful female role model in a STEM field.

The fiunding also help[ed RSU 21 purchase a new Computer Numerical Control Routing Tool.

“With the purchase of a CNC routing tool, Kennebunk High School’s STEM students can now be introduced to a digital fabrication tool frequently used in today’s high tech manufacturing,” Teguis said. “The CNC routing tool enables students to use computer programs including Solidworks to design and use precision cutting in order to create complex, finished, functional pieces of engineering using wood, plastics, and metals.”

She said that the tool enhances STEM curriculum at Kennebunk High School and introduces students to technology used in engineering and vocational careers.

Other programs funded by the grants included an independent study about fighting malnutrition, helped RSU 21 purchase steel drums and Musser chimes for the middle school, buy a new trumpet and saxophone for the fourth/fifth grade band, and chromatic xylophone bars for the Kennebunk Elementary School’s music program.

Grants also assisted the district in sending all fourth- and fifth-grade students to participate in 10 different media of their choice in an Arts Festival involving teachers from River Tree Arts and RSU 21.  

Staff members also benefitted from grant funding including sending RSU 21 teachers to the 2017 National Art Education Association Conference, which offered seminars on current educational research and new methods to implement technology in the art classroom, the Learning and the Brain Conference, providing training to support Kennebunk High School’s International Baccalaureate program, and the Ronald Clark Academy, which provides training designed to enhance curriculum and instruction for fourth- and fifth-graders in developing public speaking skills.

The Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel is an independent, charitable 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to enhancing academic excellence in grades K to 12 in the public schools of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel, Teguis said.

The EFKA works in partnership with administrators, teachers and community members to help provide students with inspiring, creative and innovative programs. It accomplishes its mission through grant-making and other initiatives that celebrate learning, and is supported by the generous giving of private funds by individual donors and area businesses and non-profits.

According to Teguis, for every $1 raised, 84 cents is spent on grants for K to 12 students and staff and since its inception in 2006, the foundation has funded more than $950,000 in programs for RSU 21 students.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be recahed at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at [email protected]

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