Flexibility is a buzzword right now. Everyone is trying to adapt to the current situation and do the best they can to serve their audience, whoever that may be. Educators, in particular, are challenged with new online platforms and limitations in their ability to personally connect with students.

Thankfully, creative solutions are emerging – book bags being delivered to students, share boards created where students can post what they are doing, and how-to tutorials from specialists like art instructors or even graphic artists. The difficulty often comes, however, in how to fund these creative endeavors.

This spring, when teachers approached the Brunswick Community Education Foundation (BCEF), it became clear that this was a time for the usual grant cycle to be flexible. I wrote last month about BCEF funding the purchase of laptop computers for students in the Brunswick School District. But, since then, several teachers have come up with innovative ways to respond to the current situation.

“When we heard from the first grade and multi-age teachers in early April, asking whether we might consider purchasing the necessary supplies to allow all of their students to grow plants at home as part of their plant science curriculum, the BCEF board wondered if other teachers and students could benefit from ‘emergency’ funding during this unprecedented time of remote learning,” says BCEF Board President Becky Wilkoff.  “A few weeks later we launched an emergency grant cycle, and despite the short timeline we received an impressive collection of grant proposals with a wide range of creative ideas. We are grateful that we were in a position to fund many of these worthwhile ideas, thanks to the generous support of so many individuals and businesses in our local community.”

The 12 projects funded totaled over $16K and range from memberships to online science resources to the purchase of emotional support tools.

Educators who are already stretched beyond their usual capacity have come up with some amazing ideas. One neat example is the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School’s librarian, Heather Martin. The library already has an impressive website with many resources for students, parents and educators. Right now, the need for online educational tools is greater than ever and this is a way to reach students across grade levels. Martin proposed a grant entitled, “Education All Around,” that will enable her to buy a variety of resource and activity books that she will use as source material to create lessons she will post on the library’s website. These lessons are designed to help students realize the learning opportunities around them every day.

“The funding is for a collection of books on ‘reading nature,’ mapping and secret codes. With these tools, we are creating a series of challenges and explorations that scholars can take into the woods! Literature, science, math, and history – it all winds its way in there because that’s the way life is. I’m so excited to test them out – and try new angles,” says Martin.

Martin has already taken things further by inviting students to provide some of the library website’s content. They have been writing book reviews and have even started an online newspaper. This has been an engaging platform for students.

As Martin says, “one of the things I’ve enjoyed most out of this time is being a part of The HBS Press Online, a student-written, student-driven publication. It is fantastic! There are articles on sports, literature, community, recipes, games, and even some cutting edge opinion pieces! Students have really stepped up to create the content – and parents have been amazing with the support they’ve offered. I’m so proud the library can serve as the host platform for this amazing project.”

The kids have been enjoying it quite a bit as well, mine included.

“It’s really fun to have other kids see what I write and write back – especially when I can’t see them,” says my daughter, Liliana Olcott (grade 3).

The flexibility and creativity of everyone involved in education is something to celebrate right now – from the teachers to the students, the parents, and the community that supports them.

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