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Mini-grants bring innovation to Berks County classrooms

Feb 16, 2018 • by Berks County Community Foundation
Berks County Community Foundation

READING, PA  – From designing synthetic biological devices to creating an outdoor classroom, students around Berks County are benefiting from grants for school activities and projects.

In its annual classroom mini-grant program, Berks County Community Foundation awarded $2819.15 to four projects or programs in four school districts. The grants support classroom activities that improve student learning and enhance an existing curriculum.

This year’s grants:

$999.15 to Tulpehocken Area Junior-Senior High School to provide an innovative synthetic biology project to 119 eighth-graders. Students will learn the principles of synthetic biology through hands-on investigative labs and then design their own biological devices, which they will present to a panel of teachers in a Shark Tank-style presentation. Labs of this caliber are typically reserved for high school and first-year college students. “Developing these skills early will allow students to pursue advanced science in high school and make our students competitive when applying for college research and TA positions,” the school said in its application for the grant. The grant is from the Ben Franklin Trust Fund of Berks County Community Foundation.$700 to Governor Mifflin Intermediate School to create an outdoor classroom. This project was conceived by students and is being directed by them, from fundraising to design and execution. The classroom will be used by science classes to collect data on plant growth, rainfall, bugs, and birds; by art classes to serve as a subject of a piece of artwork; by the entire school for Earth Day activities; and more. The grant is from the Berks County Association of School Retirees Scholarship and Grant Fund at the Community Foundation.$620 to Brandywine Heights Elementary School to purchase stability balls for 18 students in a kindergarten class to use in an effort to improve their attention, concentration, and health. “Active sitting” on the stability balls, also known as exercise balls, will strengthen the students’ core muscles, help them develop better posture, and improve blood flow. This grant was from the Public Education Foundation Fund for Instructional Innovation and the Berks County Association of School Retirees Scholarship and Grant Fund, both at the Community Foundation. The grant comes one year after a previous grant of $572.22 from the classroom mini-grant program purchased pedal cycles for a second-grade class at the elementary school. The school reported that the pedal cycles improved those students’ mood, behavior and academic performance.

Students at Brandywine Heights Elementary School are burning off energy and increasing their levels of concentration since they started using pedal cycles that were purchased in 2017 with a classroom mini-grant from Berks County Community Foundation.

$500 to Northeast Middle School in the Reading School District for its Theatre Club to stage a production of Disney’s Aladdin Jr. The production will be shared with the student body and partner schools in the area. This grant was from the Public Education Foundation Fund for Instructional Innovation at Berks County Community Foundation.

The classroom mini-grant program will next accept applications November 1, with a deadline of December 15. Apply at

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