Local foundation aids learning
by Cheree Dye
May 25, 2014 | 1878 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Bartow Education Foundation, headed by Executive Director Dot Frasier, is a non-profit organization that works to supplement funding to the Bartow County School System. Last year, the BEF supplied more than $97,000 in grants to teachers within the county system.

For the past three years the BEF awarded grants to Bob Powell and Jason Rood, teachers at Adairsville High School, to build an outdoor classroom. Students from a variety of subjects within the school utilize the classroom and work to add to its components. The physics class installed solar panels and a water wheel to investigate alternative forms of energy production. Special needs students helped weed the garden and sowed a field of wildflowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Sprouting onions, peppers, cantaloupe and squash sit atop the hill of the outdoor learning center. Apple and peach trees dot the slope leading away from the garden. In an enclosed area, a bee colony works to pollinate the surrounding trees and plants, while filling frames with golden honey combs. Keep Bartow Beautiful donated sourwood trees to aid in the honey production. AHS has three bee colonies but two are out on loan to a local organic farm to help pollenate crops.

“The agricultural department and the environmental science classes were looking for some ways to demonstrate the processes they are teaching. We realized we had this land that wasn’t being used, so we decided to create an area where we can demonstrate the ideas we’ve been talking about. We wanted to take abstract ideas and make them real-world experiences,” Rood said.

The teachers who oversee the classroom decided that the next logical step is to hold a farmer’s market. Rood believes the colony will produce between two and three gallons and can be harvested twice a season. The nine to 10 gallons of honey will be prepared for sale in the school’s honey extractor, also purchased by a BEF grant.

“We want to get the business class to market the honey and the art class to design our labels,” Rood said. The school is inviting local farmers from a 60-mile radius to bring their produce to sell each Saturday through August.

Bartow County’s Teacher of the Year, Brandie Freeman, wanted to enhance her advanced placement environmental science class at Woodland High School. She received a $500 grant from the BEF and another $500 grant from the Georgia Association of Science Teachers to purchase lab kits that modeled the production of solar and wind turbine energy and hydrogen fuel.

“We are looking to get Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) certified because we foresee this happening in all schools. We have a new teacher here, Heather Carter, who has created the STEM initiative to get a pathway for our students who are interested in STEM fields. This will enable them to be prepared with the science, engineering and math classes they need to be successful.”

Freeman’s students assembled solar panel and wind turbine models as she discussed uses for renewable energy. For example, in Iceland, public transportation buses operate completely on hydrogen fuel A table of students created hydrogen fuel as the electricity generated by solar panels split the water into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas. “This helps tremendously to teach the renewable energy content. It allows them to see it and take part, instead of learning formulas written on the board,” Freeman said.

Fraiser, the executive director of the foundation, said the organization focuses on the teacher grant program because she believes it is essential to lower the dropout rate and reach those children that may struggle to engage in the classroom. Supplying the teachers with the effective tools is a step toward seeing the dropout rate lowered.

The foundation is funded by donations from a variety of individuals, businesses and other organizations. “The Cartersville-Bartow Community Foundation gives us anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 every year. Also, we take in about $5,000 a month from teachers who donate a portion of their salary to the organization,” Fraiser said.

At Cass High School, Dr. Kathleen McKenzie’s and Brittany Holland’s students authored and illustrated 63 books. The books were read at White Elementary School by the authors and then donated to the elementary school. “This was by far my favorite project I’ve done. We now have books in the classrooms at White that our students wrote,” McKenzie said.

The foundation plans to allocate $100,000 for next year’s teacher grant program. Not every grant requested is accepted by the committee. The teacher must explain the purpose of the project, how it will be implemented, how it will be evaluated, the cost, how many children it will serve and the profound impact it will have on the students. Every grant the BEF has funded is on file at the Teacher Resource Center in Cartersville to allow other teachers to utilize the resource.

“The BEF grant system, which is really Dot Frasier, has provided so many opportunities for teachers to take ideas and run with them. No other school system that I know of has such an organization,” McKenzie said.

For more information regarding the Adairsville Farmer’s Market, see adairsvillefarmersmarket.com.