Tight budgets prevent school officials from fulfilling all of the purchasing requests that come across their desks, but in Whitefish Bay, a good number of teachers' requests are able to be fulfilled through the Ed Nuss Grant program.
The grants are awarded twice each year by the Whitefish Bay Public Education Foundation, which receives community contributions through The Bay Ball, Run the Bay and general donations. The grants—which usually total more than $10,000—are based on innovative requests that come directly from Whitefish Bay teachers.
The Education Foundation recently granted $17,605 in Ed Nuss grants, which is nearly a third of the $60,527 requested by teachers.
The recent round of grant allocations went for these materials:
- $1,406 for 3 document cameras—one for 6th, 7th and 8th grade. The cameras have the capability to record video and sound.
- Up to $8,000 for upgraded Adobe CS6 software four high school teachers
- $470 for a document camera for high school English classes.
- Up to $1,000 toward 20 ukuleles for the middle school music program, and up to $1,250 toward 25 ukuleles at Cumberland School
- $1,146 for a bioimpedance scale to accompany the middle school physical education department's new Tri-Fit system. This scale measures body composition and other metrics related to physical fitness.
In the previous round of grant allocations, the Education Foundation donated $14,500 for SMART Boards in high school shop classes, a metal mill and lathe with a ShopBot desktop for high school science classes, light sensors and probes for high school physics classes, listening centers for the French program at the elementary schools, cameras for the high school journalism program and Magformers for high school math and geometry classes.
Laura Myrah, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Whitefish Bay School District, said the grant program is unique because it gives teachers the creativity to find new and innovative teaching and learning techniques in their classrooms.
"The grants were created to encourage and assist teachers, staff and students in developing innovative and exciting ideas that can be implemented as a part of the curriculum," she said. "District funds are typically used for core programming or necessary resources for instruction, while Nuss grants are for things that go above and beyond – things that might not otherwise be in the classroom."
In several cases, one teacher's idea is picked up by a fellow teacher, creating a sort of domino effect in teaching innovations. Myrah recalled one teacher requested a document camera, which caused other teachers to take notice of its benefits. In the latest round of donations, the Education Foundation allocated three document cameras for each grade level at Whitefish Bay Middle School and another document camera for a high school English classroom.
"Because the Education Foundation funded one, it really sparked the idea for other departments," Myrah said. "Not only does it directly affect students and their learning, but it also inspires other teachers to look into the same areas of instruction and look at opportunities for innovation."