Grant will bring animals to classrooms

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:02 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

What will $15,000 for the Animal Excursions “Critters Program” pay for? Tree frogs, hissing cockroaches, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, iguanas, anoles (a type of lizard), box turtles, millipedes, toads and fish — all in a classroom near you.

The Critters Program is one of several programs that will receive money from the Columbia Public Schools Foundation for the coming school year. The foundation announced Monday it is putting almost $43,600 toward classroom enhancements such as the animals, geography equipment for secondary classrooms, SMART boards, or interactive white boards, for math classes and an interactive program for English language learners.

Grants will support new classroom technology

    In addition to $15,000 for the Animal Excursions “Critters Program,” the Columbia Public Schools Foundation is giving money for the following:
  • Geography materials and equipment to grades six through 12, including pull-down maps, globes and stands, atlases and traveling map transparency sets; $9,964.
  • Character generator for the Columbia Aeronautic and Space Association that will allow students to generate text messages across the bottom of a broadcasting screen in case of emergency to increase the program’s realism; $920.
  • Response pads, receivers, software, chalkboard for existing SMART boards and two more SMART boards for Gentry Middle School math classes, so teachers can know immediately whether students understand math concepts and problems; $10,264.
  • Interactive technology, called Rosetta Stone, for 23 English Language Learner teachers in 13 buildings, kindergarten through 12th grade. The language proficiency software is interfaced with a system that tracks students’ progress; $7,442.

“The main thing we’re looking for is how many kids we can reach,” said Sally Silvers, co-chairwoman of the nonprofit foundation’s allocations committee.

Established in 1996, the foundation is separate from the Columbia Public School District and raises money for programs and other needs proposed by district personnel and curriculum coordinators.

Through the Critters Program, which has been funded every year it has applied, any public school teacher, kindergarten through 12th grade, can request one of 28 species for the classroom. The animals are loaned out for a week and come equipped with food, bedding and nonfiction books about them. When they are not visiting students, the animals are housed in the science department of the school administration building.

“Having an animal stimulates all sorts of learning and excitement,” said Jan Swaney, public relations chairwoman of the foundation. “Children want to draw pictures or write stories about the animals. This one program touches thousands of children.”

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