Alabama Grants in Place Update

We are proud to showcase Innovative work in the Yellowhammer State

March 6, 2018 |

Before "ambling" to class, Mike McCandless' Haleyville City Schools physics students pose with their parabolic reflector--a work in progress!

Alabama has been one of our leading Grants in Place states since the get-go, and this position has only been strengthened by our regional Hub partners, the University of West Alabama and the Black Belt Teachers Corps. Last year we funded five innovative place-based projects in Alabama in addition to several school and community projects implemented by Black Belt Teacher Corps members.

These projects were made possible with funding from the Parker Griffith Family Foundation, Jefferson County Alabama Federation of Teachers, University of West Alabama, Black Belt Teachers Corps, Larry Lee, Susan McKim, Sandra Thomastan, and Horace Williams. Matching funds were provided by the Rural Schools Collaborative.

Today we are pleased to provide updates on two excellent Alabama place-based learning efforts: Michael McCandless' Physics Project at Haleyville City Schools and Teresa Zimmer's Making Makers, Growing Givers effort at Cherokee Elementary School in Guntersville.

Michael McCandless' Physics Project involved physics students studying optics, light reflection and refraction and making use of their recently learned principles of light to construct a parabolic reflector solar heater and cooker. The goal of the project is to demonstrate how alternative sources of energy can be used to cook food, heat water, and heat indoor living areas.

Michael provided the following update: "The progress has been slow, but we have a working model built. We ran into a few problems that will require us to remove our reflective surface from the parabolic reflector and try again with a better, more suitable material. Our inexperience with applying this kind of adhesive left us with a less than perfect reflector, and we are not generating the type of energy we’d hoped for. I remain undaunted, however, and this year’s students are up for any challenge I present. After relining the parabola, we will do the math necessary to locate the focal point of the reflected sunlight and construct some sort of device to collect the energy. We're still in the design phase on this. We have a ways to go, but it is going and the students are taking great interest."

Thanks, Michael. Challenges are a part of life, and this is the beauty of hands-on, place-centered learning.

Teresa Zimmer's Making Makers, Growing Givers project is providing opportunities for 3rd-5th grade gifted students to become "makers," allowing them to learn by doing and become designers, innovators and entrepreneurs of the future. (Pictured: One of Ms. Zimmer's students carefully examines her work.)

A Cherokee Elementary School student closely examines her work for Teresa Zimmer's service-learning project.

Teresa shared this report: "We have just begun the basics of our project ,and my students are learning the details of hand sewing and machine sewing for their goal of making stuffed animals to give to local children support groups. Once they have mastered those skills, they will combine their previous knowledge of circuitry to add eyes to their animals that light up. This has already been a wonderful learning experience for my students, as they are learning life skills of cooperation, acceptance, and giving back to their community. Thank you for this opportunity."

You are certainly welcome, Teresa, and thank you for engaging your students in community-based service learning.

We invite you to learn more about current Grants in Place projects, and stay tuned for the upcoming announcement on the 2018-19 Grants in Place program.

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