A Tapestry of Fine Ideas

Inaugural Grants in Place program funds 35 place-based projects in seven states.

June 17, 2015 |

The Rural Schools Collaborative’s inaugural Grants in Place program will fund 35 innovative place-based education projects from seven different states. The numerous awards far exceed the anticipated number of funded projects for what was initially envisioned as a pilot-like effort. However, the quality of the 65 submitted applications and a number of matching donations convinced the organization’s board of directors to widen the scope of the program.

The funded projects are as diverse as the students they will engage, and they touch all grade levels. From a music-centered diversity project in South Dakota to a two-community student film festival in Missouri to a rural authors project in Nebraska, the winning applications feature the very best in teacher creativity.

We hope you will join us in the months ahead as we highlight the work of students and teachers and how, together, they will impact their respective communities. Authentic place-based education respects the bonds between school and community, and this is a common thread of our Grants in Place efforts. All funded projects are for the 2015-16 school year.

What started as a $10,000 commitment grew to more than $30,000 in total funding. We want to thank the following organizations and individuals who supported the Grants in Place program with their generous contributions: John and Mary Cooper Charitable Fund, Rural Conservation Fund, Carol Silvey, Rural Community Alliance, Brent and Jeannie Glover, Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools, Jay and Nicole Spoonhour, Rand and Molly Chappell, Eastern Illinois University Men’s Basketball, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Galesburg Community Foundation, Steve and Laurie Struss, Leadership South Dakota, and South Dakota Innovation Lab.

We believe rural communities benefit when education, advocacy, and philanthropy come together in meaningful ways. The quality of our first Grants in Place recipients only strengthens this conviction.

The recipients:

  • Arley, Alabama: Meek Elementary School received a $943 grant to upgrade their outdoor classroom, including the installation of a weather station, turtle habitat, and new signage. Grant Coordinator: Debra Johnson, 5th Grade/Outdoor Classroom Teacher, Meek Elementary School
  • Alpena, Arkansas: Alpena art students received $300 to create two murals to commemorate the history of the town and schools. Grant Coordinator: Joy Quigley, Art Teacher, Alpena K-12
  • Alpena, Arkansas: Alpena FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) high school students received a $350 grant to host employability skills workshops for the community, focusing on resume building and interviewing skills. Grant Coordinator: Vickey Shelton, Business Teacher, Alpena High School
  • Dermott, Arkansas: FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) students at Dermott High School received $400 to host a Back to School health and safety fair for the community in conjunction with various local organizations. Grant Coordinator: Chrisis Toney, Family and Consumer Science Teacher, Dermott High School
  • Everton, Arkansas: Bruno-Pyatt Elementary School, in partnership with Crooked Creek Conservation, was awarded $600 for a project to teach first grade students about creek ecology and conservation. Grant Coordinator: Bobbi Grandon, 1st Grade Teacher, Bruno-Pyatt Elementary School
  • Fox, Arkansas: Students at Rural Special Elementary received an $875 grant to purchase a 3D printer and other supplies to learn about and create models of local geography; the students will work with Stone County officials to identify options to repair disrupted habitats. Grant Coordinator: Shelia Mitchell, 4th-6th Grade Science Teacher, Principal, Rural Special Elementary
  • Kirby, Arkansas: Kirby Elementary School students received $350 to organize and publicize several cleanup days for Lake Greeson in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department of Diamond City. Grant Coordinators: Deborah Wright, Science Teacher; Cathy Whitehead, Literacy Teacher, Kirby Elementary School
  • Lead Hill, Arkansas: Students at Lead Hill Senior High were awarded $550 to partner with the Diamond City Volunteer Corps to identify and label trees along a newly created trail on Bull Shoals Lake. Grant Coordinator: Justin Wiedower, Agri-Science Teacher, Lead Hill High School
  • Weiner, Arkansas: Weiner Elementary School received $300 to upgrade and expand their community and school garden. Grant Coordinator: Tara Harrelson, 3rd-6th Grade Science Teacher, Weiner Elementary School
  • Weiner, Arkansas: 5th and 6th grade students received a $500 grant to conduct a history project entitled, From the Beginning: Weiner Schools. Students will interview community members and conduct research on the history of Weiner Schools, spanning from early history to the recent consolidation and closure of Weiner High School. Grant Coordinator: Tonya Matthews, 3rd-6th Grade Literacy & Social Studies Teacher, Weiner Elementary
  • Charleston, Illinois: Students at Charleston Middle School were awarded $850 to organize and host a reception for local veterans in honor of Veteran’s Day. Grant Coordinator: Chris Bily, 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher, Charleston Middle School
  • Charleston, Illinois: 7th grade students at Charleston Middle School received an $800 grant to perform a site analysis and planting project at the school. Grant Coordinator: Kim Sherwood, 7th Grade Science Teacher, Charleston Middle School
  • Charleston, Illinois: Charleston High School was awarded $354 to purchase much-needed calculators for a student-mentoring program in lower-level math classes. Grant Coordinator: Jessica Cleeton, Math Teacher, Charleston High School
  • Chebanse, Illinois: Chebanse Elementary School received $1,000 to assist in the creation of an outdoor classroom. Grant Coordinator: Michelle Cunningham, 2nd Grade Teacher, Chebanse Elementary School
  • Clifton, Illinois: Central High School received a $1,000 grant to support the Spreading Warmth program. Students work with community members to design and sew quilts for nursing home residents. Grant Coordinator: Sandy Wilken, Family and Consumer Science Teacher, Central High School
  • Elwood, Illinois: The Elwood School was awarded $1,000 to convert an outside atrium into an outdoor community classroom. Grant Coordinator: Charity Collins, Language Arts Teacher, Student Council Sponsor, Elwood School
  • Galesburg, Illinois: Nielson Elementary School received $1,000 to implement an after-school mentoring program for kindergarten students with local college students. Grant Coordinator: Ashley Shinn, Kindergarten Teacher, Nielson Elementary School
  • Mazon, Illinois: Students at Mazon-Verona-Kinsman Middle School received a $350 grant to conduct an intergenerational science project aimed at reducing energy consumption among senior citizens. Grant Coordinator: Darcy Welsh, Science Teacher, Mazon-Verona-Kinsman Middle School
  • Tamms, Illinois: Egyptian School was awarded $1,000 (with $2,000 in matching support) to support student leadership and problem solving organizations. Grant Coordinator: Amy Sitton, English Teacher, Egyptian High School
  • Ava, Missouri: Ava High School art students received $200 to paint a mural in the elementary school’s library. Grant Coordinator: Mindy Pinckney, 1st Grade Teacher, Ava Elementary School
  • Ava, Missouri: Ava High School was awarded $1,500 to create a student film festival focusing on local history and folklore. This project is in conjunction with Mountain Grove High School. Grant Coordinator: Zachary Hamby, Ava High School
  • Cabool, Missouri: Special education middle school students received an $864 grant to create a quarterly newsletter to send to parents and the community. Grant Coordinator: ReBena Sigman, 7th Grade Communication Arts Teacher, Cabool Middle School
  • Mountain Grove, Missouri: Mountain Grove High School was awarded $1,500 to create a student film festival focusing on local history and folklore. This project in conjunction with Ava High School. Grant Coordinator: Rachel Hamby, Mountain Grove High School
  • West Plains, Missouri: Students in Life Skills classes received a $700 grant to partner with local organization, Birthday Blessings, to sew blankets and stuffed toys for children in dire need. Grant Coordinator: Sonya L. Jones, K-8 Art Instructor, Life Skills Facilitator, Richards R-V
  • West Plains, Missouri: West Plains High School received $700 to facilitate a cross-curricular project culminating in a walking tour pamphlet of historic buildings around the town square. Grant Coordinators: Janet Rackley; Nancy Spoor; Michelle Henderson; Tina Jolliff & Joni Joice, Success in Reading Teachers, West Plains High School
  • Willow Springs, Missouri: Willow Springs first grade students were awarded a $995 grant to conduct an intergenerational, cross-curricular project entitled A New Beginning, focusing on butterflies. Grant Coordinator: Kelly Wardle, 1st Grade Teacher, Willow Springs Elementary
  • Emerson, Nebraska: Emerson-Hubbard High School received a $725 grant to expand their literacy program, Rural Lit RALLY, to community members. Grant Coordinator: Ann Milliken, 7th-12th Grade English Instructor, Emerson-Hubbard High School
  • Colome, South Dakota: Colome High School and Junior High School teachers received $5,000 for training in Transdisciplinary Problem Based Learning. This training will culminate in the implementation of the rural blended learning approach with student-based community projects. Grant Recipients: Abby Smikle, English and Geography Teacher, Colome High School; Janette Shippy, Science Teacher, Colome High School; Julie Rohde, Distance Learning Coordinator, Colome School District; Patty DeMers, FACS and Personal Finance Teacher, Colome High School; Renee Bolie, Science and Math Teacher, Colome High School, Colome Junior High
  • Wolsey, South Dakota: Wolsey-Wessington school received a $1,000 grant for a multi-grade project where students will learn about the diverse cultures of South Dakota with a culminating spring concert. Grant Coordinator: Tammy Luce, K-6 Music and Learning Disabilities Teacher, Wolsey-Wessington School
  • Cambridge, Wisconsin: Students in the 4th grade were awarded $932 to learn about Wisconsin history through reading various biographies, and will create projects to be displayed at the local history museum. Grant Coordinators: Deanna Earleywine and Patricia Coley, Reading Interventionists, Cambridge Elementary School
  • Edgerton, Wisconsin: Edgerton School District received $1,000 in support of various events for students and the community focusing on author Sterling North, an Edgerton native. Grant Coordinator: Sheila Fox, Teacher Gifted & Talented Program, Edgerton School District
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