By Carol Mowdy Bond
On June 2, the Yukon Public Schools Foundation for Excellence donated $12,000 to supply touchless thermometers for all Yukon Public School District sites. This helps the district make a safe and healthy transition into the upcoming school year during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We are currently in an unusual circumstance, so we are doing all that we can to benefit every child during this time,” said Suzanne Briscoe, who is president of YPSFE.
Every student will need his or her temperature checked before entering the school buildings. “We appreciate all that YPSFE has provided to our teachers over the years,” said district Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth. “But their cooperation during this time specifically signals a turning point into a deeply collaborative partnership that will benefit every student within the district.”
Different quantities of thermometers will go to the different district sites, depending on the number of students in attendance at each school. The district is not yet releasing their process, for taking every student’s temperature before entering buildings, because the plans have not yet been finalized. But the system will be in place when school begins in August.
The YPSFE has helped the district for a number of years, giving more than $500,000 in educational grants to YPS teachers over the last four decades. Last October, 28 teachers received grants. Those teachers are at nine of the district schools.
Libby Wrather, who teaches at Lakeview Elementary School, said she received a grant for $625.00 for a project called ‘A Nation Takes Roots.’
“I used the grant to buy a class set of historical fiction novels and art project supplies to paint a whale tooth replica, which was used as art during the colonial period,” Wrather said.
“. Projects like this are what students remember, and help deepen their knowledge of the content, and, in this case, the beginning of our country. Grants like this make these projects possible.”
Wrather also said, “As teachers, when we purchase items with grant money, we share the items with each other.”
Amanda Estep, a teacher at Ralph A. Myers Elementary School, received a grant called STEM in Motion for $990. This grant reinforces science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for kinesthetic learners.
“The students will learn about work, gravity, mechanical advantage, and simple machines, all while being physically active,” Estep said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a halt to me implementing the STEM in the Gym curriculum in my classroom for the 2019-2020 school year. I was planning on implementing it when we came back from spring break. I will be teaching the unit in the fall of 2020 this upcoming year. Our art teacher and music teacher received a grant this year too. It was neat for the specials team to all receive one. The music teacher and I have collaborated before on a YPSFE grant. It’s such an amazing program.”
Samantha Manke, who teaches Accelerated Biology/Forensic Science at Yukon High, said in October 2019, she received a YPSFE grant for $997.20. The grant funds were used to purchase a disarticulated skeleton, two male pelvis models, two osteometric boards, and three pairs of calipers.
“My grant was titled ‘No Ifs, Ands, or Bones About It’ and was inspired by our need for more skeletal models in our science courses, especially in Forensic Science,” Manke said.
“We have an anthropology unit in forensics where we utilize skeletal models to provide students a realistic, hands-on experience. Though we did not reach this part of our curriculum this school year, we are planning on using it extensively next school year.”
The models and specialized equipment will help reduce student group sizes and give students more time to really analyze each model and make observations about important features, Manke said.
“This was the third YPSFE grant I have received since teaching in Yukon. I could not be more thankful for the support from the community and district to provide this wonderful opportunity.”
Misty Williams, who teaches biology, said she had been applying for foundation grants for about 10 years.
“I am very grateful to have received grant monies for almost all of those years,” Williams said.
Williams is also an instructional technology mentor, and teaches AP biology, anatomy and physiology at Yukon High School. “My first Foundation grant (I think it was in 2010) was for a visual presenter, which is a camera that I can use to project, and record, both live video and static images for students. We call it Big Bird, because it is like an Elmo presenter, but it is yellow.”
“This presenter was designed to be able to show images from a microscope, so it was very helpful in allowing my Biology I students to see images as an entire class as we discussed the structures of cells,” Williams said.
“ I have been able to purchase materials that, with our regular funding, we would not be able to purchase. Not many people, outside of science, really understand the cost of doing science. Materials for science are expensive and grants allow us to implement the science activities that our kids should be doing, upgrade out-of-date technology, and replace the more expensive damaged materials, while still working with the funding that is provided by the district,” Williams said.
Williams said, “In 2012, I purchased TI-Nspire CX-CAS handhelds for data collection and in 2013, I added additional Vernier sensors and probe ware to our outdated inventory for use with those handhelds. All of these grants were awarded while I was teaching 10th grade Pre-AP Biology I (now called Accelerated Biology) and when I started teaching AP Biology (11th-12th grade). In 2014, I started teaching 11th and 12th grade Human Anatomy and Physiology, and my grant that year allowed me to purchase lab materials for our unit on the senses. In 2015, Botany (11th and 12th) was a new class and I purchased both preserved and living plant specimens with the Foundation grant. Human Anatomy and Physiology benefitted again in 2016, 2017, and 2018 with a purchases of anatomy marker boards, which have diagrams for labeling, various anatomical models, and Neuron Modeling Kits, respectively. The Neuron Modeling Kits are also used in AP Biology. My last Foundation grant, in 2019, was a mixed bag of materials for several classes. I had received a large donation of used micropipettes from a local medical testing laboratory and we were in need of the plastic tips to use them. This grant allowed me to purchase some additional anatomical models and test strips for a urinalysis lab that had been on my wish list for Human Anatomy and Physiology, as well as a large amount of tips, which are used in Biotechnology, Forensic Science, AP Biology, Accelerated Biology I, and Biology I.”
Briscoe said, “The YPSFE is an educational foundation that provides opportunities to enrich and enhance the classroom experience for students of the district. Grants are written by teachers who often think outside the normal curriculum and include the number of students benefitted, and the actual cost for implementation. These include the areas of cultural, scientific, and social development. The Foundation has a 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS, making it a charitable organization with all donations tax deductible.”
YPSFE is fully funded through grants and donations. If anyone is interested in helping educators within the district, the Foundation is always accepting new members and donations. Learn more by visiting ypsfe.org.