TUCSON, Ariz. — For the last several years, the Amphi Foundation has offered classroom grants to teachers within amphitheater public school district. All to show that the community supports its teachers and the projects or programs they create.
"Our committee likes projects that show innovation, longevity and sustainability. You know, something that is going to impact students for months or years to come," said Leah Noreng, the Amphi Foundation's executive director.
Which is why two applications at Prince Elementary School were awarded for their community garden and a robotics program.
Matthew Lange teaches the 21st century learning lab. The grant allowed him to purchase Edison and Sphero robots that help teach his students technology, team work and critical thinking.
"Its been a huge aid in my case, because these kids would not have access to the robots. They have access to like technology to learn how to code on the computers, but to actually see the robot in action - to see it do what's its doing and to see what it didn't do and learn how to fix that, has brought a huge light to their eyes," said Lange.
Helping get kids outside of the classroom is the community garden, ran by the 5th grade students. Their teachers say the garden has helped with student engagement and attendance.
"I actually have kids that every day sometimes say, 'I was sick this morning,' or, 'I had a rough time waking up but I had to be at school because we have to take care of the garden and I have to be there to make sure the garden is running smoothly,'" said Kaylee Emans, a 5th grade teacher who applied for the grant.
The foundation says this gives teachers with ideas a chance to implement them or take them further without going into their own wallets.
"I think its really exciting every time we give this money, because after a decade of steady and severe budget cuts to public education in Arizona, our teachers are feeling deflated. They don't always feel supported and they often time do have these incredible ideas but the money just isn't there," said Noreng.
Grants awarded included literature, STEM supplies, iPads, computer cameras, and special needs learning tools.
$20,800 were awarded to 28 applicants across the district this fall. The Amphi Foundation provided the funding by raising money from the community throughout the year. The foundation usually awards approximately $15,000 in requests each year. But this year, it was able to offer more because of a small grant that was won last year from Angel Charity. That grant gave the foundation $20,000 and was split evenly among four of the foundation's programs.