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More than $70,000 in grants presented to teachers

Hastings Public School Foundation board member Rita Molitor talks about the “What If” grants as one is presented to Bill Ruder, co-writer of a grant with Sara Mohn. (Star Gazette photo by Jane Lightbourn)

A group of about 10 people visited the five Hastings public schools last Friday on a special surprise mission.

Members of the Hastings Public Schools Foundation (HPSF) Board of Directors and its grants selection committee presented 10 “What If” grants, totaling more than $70,000 to the teachers.

The grants provide funds for new, unique learning opportunities not available through current public funding. The grants are operated independently of the school district.

The grants and their recipients are:

“Connecting U.S. History, Literature and Drama,” Kari Jaeger. The U.S. History and contemporary literature students will attend the History Theatre’s play, “Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried” about the Vietnam War. The play will provide students with a first-hand account of the war from the perspective of a young man from a small town in Minnesota.

“Shakespeare Comes Alive at the Guthrie,” Sara Mohn. Each year in Honors Ten program at Hastings High School, the students read Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Othello.” A graduate of a special University program who attended a semester at the Globe Theatre in London will visit the classroom and work with the students. They will attend a production at the Guthrie.

“scIpads,”Rachel Crownhart. This grant will provide each eighth grade student with an iPad mini during class. The students will share their findings and data on the iPads, which will be connected to a document on the Smart Board.

“Going World Class STEM Style,” Kim Wald. This grant extends the work begun with a grant last year. The 2014 First LEGO Challenge was recently announced to be First LEGO League World Class. In this challenge, teams will be asked to redesign how they gather knowledge and skills in the 21st century. Teams will teach adults about the ways that kids need and want to learn.

“Educational BIZ in the One iPad Classroom,” Jackie Cobian. This grant will place one iPad in each room throughout the school, in addition to staff development opportunities for the use of the system.

“Brushes, Beats and Bluegrass,” Kelly Heckendorf. This is a school-wide event that gives students a chance to share the joy of creative expression. Families will be attending a performance by a bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing. They will also be able to view several music labs, photo booth where students can dress like famous artists and composers. They can make a take-home instrument and do some art work.

“Second Graders are Hoppin’ on Learn Pads,” Mellissa Black. Black will purchase 30 LearnPads tablets. They will allow us to efficiently utilize existing lessons and materials to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners.

“Technology=Student Motivation and Success,” Julie Malm. This grant will add three additional iPads and three additional Kindles to each elementary Title I programs. This provides enough devices to serve multiple groups of students at one time.

“E-books for All: Using Interactive eBooks to Reach More Students,” Jennifer Johansson. This grant will allow for the purchase of Capstone Interactive Books for students at all elementary schools, with a focus on the early readers.

“Text Talk: Using Oral Language to Build Young Children’s Literacy Skills,” Margaret Cox. The program provides quality trade books Read Aloud with explicit and sequenced vocabulary instruction.

“Digital Transition Curriculum,” Cami Williams. Unique Learning System’s Transition Curriculum is designed for transition age (beyond 12th grade) special service students. The program provides month “units” targeting transition skills such as employment, feeling and emotions, restaurant skills, grooming and hygiene, and community participation.

Funding unique learning opportunities

The Hastings Public Schools Foundation “What If” grants provide funds for new, unique learning opportunities not available through current public funding. The grants are operated independently of the school district.

The “What If” grants are given to educators by the foundation to invest in students by allowing their teachers a chance to bring their ideas and dreams to reality.

The first grants were delivered to successful teachers in the fall of 2004. Last year about $70,000 in funds were awarded, and about the same amount was given this year. More than 200 grants have been awarded since 2004.

The Hastings Public School Foundation believes in impacting education by allowing teachers to dream, enabling children to learn.

The Hastings Public Schools Foundation is committed to providing additional educational funds so the students in Hastings schools can succeed.

The foundation also believes that each donor, whether they give time or money, is making a valuable commitment to the future of the community through the creation of programs that not only educate, but also motivate, the children to make a difference.

The community has made a commitment in the form of a $1 million endowment fund to the future of innovative education for all of the children. That money will continue to fund education regardless of the economic climate.

Board members of the Hastings Public Schools Foundation are Matt Cooper, Tom Ditty, Leon Endres, Doug Erickson, Kim Frey, Dr. Christopher Johnston, Jean Langlais, Rita Molitor, Leslie Nielsen, Jim Reissner, Joyce Sieben, and Richard Welshons. Superintendent of Schools Tim Collins is an ex officio member.

More information about the Hastings Public Schools Foundation and the grant application process is available at