The Oxford Educational Foundation (OEF) recently awarded 11 mini-grants totaling $7,802 to Oxford Area School District faculty and staff members.

Since the mini-grant program was established in 2001, 43 grants totaling over $40,000 have been awarded. The program is part of the OEF's mission to support and enhance education in the Oxford Area School District, which also includes recruiting and training of volunteers to serve as tutors and mentors for Oxford students.

The largest grant is for $1,075 and is one of two awarded to Penn's Grove School learning support teacher Debora Shaffer. This grant will be used to purchase approximately 300 books that will provide struggling readers with interesting content and formats at an appropriate reading level.

Shaffer received a second grant for $500, which will be used to purchase items for students with Asperger's Disorder, a form of Autism where children are able to function at a high level but may have trouble focusing. She will create a "sensory input corner," where these students will use selected items to improve focusing through tactile, visual and auditory input.

Oxford Area High School physics teacher Rachel Schlagnhaufer received $420 to be used to cover transportation costs involved in bringing students at the high school, Penn's Grove School and Elk Ridge School together to learn about and attend the high school's annual Pumpkin Chunkin' event, which is held each fall.

Pumpkin Chunkin' is a 15-week program where high school physics students use research, engineering and writing skills to build devices capable of launching an object. Teams then use these launchers to propel a pumpkin the furthest, with the winner in each category having the longest distance in three tries.

Schlagnhaufer also received an $800 grant to purchase equipment to establish a high school team in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) VEX Challenge robotics competition, which requires students to apply science, technology, engineering and math to construct a robot capable of solving an annual challenge. The grant will be used to purchase a starter kit and programming software that will allow team members to control the robot in order to complete the challenge. The remainder of the grant will go toward additional batteries, chargers, and replacement parts.

The middle and elementary school equivalent of FIRST Robotics is FIRST Lego League, where the annual challenge requires team members build a robot using LEGO bricks and other elements such as sensors, motors, and gears. High school and Penn's Grove ATP (Academically Talented Program) teacher Wynne Milner received a $510 grant to purchase starter kits and programming components to establish LEGO League teams at Penn's Grove, Elk Ridge and Nottingham schools. Milner currently advises a team made up of students from all three schools.

Additional Oxford Educational Foundation mini-grants include:

* A $500 grant was awarded to high school nurse Tish Foster to purchase books, CDs and videos as resource materials for classroom, small groups and individual student learning.

* At Jordan Bank School, first grade teacher Maryanne Lamont was a awarded a $992 grant to purchase three Reading Mentor Kits and two Reading Rod Kits that will provide immediate feedback for small groups and individuals at work stations.

* Two $600 grants were also awarded to Jordan Bank kindergarten teachers. Jennifer Lancz will purchase listening center book sets and will create a learning center where ESL students will listen to a book in English, then in Spanish, then again in English to enhance acquisition of language and vocabulary. Mary Black will purchase supplemental science and social studies materials, including books, magazines and videos, to provided extended day kindergarten students with materials to enable them to achieve new PDE standards in these areas.

* Penn's Grove social studies teachers Duffy Sample and Amanda Stalfire received a $950 grant, which will allow the school to bring in traveling presentations from the Franklin Institute, Winterthur, the Chester County Historical Society and the Heritage Center Museum in Lancaster County for eighth grade.

* Elk Ridge music teacher Christine Gehring was awarded $855 for the purchase of the Smart Music software and computer package that provides feedback to instrumental students during practice.

This article was provided by the Oxford Area School District.

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