Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | Sixth graders Nathan Fox, Jayden Toussaint, and Angelina Copeland work as a team to assemble a robot, which they will also program on a computer. The students are part of the STEM applications course, taught by Charlene Cooper, at T.O. Rusheon Middle School. Cooper is one of 14 to receive a grant from the Biedenharn Foundation.

Bossier educators awarded $30k in grants from the Biedenharn Foundation

Students at Plain Dealing High School are getting an education that’s out of this world, thanks to a grant from the Biedenharn Foundation.

Nichole Nuccio’s plan is to integrate physical science and algebra into a mock space station mission, purchasing two missions from a Virginia university and five Chromebook computers with the $2,160 grant money she received. Her classroom will be transformed into a mock Challenger learning center where students will go on an e-mission to the International Space Station.

Students will be divided into teams, Nuccio said, and will live stream data from outer space. They will have to keep the astronauts safe from any hazards they encounter, working from mission control (their classroom) in Plain Dealing..

Nuccio said the activity is very hands on and fun. It will promote team building and strategic thinking while demanding a quick response from the students. The missions will be conducted in the spring of 2016.

“They will be putting real life application and skills to work,” Nuccio said. “They will see how important those skills are and be able to apply them in other areas. I hope it will develop good, motivated, lifelong learners and gather more interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).”

Fourteen Bossier Parish educators were honored at the 2nd annual Sydney Biedenharn Educators’ Endowment grant reception. The Biedenharn Foundation doubled its investment in Bossier Schools this year, pledging $30,000 to further enable teachers to be innovative in the classroom.

The Sydney Biedenharn Educators’ Endowment was established two years ago to carry on the legacy of its namesake. Sydney Biedenharn was an educator at heart and descendant of the Biedenharn family that bottled Coca-Cola in Shreveport. She was a resident of Bossier Parish when she lost her life in a vehicle accident a few years ago.

A total of 45 grant applications were received this year. After a rigorous selection process, there were 14 applicants that rose to the top and really impressed the panel of judges.

Bossier Schools grant recipients at the Biedenharn Foundation reception.
Bossier Schools grant recipients at the Biedenharn Foundation reception.

Receiving grants from the Biedenharn Foundation are Michael Pedrotty, Airline HS – $2,500; Sabrina Smith, Airline HS – $2,184; Barbara Beck, Benton HS – $2,415; Sarah Chadouir, Benton MS – $2,150; Amy Washington, Bossier HS – $2,500; Judy Podner — BPSTIL — $738; Lisa Neumann, Kerr ES – $2,139; Suzanne Knippers, Meadowview ES – $919; Nichole Nuccio, Plain Dealing HS – $2,160; Lindsay Burns, Plantation Park ES – $2,489; Charlene Cooper, Rusheon MS – $2,465; Gail Rittenberry, Rusheon MS – $2,393; Christy Bucker, Stockwell Place ES – $2,470; Shuntay Wilson, Stockwell Place ES – $2,470.

Because of grants, Charlene Cooper has expanded the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses at T.O. Rusheon Middle School. The program started as an after school offering, but has developed into four classes offered during the school day. There’s a waiting list to join the class.

Cooper plans to use the grant money from the Biedenharn Foundation to purchase more robot kits for her classroom.

“Our program relies on grant funding,” she said. “It’s hard to get away from textbooks when the equipment is so expensive, but it’s crucial in order for students to advance. We couldn’t offer our students these opportunities to grow if it weren’t for generous foundations and organizations.”

Gail Rittenberry, Curriculum Coach at Rusheon Middle, is a first time grant recipient. She plans to develop an after school math program for sixth, seventh and eighth graders who need just a little more help achieving their next academic success level.

However, this won’t be your typical math lesson.

“They will be up, moving around and having a lot of fun,” Rittenberry said. “We will feed them a snack and hit the ground running.”

Students will be selected for the after school program based on testing data. They will have a meeting with parents before students are able to participate.

Rittenberry said this is a priceless opportunity for students. She hopes to have the program implemented by February 2016.

“We really want to help the students who are on the border to achieving that next level,” she explained. “We know tutors are expensive. This will be totally free for students.We’ll feed them a snack, play some fun games and hopefully push them over the line to that next achievement level.”