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LCSS teachers awarded $6,000-plus in “Bright Ideas” grants
Left to right: Amy Brinson, Susan Battyanyi, and grant winner Jessica Cook pose with the $1,925 check given by Coastal Electric Cooperative for the team’s “More than Just a Garden” project. The money will go towards creative and inventive ideas to teach the Liberty Elementary School students. - photo by Lainey Standiford

An entourage of Coastal Electric Cooperative employees and camera crews burst into Liberty County schools Oct. 3 to surprise teachers with Bright Ideas grants from the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation to fund their innovative classroom projects. 

Met with cheers from a room full of Liberty Elementary students, faculty, and state and local dignitaries, the Bright Ideas “Prize Team” interrupted a ceremony announcing the school’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) certification to award two grants. 

Natalie Mondesir won a $1,675 grant for “Hummingbirds?” her project to allow 4th- and 5th-grade students to take part in engineering and robotics activities that involve kinetic sculptures and animatronics.

Liberty Elementary’s Jessica Cook, Amy Brinson and Susan Battyanyi won a $1,925 grant to expand the school’s pollinator garden, in efforts to revive the declining pollinator population while allowing students to learn about the needs of living things and how they grow. 

Next door at Midway Middle School, the Prize Team surprised Melinda Kennedy and her students with a Bright Ideas grant for $738.88 to fund her innovative project, “Growing Green All Year!” Kennedy and the school’s Green Team environmental club plan to use the funds to plant a vegetable garden, harvest the fruits of their labors and set up a “grow stand” to sell produce to teachers. The project is designed to help students gain an understanding of where their food comes from and allow them to earn hands-on business experience.

Lyman Hall Elementary’s Kaitlyn Caudill won a $1,795.95 grant to fund “Picture-Perfect STEM,” which will allow 315 students to engage with a variety of children’s picture books, creatively integrating science and reading, along with other subjects such as math, writing and social studies. 

In August, teachers applied for Bright Ideas grants to fund special classroom projects, and this week, winners in Liberty and McIntosh counties received up to $2,000 each to see those Bright Ideas become reality. Winners from Bryan County will be announced Oct. 16. The Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation will award more than $22,000 this year alone in Bright Ideas grants. 

Funding for the Bright Ideas grants comes from Coastal Electric Cooperative members who allow their electric bills to be rounded up to the next dollar through Operation Round Up. Those nickels and dimes are pooled together and distributed by the Coastal Electric Cooperative Foundation to benefit the community. Since the Bright Ideas program’s inception in 2002, more than $287,500 has been awarded to give local teachers the power to put their creative teaching ideas into action.

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