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Greencastle-Antrim learns school district gets to maintain important grant

March 22, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — When Greencastle-Antrim School District officials heard it was one of only four school districts in Pennsylvania to receive an intermediate service-learning grant, they breathed a sigh of relief because the news couldn’t have come at a better time.

Ellen Kirkner, school district project director and high school social studies teacher, said the district received the grant from Pennsylvania Learn and Serve America, which receives most of its donations from private donors, although the funds are administered by the state.

With Pennsylvania’s governor calling for deep cuts in state funding for public education, and GASD’s grant money expiring at the end of this year, school officials were concerned that some student projects might be cut because of a lack of funding.

The district’s current $11,000 learn and serve grant — awarded in 2009 — will expire June 30.

“This grant enables us to continue doing some things that we wouldn’t be able to do because of budget cuts,” Kirkner said. “The field trip that the high school students take to the Holocaust Museum might have had to be cut because of the budget crunch.”

With money from the $18,700 grant beginning to flow into the district within the next few weeks, Kirkner said many of the “extras” would remain intact for the students.

The three-year grant provides money for service learning in Holocaust education in the high school, a local veterans oral history project in the middle school and new service-learning projects in the primary and elementary schools.

Service learning is a teaching strategy that gives students the opportunity to apply their classroom learning to real-life situations through action, said Kirkner.

Kirkner wrote the grant with the help of Ginny Lays, a professional grant writer and owner of The Write Group in Greencastle.

“I think the reason we keep getting the grants is we’ve done a good job administering the funds. We’ve spent the funds in a reasonable manner,”  Kirkner said. “If you are good stewards of the money, then they continue awarding grants.”

It’s been about six years since GASD received its first learn and serve grant for $3,000, Kirkner said. Since then, the district has received an $8,000 grant followed by an $11,000 grant.

Now that the district has the grant money, several projects have already been earmarked to receive funds, including:

  • Martina Fegan’s high school human rights literature classes will use the funds to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • Gifted education teacher Deena Kirkwood’s middle school students will use the money to interview local veterans and submit those recordings to the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress.
  • Kirkner and social studies teacher Van Adams will oversee a high school student committee — STARS, or Students and Teachers Achieving through Service — to administer minigrants to GASD primary and elementary teachers.

“I think it’s been a wonderful opportunity for the students,” Kirkner said. “The whole idea behind this grant is hands-on learning, and I think these are the kinds of lessons students remember and take with them when they leave our school.”

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