When Oliver Valentino began classes at the Lawrence Intermediate School, one of the first things that he noticed on the playground was a life-sized outdoor chess set.
Oliver, who likes to play chess, was surprised. There are life-sized outdoor chess sets – painted squares on the blacktop – at some of the schools in the Lawrence Township Public Schools, but not at the Slackwood Elementary School.
Oliver’s mother, Amy Valentino, who teaches second grade at the Slackwood Elementary School, thought about it. She and Oliver decided to apply for a grant from the Lawrence Township Education Foundation to create a life-sized outdoor chess set at the elementary school.
“I like chess because I like strategic thinking and planning your next move. Kids will talk together and have fun and learn about strategy (when they play with the life-sized chess set),” said Oliver, who attended the Slackwood Elementary School.
So the mother-and-son team applied for a grant, and were happy to learn that the “Checkmate: Outdoor Chess for All” grant was approved by the nonprofit Lawrence Township Education Foundation.
The $1,150 grant was one of 32 grants awarded by the Lawrence Township Education Foundation during the fall grant cycle. The grants were announced at the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Nov. 10.
Karen Faiman, the executive director of the Lawrence Township Education Foundation, told the school board that she was amazed by the grant proposals submitted to the nonprofit group.
Teachers submitted grant applications totaling $168,000, but the foundation awarded $53,163 in grants. There was not enough money in the budget to award all of the grant applications, Faiman said.
“The grant proposals we received were above and beyond the teachers’ call of duty. I was surprised that we go to so many applications,” she said.
“To come up with an idea that will make your class or your school or your grade just a little bit more excellent – you do it every year,” Faiman told the school board and the teachers in the audience.
The grants that were awarded for the fall grant cycle ranged from the outdoor chess set to a $2,136 grant for an expansion of the Ben Franklin Elementary School’s stream-keeper program. It will pay to buy adult- and child-sized waders to help students investigate and collect data during their yearlong study of a nearby stream.
The Lawrenceville Elementary School received a $2,632 grant for the Gaga Pit and giant Connect 4 that will provide physical activity options for students, and promote cooperation and social-emotional skills.
At the Lawrence Intermediate School, the “LIS Shines Bright” grant for $4,158 will pay for a visiting artist and jeweler to teach sixth-graders how to work with metal. Students will hammer, etch and design their own stars that will become part of a permanent installation to be hung outside of the school.
The Lawrence Middle School’s TV studio is getting a new camera and microphone for the technology class to enhance the students’ ability to interact with each other and to create professional-style videos. The grant is for $3,908.
And at Lawrence High School, the purchase of a new glockenspiel (bell set) will be funded with a $5,480 grant. It has an increased range and will provide Lawrence High School instrumental music students with the opportunity to play more diverse and more advanced musical literature.
The Lawrence Township Education Foundation raises money from individuals, local businesses, corporations and foundations for grants to teachers. It has approved more than 1,000 grants since its inception in 1992.