Bedford Education Foundation Announces Latest Grants to Teachers

September 7, 2023
The Bedford Education Foundation announced funding of three Summer 2023 grants recently benefiting Bedford Schools. Image:bedfordeducation.org

The most recent cycle of Bedford Education Foundation grants is expected to enhance the quality of school life for hundreds of students.

Science teacher Nadine Coletta at John Glenn Middle School is launching a student garden club, thanks to her $2,030 grant for a greenhouse. 

Vincent McGrath and Betsy Wilson accepted $2,000 to purchase improved technology for production of “Wake Up JGMS,” the middle school’s weekly staff-generated morning news broadcast. 

Also, Jennifer Ferrari was awarded $365 to enhance the visual arts program at Lane School.

According to the foundation’s mission statement, the direct grants to teachers and administrators “promote classroom innovation and empower teachers and students to meet the growing challenges of the 21st century.” 

Coletta said during an interview that the impetus for the garden club was some outdoor planting by sixth graders as the school worked its way back from Covid-19 lockdown.

“I discovered a lot of the kids really like the opportunity to plant and learn how to care for plants, but they didn’t know about things like how much and how often to do watering,” she related. The garden club will address fundamentals like that, and put ideas and plans to work in the middle school courtyard, she said, meeting for an hour after school each Thursday.

Coletta said the greenhouse will be assembled by the club and beginning next spring, members will use it “to start our own plants for use in the courtyard.” 

Meanwhile, Coletta wants to plant “a ton of bulbs” in the courtyard this fall, and residents who want to donate extra bulbs may drop them off at the middle school or contact the teacher at [email protected]. The perennials will need minimal care over the summer, she noted.

The organizer also hopes to coordinate with the Bedford Garden Club and area garden centers to arrange for guest speakers on plant care and garden arranging. 

“I hope to have a lot of community involvement,” she said. “I think there’s a lot to do and we are starting brand new.”

The project will tie into the science curriculum at the three grade levels, and according to the foundation., will provide a space for middle school students to ‘de-stress,’ engage in small groups, and relax.”

McGrath, a math teacher, said “Wake Up JGMS” was a response he conceived to a poorly- attended school dance last March.

“As a student, I remembered my time at JGMS as challenging but extremely fun,” he said. “In addition to attempting to improve the dance experience for students, I wanted to bring back the end-of-the-year talent show. So, to advertise the dance and reintroduce the show, I asked Jen Naylor, Paul Harrington, and Libbey Beinert to help me with a 1970s/’80s inspired news broadcast.

McGrath (left) will use BEF grant funds to purchase a laptop capable of editing and sharing video for ‘Wake Up JGMS’ News, a popular short weekly broadcast started by JGMS staff last year. Image youtube.com

“The first video was to express to all students the importance of the dance and having shared experiences in person with your peers,” McGrath said. “This was less of a news broadcast and more of a plea to students to believe that social interactions and shared social experiences are extremely important to their development.” Here is the first episode: https://youtu.be/B2of_jpfhdY?feature=shared.

(“The last dance was attended by close to 400 students and the newly-named Amy Budka Variety Show was a big hit on the last day of school,” McGrath noted. Budka is a retired JGMS music teacher.)

Although originally planned as a single broadcast, “the students and staff found it funny and asked for more,” McGrath said. “It continued as a weekly supplement to (Principal Jon) Mr. Hartunian’s morning announcements videos on Wednesdays for the remainder of the year.”

However, he continued, “I was creating the videos with my phone and editing them on my wife’s computer because it had user-friendly software. With the new 14-inch MacBook pro with user-friendly video editing software, we hope to continue our news broadcasts, create a ‘Wake Up JGMS’ News YouTube channel, and allow students to become part of the news team. 

“‘Wake Up JGMS’ is helping create a shared experience for students to improve their social interactions and to instill a greater sense of community within the school,” McGrath said. “The new laptop will allow students to become more engaged in the content and creation of the broadcast.”

He stressed that all “Wake Up JGMS” videos are private and can only be viewed if the link is shared, and they are not searchable on the Web.

woman seated posing in classroom
Ferrari will use BEF funds to add digital drawing tablets and books to Lane School art room. Courtesy Image.

Ferrari will add digital drawing tablets to the digital media center, which will help students learn proper care and use of devices and prepare them for more advanced technology. 

The art room’s library will also expand to include picture books related to the visual arts curriculum, increasing student access to literature across content areas.

Bedford Educational Foundation leaders emphasize its collaboration with other established school organizations. “The BEF is dedicated to enhancing classroom curricular creativity and innovation in the Bedford Public Schools,” the mission statement says.  

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