AIU’s ‘joyful grants’ help teachers fund projects to keep kids motivated

More than 90 local teachers received “joyful grants” from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit this year to start projects to help kids succeed during this challenging school year.

Abbey Nilson wanted to teach her Shaler Area High School students about growing trees, so with the help of a $600 OnRamp grant from the AIU, 70 students planted 200 trees from seeds and later planted them in a nearby park.

 “We needed a long, kind of skinny pot… to provide room for the root, and these are pretty specialized so we needed a large number of those so the grant helped provide the funds for that,” Nilson said.

The project inspired the kids to raise even more money, and Nilson said it’s helped to have something positive in this difficult year.

“It’s been extremely challenging, and it’s been extremely unique, and this allowed us something to focus on that was real and that would have a lasting impact in the community,” Nilson said.

Other projects that got grant money:

  • The Deer Lakes school district created “grab and go” kits for a Virtual Family Science Night.
  • Duquesne City Schools developed “The Peaceful Playground” for socially distanced outdoor play.
  • Hampton School District got benches, then painted by students, so kids can have lunch outside.
  • StoRox sent positive postcards to help motivate keep kids doing school at home.

In the Woodland Hills School District, elementary school teacher Emily Hall started a book club for third graders and used almost $2,000 in grant money to buy books that have racially diverse characters.

“In order for these students to make that connection with these characters and these novels and the authors, they need to see themselves. They need to see that authentic relationship and think of themselves as a character in the story in order to want to love to read,” Hall said.

That was a catalyst for the school to get even more grant money to buy enough books for 1,500 kids to take home 20-30 books each this summer.

The AIU gave out $150,000 in grant money to teachers since the beginning of the year for these projects.