How do polar bears stay warm in their cold environment? What is important to animals in their natural habitats?
These questions and more were answered in special programs that were part of the 21st Century Learning Center Grants provided to Saltville Elementary School.
The school received a second round of grants this year for academic and enrichment programs with a healthy eating and fitness aspect.
Smyth County Schools was informed in August of a $121,545 grant to continue funding the program at Saltville Elementary.
The Virginia Department of Education awarded 28 grants to fund new centers in 19 school divisions this year and continued funding of 87 programs that received initial grants in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The grants range from $50,000 to $200,000 and promote equitable educational opportunities for students by supporting tutoring and enrichment activities that complement regular academic programs.
Community learning centers operate before and after school, during school breaks, Saturdays, and during summer vacation. The centers also provide educational services for families of participating children.
The program helps students meet state and local standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and mathematics; offers students enrichment activities that complement regular academic programs; and offers literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.
Saltville Elementary first won a three-year grant of $137,688 each year in 2015 to fund programs for students and their families. Families are involved through mini-classes offered on health issues, literacy, math skills and how to help children with their homework.
Before school, students can participate in activities after they’ve had their breakfast, including games and computer operation. After school, they get a snack, do homework, work on computers, play, and then participate in hands-on math programs on Mondays, reading on Wednesdays, science and the natural world with Hungry Mother State Park personnel/enrichment on Tuesdays, and 4-H/enrichment on Thursdays. They also take part in recreation on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Educators operating the program include Janice Phillips, grant coordinator; Karen Wing, program manager; and Mitzi Frye, site coordinator.
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program is authorized under Title IV, Part B, of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. Funds come from the federal No Child Left Behind program to the states for dispersal to schools and provided free of charge to students and families with priority based on need.
This past Tuesday, students were learning about animals, including those that live in Hungry Mother State Park and polar bears in the Arctic Circle.
Tanya Hall, chief ranger for visitor experience at Hungry Mother, taught the youngsters about animal habitats and the four things they require: food, water, shelter and space; as well as how to help protect the environment and animal habitats. She showed them animal skins and skulls and helped them make habitat headbands.
Another group of students learned how polar bears stay warm by covering their hands in lard, putting on plastic gloves, and dipping their hands in cold water to let them feel how the “fat” on the bears helps keep their bodies warm.