Powering their future

Area schools are vying for your votes to help get the money they need to improve their campuses, but you only have until Dec. 19 to help them out.

The Lego Club at Elizabeth Lane Elementary School is growing fast. That’s why the school entered the Clorox Company’s Power A Bright Future grant contest, to help win money to buy supplies and robotics kits for the club.

Thanks to Clorox Company’s Power A Bright Future program, two south Charlotte schools and various other schools throughout the Charlotte region are part of around 2,500 schools nationwide competing for a $50,000 grant. Both Polo Ridge and Elizabeth Lane elementary schools are participating in the program, which gives students more chances to play, create and explore by awarding seven different grants – four based on votes and three based on merit. The nomination with the most amount of votes overall takes home the $50,000 top prize. Six schools will be awarded $25,000 each.

Power A Bright Future encourages all kinds of activities, from academic to extracurricular, and provides opportunities for school’s to help grow and develop students.

At Polo Ridge Elementary School, they’re looking for ways to spread learning and physical activity out of the classroom and into the outdoors, last year expanding their school gardens and installing an outdoor classroom. But after losing the shelter to guard their six large picnic tables from the sun, their outdoor classroom lost its appeal. But that hasn’t stopped teachers and students from utilizing the space, even if the sun is in their eyes.

“We use the space all the time. We’re out there on a weekly basis,” Wendy White, the science facilitator at Polo Ridge, said, adding that the outdoor classroom is utilized at least two hours every Tuesday when the school hosts a guest speaker.

“There’s not a week that goes by that someone is not out there using the space.”

So Polo Ridge would use part of the money to buy two sunshades to cover their picnic tables, but that’s not their only goal. The school also struggles with adequate playground space for their younger students.

“We have kindergarten through fifth grade using the same playground, but both are designed really for older kids,” White said. “Kindergartners can’t reach the monkey bars and stuff.”

If the school were to win the grant, the majority of their money would go toward purchasing a new innovative playground structure, much like the one in the Blakeney shopping center green area. The equipment is specially designed to promote child growth and development through encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The school already incorporated outside learning over the past several years with the expansion of their vegetable garden, adding a butterfly garden and outdoor classroom last year, but White says the school needs the new playground structure to provide another outlet for kids to get outside and play.

“Many kids spend all their time inside… if they play video games at home, that’s fine, but we want them outside while they’re at school,” White said. “The equipment itself is pretty cool. A lot of things are about team building, balance. They are thinking about the development of children in addition to exercise.”

With the enlargement of the playground area, more grade levels could be outside at one time without fear of someone getting hurt because of overcrowded or tall playground structures, White said.

At Elizabeth Lane Elementary School, they’re taking a different route with their project. Kicking off a Lego Club at the school just this year, Assistant Principal Dina Modine said the club is already in need of more supplies.

“We would take the money to buy Legos for our Lego club,” Modine said. “The club is ran by strictly donations, but in order for the club to be successful, you have to have supplies. We’re trying to keep the club free because we want everyone to be able to participate.”

The club’s first semester just wrapped up, hosting around 25 students. But next semester, starting in January, Modine said club leaders are expecting the number of students to double to 50. Without enough supplies, it could slow the learning process down.

But Legos are just the beginning to their big picture plan. Eventually, the school would like to see their Lego Club morph into the Robotics Club.

“Ultimately, we would like to have a Robotics Club [where students] use their Lego knowledge for building robots,” Modine said.

But a Robotics Club is a big undertaking, Modine said, not because the students can’t do it, but because of the high price tag.

“It’s really hard to get it started because it’s so expensive. Our kids are more than capable of doing it. Our fifth-graders are working
on catapults right now,” Modine said.

And because the clubs are in line with new math and science Common Core curriculum, Modine said the school also would like to spread and share the program with their sister school, Thomasboro Academy, but without proper funding that could be several years down the road.

Both White and Modine said their schools kicked off the competition with a strong voting campaign, but as time goes on, it seems voting has dropped off, so they’re encouraging parents, teachers and community members to jump in and help their schools make it to the top. As of the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 28, Polo Ridge was ranked number 197 in the Explore category and Elizabeth Lane stands at number 341 in the Create category, so both schools need your help.

People can find more information on the grant or vote once a day by going online to www.powerabrightfuture.com or can vote via text message. To vote for Polo Ridge, text 2037pbf to 95248 and to vote for Elizabeth Lane, vote 560pbf to 95248.

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