Chatham Education Foundation Awards $25K to 22 Projects

CEF Board members, teachers, administrators, and representatives of organizations who received grants for the 2019-20 school year. pose for a group photo

CEF Board members, teachers, administrators, and representatives of organizations who received grants for the 2019-20 school year.

Now in its 15th year of existence, the Chatham Education Foundation (CEF), is offering financial help to 22 projects for the 2019-20 Chatham public school year. The projects, from kindergarten through high school, ranging across many academic areas provide $2,500 to $181, for a total of $25,194. On January 17th CEF Board members met in the Elementary School’s Conference Room with grant recipients to congratulate them.

Established in 2002, the CEF’s mission is to raise and distribute private dollars for innovative and inspiring projects not funded by the regular school budget. Its board consists of community members, school staff and two students. The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation oversees its funds and administrative activities.

“We have never had such ample funding to be able assist so many excellent projects—both large and small. 2019-20 will be a truly exciting year,” exclaimed Judy Staber, CEF Board President.

Nine grants have been awarded to high school projects. For a third year the popular Artemis Robotics program teaches all aspects of designing, building, programing and competing with robots—including the making of a business plan and raising of funds. The year culminates in entering two competitions with the ultimate goal of reaching the World competition in Detroit. Also funded will be a trip for 25 advanced Spanish-language students to attend the Repertorio Spanish Theater in New York City, followed by an authentic Hispanic dinner.

Other high school grants will enable teacher Jeffery Artist, with student help, to revive the publishing of the high school art and literary magazine, Peloris; literary scholar Jim Kraft will once more expose advanced English students to novels by Edith Wharton and Henry James, both of whom spent considerable time in the Berkshires; and talented young singers participating in the New York State School Music Association competitions and festival will receive training from foremost local musicians. Smaller grants in the sciences provide for the an updated cleaning of the popular high school vivarium and the acquisition of several new frogs whose activities have fascinated students; science teacher Patricia Songayllo, a dedicated bird watcher, will be helped to buy bird food and binoculars, and enroll many new students in the Cornell Lab Ornithology Project Feeder Watch. Two other science offerings will help students to more fully understand –and experience—creatures around us.  A Wildlife lecture will expose all science students to the ecology, anatomy and structure of birds of prey and certain reptiles; another small grant provides written materials and film clips to familiarize advanced science students with the circumstances and survival problems of different breeds of wolf.

All current seventh graders in the Middle School will once more be exposed to history teacher William Richard’s Living History program. The program experience includes complementary Revolutionary War units across all subject areas —e.g, seventh grade Science classes focus on war related challenges like gangrene or amputation, English classes include diary entries from Abigail Adams, Molly Pitcher and Benjamin Franklin. And all Seventh Graders will learn what life was like in the 17th and 18th Century through reenactments with the 2nd New York Reenactment Regiment at the Austerlitz Historical Society grounds; and the Regiment hopes to march in Chatham’s Memorial Day parade. Another project, a six week After School Film Club, will enable twenty seventh and eighth graders to learn about filmmaking by helping to write, act, film and promote a film that will be shared with the entire Middle School. Another focuses on reading; all Middle School students will meet and have discussions with Award winning children’s book writer, Gordon Korman, after having read his novel, Restart.

In the Elementary School the Flying Deer Nature Center will be conducting an ambitious learning experience for all fourth graders by combining the reading of a novel My Side of the Mountain, which involves a young man’s trials in the wilderness, with trips to the Nature Center’s woods for actual lessons in relevant survival tactics relating to shelter-building, fire-making and foraging. In its fourth year of construction, another Flying Deer project for fourth graders, an Iroquois longhouse on school property, CEF will help fund the acquisition of bark shingles to complete the structure’s building.

An Afterschool program developed and provided by the Art School of Columbia County for the last four years will once more provide a wonderful mix of poetry, discussion and artistic adventures for about 150 kindergarteners through fifth graders in the Elementary School library during the spring of 2019. In a relaxed environment the children read poems, discuss them and their authors and may write their own poetry.  They then go on to use a variety of implements —magic markers, paints, items like leaves or flowers from nature—to make pictures inspired by the poems and discussion.

To learn more about the CEF, to apply for a grant for next year or to make a donation, visit the Chatham Education Foundation’s website.

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