Several local school teachers are raising money to enhance the learning experiences of their students.

Lindsay Bowker, Jessica Winegarner and Ellen Cales are attempting to bring in additional teaching tools, ranging from alternative seating to objects for students to manipulate.

Bowker, who teaches fourth grade at Frances Willard Elementary School, is raising money to bring in K’Nex.

Winegarner, who teaches third grade at Adams Elementary School, is raising funds for alternative seating for her students.

Cales, a kindergarten teacher at Frances Willard, is attempting to raise money for play-to-learn toys.

K’Nex teaching tools

“My students need the chance to work with their hands to develop an understanding of how energy makes things work,” Bowker said.

K’Nex are interconnecting plastic pieces that can be used to teach a myriad of concepts, such as how levers and pulleys work.

“The learning of the past is ineffective with (the students),” she said. “They struggle to maintain focus when seated for extended lengths of time. They struggle to maintain focus when not kept moving.”

Using learning tools such as K’Nex is not a new concept for Bowker.

“Twenty years ago, I was given the opportunity to work with battery-operated Legos each week in my fourth-grade classroom,” she said.

“The projects took not only critical thinking skills and fine motor skills, but also forced me to develop social skills which would allow me to be successful in a group setting. These are all vital skills that must be developed in our young students.”

Some of the areas in which K’Nex can be used are science and engineering.

“Science and engineering are areas which are nearly ignored in the elementary school setting,” Bowker said. “I would like to work on turning this around.”

Bowker’s campaign can be found at www.donorschoose.org/project/knex-to-build-connections-to-life/2748759.

Alternative seating

“My students need a few more choices, like Bilibo seats and active learning stools, which … allow them to move and use their energy in a positive way,” Winegarner said.

She has taught in the same school her entire career. “This place is my family, and I can’t imagine teaching anywhere else,” she said.

“Many of the students I have this year are connected to previous students, and I love the relationships we have built throughout the years.”

Winegarner said she structures her classroom to be a “home” for her students.

“Research has proven that when students get a choice, they are using parts of their brain that allow them to use their executive function skills,” she said.

“These skills include their working memory, inhibitory control and their mental flexibility. These skills teach children how to make good decisions in life.”

“I also strongly believe that when students are more comfortable, their ability to focus strengthens,” Winegarner added.

Her fundraiser can be found at www.donorschoose.org/project/more-choices-more-success/2645362.

Interactive toys

“My students need toys that are conducive to building imagination and interesting dramatic play themes,” Cales said.

Her kindergarten class learns through movement, creative play, sensory experience, music and investigation.

“In today’s world, children often do not have enough play opportunities because of video games, TV and the computer,” she said.

“Early childhood classrooms provide an opportunity where there are other children to play with and toys that are conducive to building imagination.”

The items she is raising money for will foster dramatic play and help her students to develop, both cognitively and socially.

“Kids love to act out what they see at home, which is why I have requested a laundry set and some baked goods to be added to my housekeeping center,” Cales said. “Kids learn to think abstractly as they play out scenes in their world.

“A report from the Alliance for Childhood cites research that children who engage in complex forms of socio-dramatic play have greater language skills than nonplayers, better social skills, more empathy, more imagination and more of the subtle capacity to know what others mean. They are less aggressive, and show more self-control and higher levels of thinking.”

Cales’ campaign can be found at www.donorschoose.org/project/play-is-the-highest-form-of-research-/2592800.

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