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Press Release

BISMARCK, N.D., Aug. 22, 2022 – North Dakota State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced Monday that Callie Navarathne, a librarian in West Fargo’s Heritage Middle School, has been awarded a teacher innovation grant to expand the library’s “makerspace” for student projects.

The grant totals $9,957 and will be used to acquire an assortment of creative supplies, from acrylic and watercolor paints to hardware, building kits, power tools, robots, and microphones that could be used to record podcasts. The resources will be available to both students and teachers as they adapt to the district’s increased emphasis on personalized, competency-based learning, which encourages experimenting and innovation.

Navarathne said student work in the makerspace can be integrated into classroom instruction. Students in a seventh-grade science class, for example, could use the space’s tools to build a robotic hand that would demonstrate a human hand’s structure and musculature. Sixth graders could build a mini-roller coaster to illustrate Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, which provide the basis for modern physics.

Along with strengthening student learning, the makerspace gives students opportunities to collaborate, solve problems, and show their mastery of subjects, she said.

Baesler said the Department of Public Instruction is encouraging innovative education ideas from teachers by funding up to $10,000 in grants every three months. Grant awards will continue every three months for another two years. The next grant application period will be open Oct. 12 through Oct. 26.

So far, grants have been awarded to Navarathne and four other educators:

Jodi Erickstad, Starkweather, $5,708 for snowshoe kits to encourage exercise and help students and community members learn orienteering, outdoor survival skills, and cold weather safety practices;

Ellen Anderson, Montpelier, $3,500 for a drone infrared camera to instruct students in how it is used by agronomists to increase crop yields, manage pests, and promote more efficient farming practices, and to help students earn a drone remote pilot license;

April Foth, Medina, $4,573 to acquire 28 monitors for the Interactive Heart Technologies Spirit System, which is used to monitor student heart rates and can help teach students how to manage their emotions and increase their mindfulness and self-awareness; and

Gina Phillips, Bismarck Century High School, $3,360, for creation of a school community garden that will produce microgreens, herbs, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and edible flowers.

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