Grants go beyond the classroom

Students from Cross Street Intermediate School play drums during the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s annual grants reception on April 12 at Naugatuck High School. The students are part of teacher Kathy Lungarini’s world music drumming program, which received a grant from the foundation in 2015 to start the program. This year, the foundation awarded nearly $11,500 to fund four projects. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School teachers John Forish and Beth Lancaster wanted to start a fishing club at the school.

For Forish, a graphic arts teacher, the club is a way to give students a chance to get outside and fish while learning about environmental conservation. Helping students learn about the environment is something Lancaster, the head of the science department at the high school, is passionate about.

Thanks to the Naugatuck Education Foundation the fishing club will become a reality.

The foundation awarded Forish and Lancaster a $4,083 grant, which included $1,092 from the Naugatuck Rotary Club to cover the cost of all the fishing poles, to start the club.

The money will also go toward the purchase of water quality monitoring equipment and an underwater drone to both find fish and study their behavior in the water, Lancaster said.

“I am very interested in teaching students we need to preserve our resources,” Lancaster said. “Taking John’s idea, we put our heads together and came up with a grant that included fishing equipment that students could use along with water quality monitoring equipment we could use to run water tests and some of the invertebrates.”

The Naugatuck Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises money to provide grants for education programs in borough public schools that go above and beyond what is funded through the annual school budget. Grants are awarded through an application process.

This year, the foundation awarded nearly $11,500 in grants to four projects, including the fishing club, during its seventh annual grants reception April 12 at Naugatuck High School.

Once it’s up and running, the fishing club will meet at Thurston Pond, across the street from the high school.

The pond used to be a popular recreation area in the borough years ago. It is overgrown with shrubs and nearly filled with silt from Long Meadow Pond Brook. However, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess has said he plans to revive the pond and ensure residents can use it for fishing once again.

Aside from the funds to start the fishing club, the foundation gave a $4,498 grant to the City Hill Middle School technology education department to purchase Arduino Hummingbird kits, which are robotics and software programming kits.

Cross Street Intermediate School teacher Debbie LePage received $2,401 to create “mindful corners,” which are areas where students are able to take a break and refocus when they are feeling overwhelmed, in other classrooms throughout the school.

Naugatuck High School librarians Marissa Tassinari and Colleen McMorran received $500 to purchase board games for the high school’s library media center.

“Anything that the teachers can imagine, we consider for funding,” said Joan Doback, grants committee chairman for the foundation.

During the grants reception, the audience heard success stories from projects that had been awarded grants in previous years.

In 2015, Cross Street Intermediate School music teacher Cathy Lungarini received a $5,300 grant to purchase drums to start a world music drumming program.

Cross Street Intermediate School fifth-grade math and science teacher Debbie LePage shows one of the items she has in the ‘mindful corner,’ a place in her classroom to help students that are feeling overwhelmed, on April 12 during the Naugatuck Education Foundation’s annual grants reception at Naugatuck High School. LePage received a $2,401 grant from the foundation to expand the idea to other classrooms. –LUKE MARSHALL

Lungarini said at the time she purchased 20 percussion instruments and had 18 students in the program. Over the past three years, the program has grown to 30 students with more than 45 percussion instruments.

“It provides them an outlet for their creativity. It gives them a chance to be part of an ensemble. It gives them the chance to have some fun,” Lungarini said.

Cross Street sixth-graders Madison Schilling and Jayden Jean-Baptiste, who are both part of the drumming program, said they joined the program because the thought of playing drums with a group sounded like fun.

“I love drumming and it sounded like fun,” Jean-Baptiste said.

“I think we sound good,” Schilling added.

The audience got to hear for itself as the students performed two songs during the reception.

Doback said the foundation’s mission is important because it provides opportunities that the Board of Education is unable to give students.

“The dollars in education are always limited,” Doback said. “So the optional dollars in a Board of Education budget are very limited. So for the teachers to come forward with their dreams and wishes for their classroom is really important. This is probably their only avenue to come forward with their dream for their classroom and have some help with the financial assistance to get their programs funded.”