Mat-Su Schools Foundation Awards Eight Grants

Contributed by Paul Morley, Mat-Su Schools Foundation

The Mat-Su Schools Foundation awarded seven grants to MSBSD teachers. Two of the grants were partially funded by David Clawson through the Adobe Volunteer program. When employees document community volunteerism, Adobe donates money proportionate to the hours of service to support a cause of the person's choosing. Mr. Clawson chose to support Mat-Su Schools Foundation and its teacher grant program.

Grants were awarded to the following exemplary teachers:

•    Michael Backus, Teeland Elementary School: $1000 grant for an IoT (Internet of Things) Smarthome for their school's new computers elective course. Expanding on standard computer skills, students will learn programming by solving programming puzzles online, building simple apps and programming robots.  

With the addition of IoT Smarthome, students will learn how various sensors work, the difference between analog and digital sensors and how to use various protocols for communicating with sensors. Students will also learn to use a simple API to send/stream information to the Internet and retrieve information and commands from the Internet via a web-based control panel. With IoT technology, students can control objects in the physical world remotely from the Internet. They will outfit a dollhouse with electronics and turn it into a demo Smarthome.

•    Becky Moren, Talkeetna Elementary School: $1000 grant towards their “Project Ocean” field trip to Homer. The 4th and 5th grade five-day field trip is the culmination of a 9-week academic program that includes student-initiated hands-on projects and instruction in marine science and outdoor education. The curriculum integrates math, science, reading, research, technology and physical education skills.

•    Sharon Johnson, Dena’ina Elementary School: $1008 grant to build a leveled library of “just right” books primarily for grades K-2. They will also be useful to struggling readers in grades 3-5. The library will help students become more successful readers by providing a diversity of non-fiction and fiction stories. The leveled library will be used over and over again for many students, classes and years.

Fortunately, the book company is running a “buy one, get one free” deal now, so they will be able to buy double the books with this MSSF grant.

•    Connie Bamburg, Teeland Middle School: $968 grant for fidget-friendly items. Research by a number of experts supports a fidget-friendly classroom.  A 2008 study found that many children actually need to move to focus during a complicated mental task. The children in the study - especially those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - fidgeted more when a task required them to store and process information, rather than just absorb it. This is why students are often restless while doing math or reading, but not while watching a movie. The materials will improve learning by allowing children to focus on the work required of them, while still allowing their bodies to move.

Items including hokki stools, bouncy bands for chairs, fidget pencil toppers, balls in bands, air stability wobble cushions, tangle junior fidget toys, and bouncy ball chairs with bases will allow for young learners to "fidget” while their brains focus on the lesson. 

•    Diane Clawson, Palmer Jr. Middle School: $950 grant for mini quadcopters. The quadcopters will inspire students to develop problem-solving skills, to be logical, to be organized, to form intelligent questions and to collaborate with peers.

Students spend much of the school day sitting, reading, listening and writing. While these are excellent and necessary activities, they don't always allow genuine curiosity and hands-on investigation. Flying a mini quadcopter will challenge their abilities and give them authentic reasons to push beyond the horizon.

•    Chris Gooch, Colony High School: $1060 grant for equipment to study physics video analysis of motion. In physics, many phenomena happen so fast it is impossible to observe with the human eye. By recording events on video with a high definition camera, the video can be slowed down and examined to examine physics in action. Rotational motion specifically is better studied with video analysis. Students are not only engaged in watching and studying motion, but they are also highly engaged in capturing the video as well.

This grant will allow Mr. Gooch to purchase two GoPro Hero5 cameras, two GoPro 3-Way camera mounts and two SanDisk 64 gig micro SD cards.

•    Nicole Kelpe and Joshua Rockey, Sutton Elementary School: $1000 grant for their 5th grade field trip to the state capital. The trip will focus on government and science and will be the culmination of a year-long study about civics and government. Students will get to observe our state's legislature in session and to meet the people who make the laws we live by. For the science portion (which this MSSF grant is contributing to), students will get to compare our local boreal forest to that of the temperate rain forest in Juneau. They will take a boat tour focused on marine science where they will learn about glaciers and the local sea life. Joining the class on the trip will be a local environmental educator who will also be teaching other lessons during the trip. 

Our MSSF Teacher Grant and Student Scholarship programs rely on public donations. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our non-profit organization. Since 2008, the Mat-Su Schools Foundation has disbursed over $100,000 to students and teachers. Donations can be made at our website at Another way to contribute is through Pick.Click.Give.

If you are interested in attending one of our board meetings, and perhaps becoming a member of our team, our next meeting is Monday, November 21 at 5pm in the Mat-Su Regional Urgent Care building at 950 E Bogard Rd, room 220. For information about other future meetings, please contact us at