Van Buren School District Education Foundation gave out 17 grants totaling $23,629.91 to Van Buren educators at nine school campuses on Friday, April 7.

Tate Elementary received four grants totaling $5,500 - the largest amount given to one campus on Friday. Grant projects for Tate include art supplies, focus tools and reading incentives.

Tate historically has not written many grants for the education foundation so it is a special situation for them to receive such a large amount, said Debbie Thomas, Van Buren School District Education Foundation executive director.

Of the grants being awarded Tate, Thomas’s favorite is What’s Your Super Power?? Reading!! written by Michele Shipman, Melissa Smith and Kary Shankle. The grant award is $1,500.

“This group of teachers has put together a reading program to help keep kids on target or at the highest reading level they can achieve,” Thomas said. “Third grade is a pivotal point in a child’s education.”

Studies show that a child’s literacy skills impact their current and future academic achievement, particularly the skill and interest in reading developed during early education.

“We know that one of the most important skills in our schools is being able to read,” Thomas said. “The education foundation plays a big part in helping teachers stay above the curve in excellence in education.”

With the reading grant, teachers will create a superhero reading nook to be used as an incentive program for reading throughout the building, the grant states.

“It’s going to be a great incentive for our kids, especially for reading,” Shankle said. “A lot of these kids don’t have access to books at home.”

Students will be invited to read in the nook with a special teacher or principal as recognition for hard work, and it also can be used by guests and volunteers, Shankle said.

Other grants being awarded at Tate are Sculpt it Out! for $1,000, written by Leigh Moomey; Wobble Baby, Wobble for $1,500, written by Debbie Peters, Lisa Rogers and Micah Jedlicka; and Move it or Lose it! for $1,500. written by Susan Kelley, Shanda Wilkinson and Kristi Bray.

Grant money for Sculpt it Out! will go toward art supplies for a clay animation project. Students would create clay sculptures and design backdrops, then use iPads to turn photos of the scenes into movies.

Both of the remaining Tate grants will allow teachers to buy chair bands, floor pedals and other items that allow students to move while working, which studies have shown help students achieve deeper focus and increase learning.

“I think the grant will give the kids opportunities to foster their learning in new ways, in unconventional ways,” Wilkinson said.

A total of $891,409.33 has been given out by the education foundation since it began awarding grants in 2001.

Donations may be made to the education foundation in honor or memory of someone at P.O. Box 6803, Van Buren, AR 72957.