BRUNSWICK – Last month, they gave away $47,000 to fund 33 projects in Brunswick’s public schools. It’s their biggest year yet, and they’ve only been around for four years.

These grants were awarded to K-12 teachers who submitted applications to the Brunswick Community Education Foundation, an independent, nonprofit, all-volunteer organization founded in 2013 to support innovative projects in Brunswick schools.

The grants fund a little bit of everything, covering every subject and every grade level. Students at Coffin Elementary will learn gardening skills while tending their own school garden. Next door, at the junior high, students will work with local artisans to create a replica of a Wabanaki artifact. Upper elementary students at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School will host “Old Brunswick Day,” where they will celebrate colonial Brunswick and the American Revolution.

At the high school, a BCEF grant will support a marine biology project to grow clams in Maquoit Bay (www.ilovemudflats.wordpress.com).

Last fall, as students pulled out the traps and nets, soaked in icy water and covered in stinky intertidal mud, student Beth Labbe said to her teacher, “This is so awesome, Mr. McCullough. Can you teach another marine biology class so I can do this again next year?”

Over at the REAL school, students will create their own short films using equipment purchased through their grant.
Those are just four of the 33 projects funded this year. The full list can be found at www.brunswickcef.org. Or, you can watch a video of grants in action on YouTube.

The idea for BCEF came about four years ago with the goal of enhancing the offerings of Brunswick public schools. The group invited teachers and other school personnel to come up with innovative ideas that required funding outside of the school’s regular budget. It was an opportunity to make creative ideas real, and it wasn’t long before the applications started rolling in.

Initial funding came primarily from individuals in the community who wanted to support these initiatives. In addition, there have been some local business sponsors, such as Goodwin Chevrolet, and larger donors like former Bowdoin President Barry Mills and his wife, business leader and former U.S. cabinet member Karen Mills.
From there, it grew each year, with the group offering additional grants to more projects.

Now, BCEF has so many applications they can’t fund them all. So, how do they choose? From the beginning, BCEF gathered a group of local education professionals not affiliated with the schools and asked them to be the official decision makers. They look for projects that can impact different groups of students within the district and help to further the mission of the Brunswick schools by supporting curriculum goals.

BCEF has two events planned this spring to celebrate the projects they have been supporting, to raise the awareness of the group’s efforts, and to raise money in the process.

The first is the annual party, SPARK, named for the sparks of ideas BCEF seeks to ignite with their grants, at 7 p.m. April 7, in Frontier Cafe’s new event space. A local band will play, and there will be party games, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Tickets are available at www.brunswickcef.org. The event sold out last year, so get tickets while they last.

If you miss SPARK, you can also support BCEF with your purchases at the Cook’s Corner McDonald’s, which will be donating 20 percent of its proceeds to BCEF on April 23 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Or, you can support them any time by donating directly.

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