Reading tools for dyslexic students and yoga equipment were among the new projects that were recently funded through the Denison Education Foundation’s spring grant drive. The Denison Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to accept the $8,760 of grants Tuesday night during its March meeting.

This year’s spring grants, which supported five teacher-sponsored projects, brings the organization’s grant contributions to more than $816,000 since its inception.

“It is exciting to always read these,” DEF President Kelly Spiegel said about grant applications. “You do the research and always try to reach our kids in new ways.”

The approved projects included those aimed at younger students, from pre-K though sixth grade, and those attending high school. In the case of one project, the grant served as a follow up to a previously approved project.

DISD art teacher Dana Nichols was one of the teachers to have a project, which would purchase art books for elementary students, approved for $1,976 in grant funding. Nichols said art skills take time and practice to learn, but students do not have full-time art as an option in the classroom.

“Providing art books is a way to bridge the gap,” Nichols said in her project summary. “Books are a great way to learn how to use a variety of materials, learn a new skill or technique, along with researching artists and their work. Books are a resource that can be used multiple times and are able to support the needs of a variety of students and their individual needs.”

Mayes Elementary teacher Chris Anderson proposed adding yoga for students in pre-K through fourth grade as a part of the physical education program. The project named “Drop and give me Zen: Jackets Doin’ Yoga” received $2,000 in funding through this year’s series of grants.

“This project will add the coping skills of relaxation and breathing into our fitness curriculum helping our students to learn the importance of another element in total mental and physical health,” Anderson said in his proposal. “We will plan on doing a YOGA curriculum every other week during our Fitness/Health days.”

Denison High School teacher Jennifer Brown received two separate grants in the latest cycle. One grant will continue on a project that Brown started last year when she received a separate award to install lighting filters in the math classrooms at DHS.

In 2018, Brown requested funding to install filters that would diffuse the fluorescent lighting used in the school. Brown said studies showed that fluorescent lighting could negatively affect students with attention deficit disorder, seizures and other learning issues. By diffusing the lighting, Brown said she hopes this will also help with other issues, including headaches and behavioral concerns.

The first grant helped outfit five classrooms, with the second grant finishing out the remaining rooms. Brown said the math classrooms were chosen in part as they also are where students take the STAR test.

The second grant will allow Brown to purchase a series of puzzle and lock boxes aimed at reinforcing lessons through fun activities and games. Brown said she first learned about the breakout program at a recent tech conference and decided to try it after doing more research.

“It is another way to get students to use critical thinking and problem solving,” she said.

A $2,000 grant was given to Lisa Kusch and Sarah Roscoe at B. McDaniel Intermediate School that will allow all teachers at the campus to have access to the Flocabulary program, an online resource that uses songs, videos and other activities to teach vocabulary and reading skills.

Kusch said the program can assist those who may have reading difficulties, including those learning English as a second language and those with dyslexia. Many students with dyslexia are not heavy readers, which can make it difficult to pick up on academic vocabulary that is usually picked up through reading, she said.

“So when they are reading later, they have that background and have it in their memory,” she continued.

Roscoe said several teachers already use the program in the classroom, but have to pay for it out of pocket monthly.