Several southwest Minnesota schools are waiting to hear if they are recipients of grants from a nationwide program this year, after being nominated by area farmers. School administrators said this week that the grants, from the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education program, could make a difference for students' education in math, science and agriculture.
America's Farmers Grow Rural Education, a program sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, gives nominated schools the chance to apply for grants of up to $25,000. A total of 18 schools and school districts from around Minnesota were announced as finalists this month. Area finalists include Lakeview Public Schools, Murray County Central, the Redwood Area School District, Montevideo Public School and the Lac qui Parle Valley School District.
The winning grant recipients will be announced on Aug. 27.
"We're pretty excited," said Joe Meyer, principal of Murray County Central High School. "This is the farthest we've made it."
MCC has applied for a $10,000 grant for new data-collection equipment for science classes, Meyer said. The equipment would include electronic sensors and other tools that could be used by junior- and senior-high science students, he said. Getting a chance to work with new and changing technology helps students "hit the ground running" in college or the workforce.
"I think our community and our patrons are looking to the future" in education, Meyer said.
Lakeview Superintendent Chris Fenske said being named a 2013 finalist was a big honor for the school district.
"We were fortunate enough to win a grant last year, so it's kind of a surprise," Fenske said. The $10,000 grant award last year went to purchase science equipment for Lakeview School, including handheld sensors for collecting data.
"It's kind of a real-world learning experience," Fenske said.
This year, Lakeview applied for funds that would be used to help build a greenhouse at the school.
"The goal is to integrate agriculture into our K-12 education," Fenske said. Younger students could have a chance to get hands-on knowledge of how plants grow, or expand on what they've learned through the school's outdoor garden project.
Fenske said Lakeview plans to move ahead with the greenhouse project this fall, starting with building a concrete foundation.
"We thought (the grant program) was a good opportunity to tie in to a project we're already doing," he said.
Being nominated is also a reflection of area residents' support for their local schools, Meyer and Fenske said. Although the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council does the work of selecting the final grant recipients, schools can't get that far without being nominated by local farmers.
Meyer said MCC worked to get the word out about its nomination and encouraged community members to support the school.
"The support from the community has an impact on that, and we're pretty happy with the response we've received," he said.
"We appreciate the support of our local farmers, for nominating us," Fenske said.