• Sara Doan, Northeast Arkansas News

Jonesboro Public Schools gives back by gifting grants to expand innovative teaching ideas


JONESBORO, Ark Jonesboro Public School teachers received grants Thursday morning from the district foundation.


For students at Jonesboro’s Health, Wellness, and Environmental Studies Magnet School, learning to harvest and prepare their food is part of their curriculum. But funding cuts have made upkeep difficult, but that became a little easier today.


“We have three courtyards here and, we have a student kitchen. So, keeping up with things like dish towels, hoses, and buckets, it takes an upkeep to do that," says Melinda Smith, gifted and talented teacher at Health, Wellness, and Environmental Studies.


Students plant and harvest ingredients from the school’s courtyards. They then incorporate them into meals in their onsite nutritional lab, where students learn about the importance of food safety and how to cook.


Smith says the funds will also be used to purchase safety equipment for the students to use.


“I can’t give a kid a chopper, but we can give them this, and I’m not worried about fingers and things like that. Things that have become kid-friendly over the years, so, if we can make cooking safe, then we can get kids in the garden more frequently," Smith said while demonstrating how to use a child safe chopper.


One student says she enjoys the nutritional lab and courtyards because of the hands-on experience it brings.


“You get to come out here and get the stuff that looks dead and take the seeds…and Monday, we got to eat them," she said while collecting seeds from a sunflower plant.


Smith and her co-worker Sherri Broadway, STEAM coordinator at Health, Wellness, and Environmental Studies, received grants totaling around $2,000.


The courtyard started in 2007 and has evolved over the years. But the magnet school faced funding cuts in recent years, requiring Smith to look for outside help. They hit another bump last year, making today's grant much appreciated.


“Because of Covid, a lot of these grants aren’t available anymore. But our foundation grant has never wavered,” she says.


In total, the Foundation for Jonesboro Public Schools donated more than $20,000 to eight schools on Thursday in town. One board member said the purpose of the Foundation is to help fund innovative teaching ideas to spark student interest.

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