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Kensington teacher’s global project gets Bright Ideas funding

Ann Landwehr, a third-grade teacher at Kensington Elementary School, is all smiles after receiving a $1,886 check from Union Power Cooperative and a visit by some Carolina Panthers.

A Kensington Elementary School third-grade teacher and her students will be developing friendships with students in East Africa thanks to a grant presented to her Tuesday (Nov. 10, 2009) by Union Power Cooperative and members of the Carolina Panthers.
Ann Landwehr and her students got quite the surprise when representatives from Union Power Cooperative (who sponsors the Bright Ideas education grant program), Carolina Panthers players Captain Munnerlyn and Sherrod Martin, and Sir Purr (the Panthers’ mascot) walked into her classroom with a very large check for $1,866, a Bright Ideas grant to be used for her project “Pen-Pals Around the World.”
“This is going to be so wonderful because it’s for all the third-grade students at our school; 121 students will benefit from this,” Landwehr said.
The grant will fund the supplies for the Kensington Elementary third graders to exchange letters and photographs with students in East Africa. Comparisons of traditions, housing, school and games will be made possible by the pen pal program.
“We’re teaming up with a school in Uganda, a very special school,” Landwehr said. “I am so excited that this came through. Just think of all the possibilities now of what we can do with these students in Uganda. We get to learn more about their culture and they get to learn more about our culture.”
From the big smiles on the faces of the two Panther players, the students weren’t the only ones having a good time. “I enjoy seeing these kids smile,” Mannerlyn said. “It really touches me. I enjoy these visits. I’ve been able to do a lot of them. I hope I can tell them the importance of staying in school, doing their work and listening to authorities. It will take them a long way in life.”
Sherrod Martin had similar thoughts on the school visit. “I’m glad I got the opportunity to come and see the expressions on their faces. I think this project is very exciting. They have the opportunity to learn about other cultures, and realize that there is more to the world than just what they see around them.”
In her grant request/proposal, Landwehr wrote that students would gain an appreciation for another culture and learn what they share in common with children across the globe.  Students will also improve writing and grammar skills, the request said, through the meaningful experience.
The surprise visit to Landwehr’s class is part of a month-long Bright Ideas celebration. During November, North Carolina’s Touchstone Energy cooperatives will award more than $581,000 to deserving teachers across the state. The Bright Ideas grant program awards grants up to $2,000 for innovative classroom-based projects.
“We are excited to see the outcome of this project,” said Carrie Cameron, Manager of Communications for Union Power. “Pen pal programs promote a better understanding of the world in which our students live, at a level they can relate to.  This correspondence will trigger curiosity about social aspects of faraway places, and a realization about the unique experiences that children around the world have.”
After the surprise visit from the two Panthers players, Sir Purr and the Union Power representatives, the school held an assembly announcing the grant, with special appearances from all the guests. From the screams and applause, it was difficult to tell which was more popular with the students – Sir Purr or Munnerlyn and Martin.
During the assembly, school principal Dr. Rachel Clarke read an email from a teacher in the Uganda classroom congratulating Landwehr and her students for winning the grant. “This is great,” the email read. “I am happy about this report. I eagerly wait for pictures. Congratulations to Ms. Landwehr. She deserves this surprise. She is blessed.”
Kensington third-graders will be exchanging letters once a month with the East African school, with the goal of students learning about other cultures through letter writing, developing friendships with children in other countries, sharing the American way of life with another culture, broaden the students’ minds about the world and ultimately get pen-pals from every continent.
The students have already received photos from the 217 students at the East African primary school. Most of the African students, Landwehr said, are orphans. The school has students that range from elementary to middle-school age. The grant money will be used to buy cameras for the students, pay for postage, and whatever supplies are needed to do the project.
“We’re very excited about our students being able to contribute more to them and them to us,” Landwehr said. “This is really going to benefit our students. It really will.”
Since its beginning in 1994, the Bright Ideas program has presented more than $6.5 million to Tar Heel educators and will surpass the $7 million mark this year. More than 5,900 projects in subjects ranging from mathematics to the arts have been funded by the Bright Ideas grant program, benefiting more than one million students throughout the state.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Nov 13, 2009 by

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