BELLVILLE -- The Richland County Foundation’s “Teacher Assistance Program” (TAP) grants are being put to use in classrooms around Richland County. The Foundation’s goal is to provide financial resources to area teachers for “supplemental programs.”

Teachers can apply for grants up to $1,500 to fund special educational projects. The Foundation hopes to help teachers fund creative learning projects.

“These are the projects that teachers often pay for out of their own pocket,” said Foundation Program Officer Allie Watson.

Often the price tag may be too steep for teachers or their district and the supplemental project falls by the wayside.

Last year $13,000 was awarded to Richland County schools, Kindergarten through 12th grade. This year TAP grants could reach $35,000. Maura Teynor, Director of Donor Services and Communications for the Foundation, said “since its inception in 1997 the Foundation has granted 622 TAP grants to total $482,351.88.”

Watson said Foundation board members and community representatives review the TAP applications and decide which projects to fund. They are looking for creative supplemental programs that teachers are using to enhance learning. She said a good example was an application by Clear Fork Middle School health teacher Thomas “Rusty” Staab. He received a $1,500 TAP grant this year to use for nutritional education.

The material Staab’s health classes are using suggest a relationship between a person’s blood type and good nutrition. His middle school students began using blood typing kits on Friday as a part of the learning project.

Students said they were excited with the project, once they got past the anxiety of the finger stick. His class was assisted by Tara Swinhart, a Red Cross member who volunteered with the blood type exercise, was on hand to help the squeamish.

Staab explained students will investigate how certain foods may interact with the eight different blood types. According to “the blood type diet,” certain foods contain “lectins” that may pose health risks. The theory states that lectins attach to sugars in the blood and may lead to various illnesses. Each blood type is affected differently by the common foods we eat and students will learn what foods to avoid and what foods to include in their diet.

For Staab, the end result is better nutrition for students.

“If parents can buy into this, we may see a change in their health,” Staab said. “They are the ones who do the cooking or take their kids to fast food restaurants so this may help them rethink things.”

When anticipating the impact the project will make in his classes, Staab said he is glad to have access to the TAP grants. At the end of the project he will file a report for the Foundation to describe the outcome of the project and demonstrate results. Watson said the Foundation representatives “excited to see how it turns out.”

Watson encourages teachers K-12 in both public and private schools to apply for the TAP grants.

“Teachers should be thinking about the applications which need to be turned in July 8,” she said.

The Foundation hosts a grant writing workshop which will be held June 14 this year.

More information is available on their website, www.richlandcountyfoundation.org and Watson can be contacted at awatson@rcfoundation.org.

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