BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has announced the latest recipient of their teacher innovation grant.

Callie Navarathne, a librarian from West Fargo’s Heritage Middle School, received $9,957 to aid with her plan of expanding Heritage’s ‘makerspaces’ — areas where students can use creative supplies to complete projects in unusual and innovative ways.

Navarathne says outside of strengthening student learning, makerspaces also help give students opportunities to collaborate, solve problems, and show their mastery of subjects. It’s also a great way to encourage interactive learning in the classroom, allowing them to make physical models to help reinforce their ideas and principles (such as a model roller coaster to illustrate the laws of motion and physics).

Navarathne isn’t the first one to receive one of these grants for new technological and crafty advances in the classroom. So far, grants have also been awarded to four other educators across North Dakota.

  • Jodi Erickstad, an educator from the Starkweather school district, received $5,708 for snowshoe kits to encourage exercise and help both students and community members learn orienteering, outdoor survival skills, and cold weather safety practices.
  • April Foth, an educator from the Medina school district, received $4,573 to acquire 28 new monitors for their Interactive Heart Technologies Spirit System, which is used to monitor student heart rates during class. In addition to helping develop more understanding of circulator functions,
  • Ellen Anderson, an educator from the Montpelier school district, received $3500 for a drone infrared camera to instruct students on how they are used to increase crop yields, manage pests, and promote more efficient farming practices, as well as help students earn their own remote drone piloting licenses.
  • Gina Phillips, a teacher at Bismarck Century High School, received $3,360 to aid with the creation of a school community garden that will grow potatoes, greens, carrots, herbs, cherry tomatoes, and edible flowers.

According to North Dakota State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, in order to help encourage more innovative education programs across the state, the DPI will be funding up to $10,000 in grants every three months over the next two years. The next grant application period will be open from October 12 to October 26.

For more information about the education grants, or to learn how to apply for the next series, visit the Department of Public Instruction’s website.