TIFTON - More than $22,000 in grants awarded to Tift County schools last week will pay for musical instruments, science programs, landform models and dozens of other educational "extras."

The incentive grants, awarded by the Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence, will fund purchases at every public school this year, foundation president Mike Brumby said.

The grants give local teachers educational materials above and beyond the essentials provided by the school system. Written by the teachers, the grants are awarded by a TCFEE committee based on merit.

This year's crop of grants is the largest ever awarded, funding 67 percent (49 grants) of the 73 applied for. (Last year's total of $23,548 was slightly more than this year's $22,952, but the number of grants was lower at 36.)

Items funded this year include art history reproductions, a wide variety of books featuring poetry, black history, the voting process and more; take-home games for Hispanics and Lego building block kits.

Charles Spencer science teacher Bette Baldwin wrote several successful grants, including one for visits from "The Mad Scientist," Dr. Craig Anderson, to four local schools.

"He's so much fun," Baldwin said of Anderson. "He does all kinds of things that stimulate kids' interest in science and how things work."

Anderson, a mechanical engineer, has presented workshops to teachers and appeared on a television show, "The Breakfast Club." He will give 90-minute presentations for fourth, fifth and sixth graders from Spencer, J.T. Reddick, Omega and Matt Wilson.

"We teachers are just so grateful to the foundation," Baldwin said. "They enrich our classrooms way above and beyond anything that we would be able to do. Half of the things in my classroom are from these grants.

"I had one little boy tell me, 'Mrs. Baldwin, I love your class because I can't wait to see what you're going to do with these things.' "

The TCFEE has awarded a total of $257,768 since the grant program began in 1990.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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