Teachers receive grants supporting forensics, robotics

By HASKEL BURNS,

Two area teachers have been awarded more than $1,870 in classroom grants from the Mississippi Professional Educators that will enable them to bring additional learning projects to their students.

Shanna Nesser of Petal High School received $900 and Elvira Deyamport of Thames Elementary School received $974.99 from the organization, which serves as an alternative to union participation for approximately 14,000 teachers, administrators and non-certified staff from throughout Mississippi.

Nesser, who teaches 11th and 12th-grade forensic science, plans to use her grant funding for a project called “Minutiae Characteristics and Bite.” The program analyzes and compares fingerprints, bite marks and body fluids to determine the distinguishing factors in making a biological match from crime scene to suspect.

“Forensics is a course that’s only offered by a few schools in the state, so there’s not a lot of extra budget money for that class,” said Nesser, who has been a member of MPE since 2011. “I teach chemistry as my other courses, and we’ve had to put our lab money into those types of classes that are offered everywhere.

“So I just wanted to get a little bit extra for my forensic science class, so they could see and have more hands-on opportunities.”

Nesser said the grant will be a big help to the students, as a large part of the class entails learning how to do traditional-style fingerprinting.

“A part of Petal’s theme this year is ‘outreach,’” she said. “In the past, my class has worked with the primary school and done fingerprints with the younger kids to show them about safety and the difference between good strangers and bad strangers.

“By getting the fingerprint station and extra ink, it helps out a good bit with that cause.”

Dayemport, a 4th and 5th grade gifted teacher, will use her share of the funds for “Robots in REACH,” which incorporates critical thinking and problem-solving skills to develop computer code for robots.

“I’ve been wanting to add Robotics for years, and have observed several surrounding district’s gifted programs competing in Robotics with their gifted students,” said Dayemport, who has been an MPE member since 2014. “This piqued my interest and as a result, I researched several options that would work for our students in the (Hattiesburg Public School District) REACH program.”

Dayemport said the MPE classroom grant has been instrumental in obtaining the school’s first Dash and Dash Robotic Kits for the REACH program, and hopes in the future to apply for grant opportunities to expand the program and give all the school’s gifted students a chance to compete.

“Our upper-grade students in 4th and 5th grade will be the first to explore and learn how to program and operate Dash and Dot, and only 5th graders will be competing this year in the Wonder Workshop Online Robotics Competition,” she said. “Also, all students will be introduced to the basics of operating the robots via several challenges on the app, while grades 2 through 4 will focus on creativity challenges throughout the year. 

“One example was our decorating contest that was sponsored by Wonder Workshop – the developers of Dash and Dot – where students had to select a theme and create a costume for their robots. Students enjoyed this creativity challenge and hope to use the robots for future literacy projects.”