In an era of a pandemic when interactions have been limited for everyone, Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy is taking advantage of three grants received from the Copperas Cove Education Foundation to increase student learning, health, nutrition, and technology access.

One grant received by the pre-K school funds the physical education program, Born to Move, focusing on the development of various motor skills while providing children with disabilities the ability to participate with their peers through inclusive practices. Nutritious Play, written by Patricia Crawford, gives children the opportunity to discuss and try new, healthy foods through engaging and fun activities.

“We are learning how to exercise our brains and bodies through movement, play and nutrition,” physical education teacher Patricia Crawford said. “The kids really look forward to coming to P.E. because they never know what fun game they are going to play or cooking lesson they will be learning.”

With the cancellation of so many opportunities for sports and physical activity in the community, school is the only outlet where students participate in organized sports and play. Crawford involved the students in a game called “Stick It.” Students divided up into teams wearing different colored Velcro vests purchased with grant money from the education foundation. The object of the game is to see how many foam balls students are able to stick on the other team’s vests, then count the balls to see which is the winning team.

“The kids loved Stick It. They got the concept of the game quickly,” paraprofessional Vanessa Sims said. “Their goal was to get nine balls on the back of the other team’s vests. The kids were yelling ‘get that ball’ and were so excited to count the balls to see who won. So, there is a built-in math component also.”

With the impact COVID has had on jobs, families with food insecurities are not always able to purchase healthy meal options. Crawford turned eating nutritious food into a game for the young students asking them to create a silly face on their plates using lettuce, blueberries, carrots, celery, chives, raspberries and cherry tomatoes. The food was purchased with grant money.

While being creative, students learn how to identify each food item and its color, how it grows including on a vine, as a root, or on a tree, and define the number of each item and total items on each plate students also learned facial features and the use of the five senses. They then created a chart and tallied which ones they liked.

“I loved the vegetables and fruit like the blueberries and cherry tomatoes, but I didn’t like the chives. They were spicy,” 4-year-old Leia Loeffelholz said. “My silly face had lots of hair that was going up.”

The Copperas Cove Education Foundation provided more than $11,000 in the form of 10 grants to CCISD teachers using innovative instructional methods.

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