With a $500 grant from the Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP), Sandy Toth is helping her first-grade students at Balboa Magnet Elementary School discover numerous ways to save the ocean waters.
Balboa is among several dozen public schools in the San Fernando Valley whose teachers have received grants from LAEP to work on various science and math projects.
Nearly 500 teachers from public schools in Los Angeles Unified School District, Long Beach Unified School District and Torrance Unified School District received small monetary awards for their ideas. About 140 of the teachers hailed from 57 schools in the Valley.
The nonprofit educational foundation awarded the annual grants to encourage teachers to come up with projects that would challenge their students and serve as future teaching models.
Projects range from using computers to study earthquakes and tornadoes to learning math through the use of music.
At Balboa in Northridge, first- and fourth-grade students will work together to create a newspaper called "Save Our Seas" and connect with other environmental organizations on the Internet, Toth said.
At Reseda High School, students will learn the various ways chemistry affects their daily lives.
Although the awards are nominal, Toth said they make the difference between whether teachers can afford to buy computer programs and other materials.
"Oftentimes it's either scrap the idea or use money from our own pockets," Toth said.
"After awhile you don't have much of your own money to use, so grants like this really help."
The goal of the grants is to improve students' math and science skills, said Mike Martinez of LAEP.
Some teachers started projects with their students in September and are continuing them throughout the school year, while others will begin in January, he said.