Beyond the classroom

This summer, two Northwood Elementary teachers will study how to track Monarch butterflies.

Their research will prepare them for a trip in January 2017, where they will head to Mexico to follow Monarch butterflies that migrate there in the winter.

And when they return to Northwood Elementary, they will lead a project to add a butterfly garden to the school’s courtyard, where students will learn more about the insects, watch them grow from caterpillars into butterflies and learn how to track them.

The cost of the trip for third-grade teachers Megan Greene and Melissa Tinsely: $0.

Tinsley and Greene are joining 31 other Franklin teachers who will go on trips and do research as part of a new grant program. The goal is to give teachers new experiences they can bring back to their classrooms.

In total, the school district is spending $100,000, which is coming from more than $200,000 saved when Franklin schools partnered with Johnson Memorial Health last year. Under the agreement, the hospital network is providing nurses for each of the eight Franklin schools, as well as athletic training services, and the school district is saving money because it no longer is paying the salaries and benefits of those nurses.

School officials decided to use about 50 percent of that money this year for teacher grants because it provides an opportunity for teachers to bring real experiences back to the classroom, Superintendent David Clendening said. And the program could be continued in future years, too, he said

The grants were awarded to teachers after they turned in applications and an essay explaining the trip they wanted to take, and how their experience could be used in the classroom. During the next two years, 33 teachers will be heading to 16 states and five countries where they will learn about sea turtles and a journalist’s experience during WWII and take an African safari. Others will attend conferences to learn more about their subject areas or new teaching methods.

The ultimate goal is for those teachers to incorporate their experiences and photos in the classroom through new lesson plans molded around their trips.

Next school year, when fourth graders at Creekside Elementary learn about U.S. history, the lesson on WWII will almost feel as if they experienced D-Day first hand.

Teacher Anne Wilson’s $5,000 grant will cover her trip to the beaches of Normandy, France, following the footsteps of journalist Ernie Pyle. While in France, Wilson will visit the military cemeteries to help her students truly understand the sacrifices made for freedom, Wilson said.

Students at Creekside Elementary and Franklin Community High School will experience an African safari and learn about the culture of three different nations.

First grade teach Sarah Records and high school world history teacher Katherine Sarles had been saving to take the trip to Africa, but when each were given a $5,000 grant, the pair was able to move their trip up a year. In 2017, both will travel to Zambia, Botswana and South Africa.

The trip will mark Sarles’ 38th, 39th and 40th different nations visited, Sarles said. And Africa will be Records’ sixth continent visited.

Records’ around-the-world lesson, where students make passports and learn about a new country or part of the planet each week, will be able to include her experiences in Africa, Records said.

When high school biology teacher Julie Tennell studies sea turtles in Costa Rica, she won’t have to wait until after her trip to show students what she is learning.

With a $3,200 grant, Tennell is going to Costa Rica in September, where she will post a live blog and video each day about her experience and research. She will be tracking sea turtles after they come to the beach to nest, studying how they’re impacted by the environment and looking at the ecosystem to determine what contributes to their endangerment, Tennell said.

All of that information can be taught to each grade level across Franklin schools, Tennell said.

“I’m going to involve as many students as possible,” Tennell said. “This research is going to involve the entire school district. I can put out lesson plans on sea turtles for grades K-12. Field research is the ultimate experience. It just gives me the opportunity to bring this back to the kids.”

By the numbers

Thirty-three Franklin Community Schools teachers are traveling across the country and the globe with $100,000 in grants the school district awarded:


Megan Greene and Melissa Tinsley;studying Monarch Butterflies in Kansas and Mexico;$9,380

Julie Tennell;sea turtle field research in Costa Rica;$3,200

Sarah Records and Katherine Sarles;trip to Africa;$10,000

Anne Wilson;visiting the beaches of Normandy;$4,585

Elizabeth Bean;national math teachers conference in Arizona;$2,760

Nancy Bailey;visiting the Indiana science, math and humanities institute;$1,219

Jennifer Bartram;STEM conference and expo in Colorado and Arizona;$2,905

Janet Kirby and Jeff Powers;national English teachers convention in Georgia;$4,448

Melissa Jones and Lee Ann Uecker;Literacy retreat in Maine;$5,966

Stacy Hollis and Regins Scott;Cooperative learning institute in Florida;$4,042

Libby Findley;visiting Washington D.C.;$1,652

Katie Smith;Early childhood learning conference in California;$1,690

Nicci Sargent;international literacy conference in Massachusetts;$2,833

Ellen Mae Paris;lifelong skills in growing gardens seminar in Wisconsin and Michigan;$4,086

Heather Kepner;visiting Washington, D.C.;$3,030

Deryck Ramey;visiting Harvard new and aspiring leaders institute in Massachusetts;$4,067

Carla Taylor;exploring and building schema seminar in Washington, D.C. and Virginia;$2,814

Amy Stayte;visiting California;$3,896

Jon Stevens;teaching seminar and forum in New Hampshire and Georgia;$1,301

Travis Gabehart;visiting Washington, D.C.;$2,747

Jayme Abel and Denise Rodenhuis;literacy and learning conference in Louisiana;$4990

Ryan Hendryx;teaching the scientific method learning conference in Minnesota;$2,350

Christie Collins and Michelle Wallace;exceptional children convention and expo in Massachusetts;$2,459

Peggy Kinsey;stand up for learning conference in California;$1,764

Bill Wallace;visiting historic Boston;$1,560

Karen Gross;swimming with manatees in Florida;$1,178

Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2719.