Instead of watching rockets launch to the sky at the end of the school year, students will be able to build their own.

And when fourth-graders at East Side Elementary School in Edinburgh study the BP oil spill or the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, they will be able to build their own water filter.

Amanda Poynter and James Todor, East Side Elementary School teachers in Edinburgh, received EnablINg STEM grants through the Tech Point Foundation for Youth.

Kindergarten through eighth-grade instructors who work in schools with a free and reduced lunch percentage of more than 55 percent could apply for the grants. Twenty-three teachers were selected to receive a $500 grant.

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The East Side teachers are using the money to beef up science, technology, engineering and math curriculum they already use in the classroom, the teachers said.

Third-graders at East Side have been able to see rockets launched at an annual launch day in May for more than a decade. They typically get to see multiple rockets launched, with varying designs and power.

However, Todor wanted to apply for the grant so students could design and build their own rocket that will take flight during the launch.

“Students will be able to get to experience building the rocket from scratch and the end product of seeing the rocket being launched,” he said. “When you talk with kids, especially elementary kids, when you bring up the topic of rockets, you have their attention immediately.”

Now students will be able to delve deeper into the science behind the rockets in a way they couldn’t unless they were building their own, Todor said.

Students will spend about a week in class before the launch working on their own flight machines.

“Anything hands on, obviously the kids will get more out if it, they will enjoy it more,” he said.

Poynter will spend her $500 supplementing STEM curriculum that she already uses in her classroom, she said.

She ordered seven STEM station kits that will allow her to integrate the lessons across multiple platforms.

For example, the students will read a book about water crises and will then build a water filter. And students will build their own lunch box alarms after reading a book about a boy who gets his lunch stolen, she said.

Part of the idea is STEM-related programs are allowing students to make theories on what might happen when they create something, test their theory, make a mistake and problem solve what went wrong, Poynter said.

“They need to see the value of failing and persevering through a problem,” she said.

Having the resources in the kits will allow the students to test their ideas more thoroughly, she said.

“There are some things that feel intangible that you can’t learn from a book, that you have to experience,” she said.

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Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.