Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Bright Ideas grants provide funding for innovative, classroom-based projects that would otherwise not be possible. Since 1994, the grants, which are provided through North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have touched the lives of more than 2 million students who have participated in 9,800 Bright Ideas projects, and given out more than $10.2 million. Each year, close to 600 grants are funded across the state.

“For more than 20 years, Bright Ideas grants have helped teachers bring innovative ideas to life and get students excited about learning,” said Brooklyn Jamison, Marketing and Communications Specialist at Haywood EMC. “North Carolina’s electric cooperatives believe there is no better investment than in the education of our youth, which is why we continue to support educators with our Bright Ideas grant program each year.”

Two Union Academy teachers, Shelley Marshall and Jason Hatch, received grant funding for projects that will get Union Academy out of the classroom and working hands-on to learn new skills and trades.

“These teachers have amazing, creative ideas for educating students but often do not have the resources to make those ideas come to life,” said Jamison. “The enthusiasm and dedication of educators never ceases to amaze us, and we are proud to support their efforts.”

Marshall plans to use the grant funds to purchase things such as hiking poles and mapping equipment to get kids outside and learn about the Appalachian Trail. Marshall is a Language Arts Teacher at Union Academy and uses the Appalachian Trail as an opportunity to get students outdoors and live out what they read about in the classroom.

Hatch, a Math teacher at Union Academy who pulls double duty teaching students real life skills and applications such as how to change the oil in a car, will use his grant to teach interested students how to tan animal hides.

Union Academy Principal Diane Cotton said the grants are already being used and animal hides have already been ordered using the funds. Hatch will show students how to soak an animal hide in water until it is soft and pliable and then go through the steps of tanning the hide using chemicals.