Two greater Chattanooga area elementary schools share $100,000 in Annenberg grants

Blythe-Bower Elementary School
photo East Side Elementary School

STEM -- as in science, technology, engineering and math -- has been a buzzword for years now in the education world.

But it's not a typographical error to say Blythe-Bower Elementary School in Cleveland, Tenn., will create a STEAM lab with a $75,000 grant it got this week from the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children.

"It's a version of a STEM lab; it incorporates art as well," Principal Joel Barnes said, explaining the "A" in the acronym.

The school's STEAM lab will have such educational amenities as microscopes, a small greenhouse and a large interactive digital whiteboard, he said, along with easels for making art and keyboards for making music.

Blythe-Bower and East Side Elementary School in Chattanooga were the two local winners this year in the ongoing grant program to serve elementary schools with high concentrations of poor children. The program is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children has paid for $850,000 worth of improvements in Southeast Tennessee, including a reading lab, multimedia facility, art studio, media center, classroom technology, playground improvements, science lab, classroom book nooks, Chromebook laptop computers and a student leadership program, Public Education Foundation officials say.

The Chattanooga-based PEF has worked collaboratively over the past six years with the grant program.

"They have been really interested in our students and our schools," said Christa Payne, PEF's vice president of external affairs.

The grant program is named after the late philanthropist Leonore Annenberg, who served as U.S. chief of protocol for President Ronald Reagan. Her late husband, philanthropist Walter Annenberg, in 1997 "made a special opportunity grant to Chattanooga as part of his national call to arms in support of American public education," a PEF statement said.

This year East Side Elementary in Chattanooga received a $25,000 grant to update its reading center. East Side, a school with a mostly Latino student body at the corner of East Main and South Lyerly streets, will use the grant to buy hundreds of nonfiction titles about such topics as nature, science and social studies.

"We're trying to move more toward nonfiction texts," Principal Stephanie Hinton said. "Most of our books are fiction."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu or or or 423-757-6651.