Carpenters Middle School is one of 21 schools across the nation in the running to win $210,000 in technology if parents, students and supporters of the school log enough votes on the Samsung Four Seasons of Hope Education Essay Contest website.
The school was named a finalist thanks to a 100-word essay written by Literacy Leader Terri Bradshaw. The school has the chance to win the grand prize package of $210,000 in the form of technology merchandise and grants from Samsung, Microsoft, Best Buy, DirecTV and the National Education for Assistance Dog Services.
Bradshaw said the grand prize winner will be determined, in part, by online voting for her essay outlining the impact the new technology would make at Carpenters Middle School.
Voting is being held between Jan. 18 and Feb. 1. People can vote up to five times a day from one email at www.fourseasonsofhope.com/education.
Bradshaw said she learned about the contest from math consultants Jennifer Axley and Suzanne Graves. “They were the ones who told me about it and encouraged me to write the essay. It had to be 100 words, and that was tough because it was about the impact the technology would have on the school,” she said. “I wrote it, and it was like two pages long. Then I sat down and worked on it for about a week and a half before I got it down to 100 words.”
Bradshaw said it wasn’t an easy task because she wanted to add details. “We entered and were notified before Christmas that we were one of the finalists but we had to be quiet about it until yesterday,” she said on Tuesday, Jan. 19. “It was part of the rules. You couldn’t announce you were a finalist until 10 a.m. yesterday.”
The literacy leader said the contest involves schools from across the U.S. First prize is $210,000 worth of technology, including Best Buy gift cards, laser printers, camcorders, and other items. There is also a $5,000 Direct TV grant in the package. “There are 15, $50,000 prizes, which wouldn’t be anything to sneeze at, and five $10,000 prizes,” she said.
Bradshaw said when Mike Crabtree became principal, he said one of areas the school needed to work on was upgrading that technology. Because it is difficult to get funding for everything on their technology wish list, Crabtree advised Bradshaw to look for outside funding.
“So I’m always looking, and it is gratifying we finally have reached that position of possibly getting that much technology,” she said. “It’s mind boggling what they could do with this technology.”
The literacy leader said the essay had to be creative and couldn’t just list what the school had and what it needed. “It had to be original and creative. That was really the hardest part,” she said. “I thought, ‘What can I build this around to make it creative?’”
Bradshaw said she got inspiration from her mother who has Parkinson ‘s disease and enjoys working puzzles. “When we work puzzles, we work the outside and then work in. I woke in the middle of the night and said, ‘That’s it.’”
The literacy leader said she used the metaphor of a puzzle to describe the school’s technology situation. “We have the outer edges. What we need is the pieces of the middle,’ When I showed it to Mike, he laughed.”
Crabtree said her essay was clever. “I think yours is competitive,” he said. “We’re the only Tennessee school that is a finalist.”
Crabtree said he wondered if Bradshaw would be able to cover all the points she would need to cover in a 100-word essay. “She got it covered. I laughed, but it was clever. If I were reading the entries, I would think that is the kind of school I would want to give money to,” he said.
The principal said final judging is based on a 70/30 ratio. “Thirty percent of the final score is dictated by voting and 70 percent is by the judging of essay,” he said to which Bradshaw said, “That’s why we need to get as many votes as possible to take the pressure off my essay.”
Math consultant Suzanne Graves said the door is wide open for the students to obtain good technology to use at the school. “It’s going to open the door to things that some of these kids don’t have the opportunity to see or use in their own homes,” she said. “We still have some students who don’t have Internet access at home so to bring in computers and technology that are state of the art, it’s going to be unbelievable to see what we’ll be able to expose these students to.”
Tom Larson, computer technology teacher, said winning the $210,000 grant would enable the school to get more up-to-date equipment. “It would be a huge deal for our school,” he said. “Putting those tools in the hands of our kids would be a terrific benefit for them.”
Larson said many of the students have better computers at home than the ones they use at school. “Kids speak a different language now days in the way they communicate using technology and having more up-to-date equipment would mean we will communicate with them better and give them tools they’re already familiar with. It would greatly benefit the learning environment to a point we haven’t been to go before,” he said. “Kids get excited about using technology, and I think that translates into better effort on their end and potentially better test scores, in my opinion.”
A class of eighth grade students shared their thoughts on the prospect of getting better technology. “I think that’s really cool,” said Paige Noel, 13. “I wish I was in the seventh grade so I would be able to use it next year, but it’s real exciting.”
Trey Howard, 13, said, “That’s pretty awesome to get new computers and stuff. We could use it a lot more.”
Michael Harris, 13, said, “Definitely we do need new technology. A lot of our other computers in the other lab are slow and freeze up.”
Virginia Hackman, 14, said, “I think it would help our school out a lot. Our school really needs it.”
The essay by Bradshaw reads as follows:
“Puzzles: Outer pieces form a framework for inner pieces, revealing images of faraway wonders, pastoral scenes.
CMS’s technology puzzle is much the same - revealing a school striving for excellence. The framework is present - supportive administration, creative teachers, eager students. But missing inner pieces prevent the completion of that image of a changed learning environment.
The inner pieces of the state-of-the-art school technology puzzle at CMS would include authentic, meaningful use of knowledge - documents on Wiki, formula solutions on Podcast, field trips around the world, broadcasts on LCD-TVs of insights learned in science experiments - students actively engaged in the learning puzzle.”
To vote, go to at www.fourseasonsofhope.com/education and click on the Carpenters Middle School name in the list of school finalists. A one-time registration is required, and participants can then vote up to five times a day. Voting ends on Monday, Feb. 1.