Calgary Catholic students will benefit from $800,000 in special grants to school projects and educational enhancements thanks to a funding announcement Thursday from the Calgary Catholic Education Foundation.

Up to 51 new grants will be awarded to 42 Catholic schools focusing on new technology and school enhancements for libraries, fine arts enrichments, physical education and literacy initiatives.

Laptop computers, laptop storage carts, SMART boards and other specialized computer equipment will be granted to some 28 elementary, junior high and high schools in an effort to help students learn on a broader level.

Krystyna Williamson, a longtime volunteer member of the foundation, said learning through enhanced technology is critical to students now more than ever.

And SMART boards in particular, which appear as a whiteboard at the front of the classroom but function like a computer touch screen, allow for unique, interactive learning. Students are able to leave their desks, touch the board at the front of the class and move around icons, numbers or letters.

“It’s a very visual way of learning,” she said.

“Kids are now so computerized — this is something that engages them, it makes them pay attention more because they can interact with it.”

Literacy programs and new library materials will also receive funding in nine schools, hoping to reach students that need extra attention along with a growing immigrant population in Catholic schools.

“Literacy is the basic foundation of everything around learning,” said Karen Williamson, also a volunteer with the foundation.

“But that’s evolving too, and it allows schools to look at learning beyond just the traditional library book.”

Unique programs are expected to include artists-in-residence, including book authors and other writers, who will work with students on a continued basis.

The Calgary Catholic Education Foundation is governed by a volunteer board of directors comprised of leaders from the city’s Catholic community.

Contributions from the Linda and Clayton Woitas family, a collection taken at parishes on Catholic Education Sunday, and funds raised through other donors made this year’s grants possible.

Tom Sullivan, principal at Bishop Grandin High School, where the funding announcement was made Thursday, agreed that new technology can support more students who learn in different ways.

“Students learn in a variety of ways and have different styles and challenges. Our goal is to make sure that we do our best to meet everyone’s diverse learning needs.”

Since the foundation was established in 2009, up to $1.8 million has been provided to worthwhile school projects in four priority areas: social justice, academic advancement, enrichment activities and leadership development.


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