PEPPERELL -- These days, if there's grant money, Varnum Brook Elementary School will take it.

A group of five teachers were recently awarded a $8,791 Ingenuity Grant from 3M Corp. to bolster science education in grades 1 through 4. The school is purchasing kits and materials from Engineering is Elementary, a curriculum-enhancement program from the Boston Museum of Science.

"Central to the lessons is a technology activator, which promotes understanding of technology and explain ways it is used to solve problems," said second-grade teacher Kristin O'Connor. "Using that, the lessons look at engineering and design and how to adapt and improve on it."

She said the program is used to enhance, not replicate, what the students are doing in the classroom. About 20 units are being acquired, each with a focus on a specific industry, such as agriculture, packaging, magnets and wind energy.

In addition to classroom materials, the grant will also go toward professional-development workshops.

O'Connor formed a committee to pursue the grant, including first-grade teacher Kristen Kennedy, third-grade teacher Linda Boden and fourth-grade teachers Michelle Pinkerton and Sharon Sheehan.

"The committee has decided to divide up the units by grade level for the first year," O'Connor said. "That way we can match the best topics with curriculums across all grade levels."

3M's ingenuity grants are invitation-only. Schools are invited by 3M plants all across the country.


This year 53 schools were awarded grants. Since the program's inception nine years ago, 930 grants totaling $2.6 million have been awarded.

According to 3M, the focus is to bring new, innovative learning opportunities that further student learning of math or science principals into the classroom.

"The tie-in to the schools is what the program is all about. We want to link math and science with engineering," said Tim Holt, a 3M communications manager.

For the last four years, Varnum Brook has been invited on behalf of a plant in Methuen and has won each year. According to Varnum Brook Principal Pauline Cormier, it's great to take advantage of the oppourtunity, even with a large number of schools applying.

"The support from 3M and teachers really helps us a lot. The grant is huge because it will be able to help our young learners," she said.

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