“It’s growing!,” and “Oh look, there’s water trickling from there,” exclaimed some of Shari Skari’s Towers Elementary students who observed the “tower garden” growing at her home during their Zoom calls. Skari is among 24 Torrance Unified School District teachers who received grants in January to implement innovative science, technology, engineering, arts, or math curriculum in their classrooms. The grants, totaling $100,000, were funded by the Torrance Refining Company (TORC) Innovative Education Grant Program (IEGP).

Unfortunately, COVID-19 and LA County “Safer at Home” Orders caused some teachers to re-adjust lesson plans or delay implementation of some grant projects. Skari began her activity in-classroom and continued online. “I have the tower garden as my background during Zoom calls so they can see it. Although it’s not as we planned, we’ve done several short science lessons with our observations. Thank you again Torrance Refining Company for this wonderful grant and I hope that we will be able to use it more effectively in the next school year,” said Skari.

Other grant recipients had the opportunity to put their ideas into action. Walteria Elementary first-grade teacher Christine Buchalla bought Chromebooks with her grant. Buchalla shared, “Thanks to TORC IEGP, we were able to purchase Chromebooks and the students had the chance to complete some of the Storybook STEM ideas. They were asked to create their own STEM challenges and they used the Chromebooks to learn how to research and design their own projects.” This exercise and use of such digital tools proved to be useful as soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing students to learn and study from home, making technology such as Chromebooks a necessity.

These are just two great examples of the wonderful projects funded by TORC’s IEGP. We look forward to hearing about great experiences from other teachers when they are able to implement their projects during the next school year.  As this current school year ends, we once again congratulate all of the grant recipients and thank all Torrance teachers who used innovation and creativity to teach their students during the unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic.

TORC IEGP Tower Garden PlantTORC IEGP Tower Garden by Sherry Skari