MARBLE FALLS, Texas (KXAN) — Equipped with cowbells and oversized checks, a group of donors from the Marble Falls Education Foundation (MFEF) and district administrators roamed the hallways of Marble Falls Independent School District schools making noise in a usually quiet school.

The disruption in the school day was a welcome one for MFISD teachers. The cowbell-tolling group were bringing a much needed surprise with them. The group handed out $72,000 of grant money to teachers and staff throughout the day.

Grants 4 Great Ideas

The program is known as Grants 4 Great Ideas. Teachers have the opportunity to apply for a grant with the MFEF to receive money for a great idea they have for teaching. It’s the fifth year the foundation has awarded the grants.

It’s a way to help teachers grow their budget and encourages new ideas for teaching.

“We’re able to kind of up-the-ante a little bit and offer some really cool things to our students based on things that the teachers come up with,” Jeanna Jette, the executive director of MFEF, explained.

Every year, donors and school administrators walk the hallways during class to surprise the teacher with their grant money. This year, the grant dollars were going toward things like tools to help elementary kids learn math, instruments for the music department at the middle school, and a piece of technology that enhances the theatre productions for student plays.

A new type of chalkboard

One of the grant winners this year was 8th grade science teacher Dan Haggart, but he cannot take the all the credit for his idea. He tasked his students with a project to make playgrounds more inclusive by creating equipment that is accessible for kids of all abilities.

Two of his students, Brooke Nesrsta and Jennie Lynn, created an idea known as an outdoor chalkboard. It’s designed to allow kids of all abilities to enjoy making art outdoors. It’s even big enough for teachers to have their lessons outside.

“No matter what your ability level is you’ll be able to roll up to it or walk up to it and enjoy that outside,” Haggart explained.

Haggart liked the idea so much he wanted to actually make the outdoor chalkboard. The $4,785 in his grant will go toward the equipment needed to manufacture four of these chalkboards to be placed at MFISD school playgrounds.

Haggart said local Eagle Scouts will provide the free labor needed to make the boards as their service project.

“It’s a real privilege to have Marble Falls education foundation supporting our ideas and enriching the students,” Haggart said.