Math, English, history…these are all subjects that are vital to the educational experience. However, other subjects can prove to be just as important as they inspire students to get in touch with their creative side or turn their eyes to the sky to observe all the vastness and beauty it has to offer. Ms. Panik of Creekview High School and Mr. Akins of River Ridge High School recognize the importance of these opportunities and have created space for students to put down the textbooks and apply what they've learned in class. 

Mary Panik Brings the Universe to Her Students' Fingertips 

When was the last time you stopped and looked at the stars? It may just seem like a dark sky with some shining objects randomly dispersed, but when you stop to really look, you'll start to see more stars that seem to come out of nowhere. You'll notice planets, constellations, and the moon in a way that is different from your typical glances to the sky as you walk inside. For Ms. Mary Panik's students, they got to spend some time enjoying all that there is to see thanks to the telescope that Ms. Panik purchased with Impact Grant funds. 

These students have been learning how to use a telescope as part of their class so when it came time to operate a more advanced telescope, they were ready for the challenge. It was Ms. Panik's hope that as students learned to appreciate all there was to see in the sky, that they would share this love for the stars with their friends and family members. Since Ms. Panik was able to purchase a telescope with an electronic tracking device, the students were able to observe the deep sky for objects such as galaxies and nebulae. 

CCEF Executive Director, Lisa-Marie Haygood, was even able to attend the night lab in January. Haygood stated, "It was so exciting to get to spend time with Ms. Panik and her students. They have a great grasp of the stars and skies and can locate so many constellations and explain the configurations and distances – their enthusiasm is contagious. The astronomy club will get many years of enjoyment and learning from their new telescope, and I really appreciate them allowing me to experience it." 

Don't forget to take a moment to look at the stars! 

Chris Akins Aids Students with Photoshop Applications 

Photoshop is a skill that is useful in a variety of industries but isn't necessarily an easy skill to pick up. Mr. Akins is giving his students at River Ridge High School an incredible leg up as he teaches them how to use Photoshop in a variety of professional applications. Students have been working together as they experiment with colorizing, the value scale, texturizing, finishing touches, line work, and more. This will ultimately result in the students sharing their work on a public webpage along with a description of their process and their interpretation of their work. Some examples of work they may do include: 

  • A children's book composition
  • Web-comic or traditional comic
  • Concept art for character design for movie or video game
  • Arrange elements of art into a digital composition
  • Working with layers

You can see artwork from Cassie Ellenberger (10th grade) and Dulce Vasquez (12th grade) on the right. Cassie stated, "Doing digital art was an exciting new experience because I got to experiment in ways impossible on paper such as color and texture." 

We're so proud of Mr. Akins and his students! 

Real-Life Applications 

Both Ms. Panik and Mr. Akins are helping students develop skills that will serve them well in life both personally and professionally. We're so thankful to see both of these projects coming to life as the students reap the benefits. Well done, Ms. Panik and Mr. Akins! 

If you're a teacher and would like to apply for a rapid grant for immediate, smaller needs click here!