COEUR d’ALENE — Third-graders with an abundance of energy wiggled and scurried beneath a rainbow parachute in Lisa Blattstein's P.E. class this week in the Winton Elementary gym.
Soon, they'll be able to harness that energy and channel it up and across a new climbing wall that will be installed in the gym by the end of the year, thanks to nearly $4,600 in grant funding from the Excel Foundation.
"I’m really excited for my students," Blattstein said.
The climbing wall will provide Blattstein with more ways to keep her students active as they develop upper-body strength and coordination, and she plans to integrate goal-setting, spelling, math and other disciplines into their climbing exercises. She wanted a climbing wall because a majority of the school's students are in the free and reduced lunch population, so many don't get a lot of opportunities to experience something like this. Using a climbing wall will also help them challenge themselves, attain new skills and strengthen their confidence.
The grant was titled "Helping Kids Ascend."
"This is to provide them with the experience that a lot of the other schools get because they already have climbiing walls," she said. "It just allows me another avenue for what to do with my students."
Blattstein and educators across the Coeur d'Alene School District were notified last week that Excel awarded 79 grants totaling more than $200,500 to fill needs schools otherwise can't afford. The grants will help build activity rooms, buy musical instruments, fund field trips, pay for art supplies and help teachers give children the best possible education.
"I’m just really proud to be a part of it and make a difference in kids in 271’s lives," said Excel Foundation President Danielle Quade, who has three kids in the district. "It's a really good way to give back and to model philanthropic behavior to them."
The Excel Foundation funds grants to teachers for innovative classroom projects in the Coeur d'Alene School District that otherwise would not be funded with school dollars.
"It’s a tremendous opportunity for teachers to tap into," Blattstein said. "A lot of times teachers don’t (apply for grants) because they’re taxed and it’s time consuming, but it's a great opportunity for teachers to get more than the district can provide financially. They're just a tremendous foundation."
Quade said the funds are granted through donations and from Excel's endowment fund, which was started when the organization was formed 33 years ago.
"The founders wanted something that would go on forever," she said.
This is the first year Excel has been able to grant more than $200,000. Also this year, the foundation will exceed $2 million in giving.
"The community really supports Excel and the mission of Excel, which is amazing," Quade said.
Community members will gave the opportunity to show even more support Nov. 9 during Excel's main fundraiser, The Big Event, in the Best Western Plus Coeur d'Alene Inn. The evening will feature a lively social hour, a sit-down dinner, auctions and raffles. Tickets are $75 each or $520 for a table of eight.
"It’s casual, and people just really enjoy it," Quade said. "They have a lot of time to talk to each other and celebrate Excel."
Buy tickets online at www.excelfoundation.org or by calling 208-929-2785.