Five Lehighton Area School District faculty members received “innovation grants” for educational enhancements, board members of the Lehighton Education and Athletic Foundation announced recently.

Tim Tkach, LEAF secretary and Lehighton’s director of curriculum, instruction and grants, said the fundraising organization gave grants to five of nine applicants.

“We were really thrilled with the response this year,” Tkach said. “Last year, we only had one applicant, so the word certainly got out and it was a successful process.”

Melissa Volcskai, an instructional technology coach, and Angela Harris, K-4 librarian, received $800 to start a “maker space.”

“It’s essentially an area in the school for children to be creative,” Volcskai said.

Maker spaces are popping up in schools around the country. Districts have used them for such things as building a rocket station out of LEGOS or Kinex, robotics projects, and simply doodling on a whiteboard.

“We’ll incorporate a lot of different activities, but it really centers around the STEAM concept, which puts the focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts and math,” Harris said.

Suzanne Cordes, a reading specialist, used a $1,000 grant to bring author Twig George to Franklin Elementary on March 7.

“We read one of Twig’s stories in our reading book and thought it would be a great idea to try and get her to the school,” Cordes said. “The event will be an extension of our Read Across America celebration.”

A K-12 ESL teacher, Lisa Steigerwalt is using her $379 for a field trip to the DaVinci Science Center in Allentown.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity because a lot of our ESL students don’t have the chance to go there so it will be a great experience for them,” she said.

Mark Maholick, middle school teacher and fly fishing club adviser, received $400 for a fly fishing program.

Hallie Seiwell, middle school language arts teacher, used $245 for supplies to enhance a board game she uses for her students.

After a grant application is submitted, it is reviewed by the LEAF innovative grant committee. Applications are distributed to educators during November, and all applications for grants must be returned to the grant selection committee by Dec. 18. The grant committee makes the final selection, and the approved grants are awarded by Feb. 1.

Classroom grants are made possible through fundraising conducted by LEAF, teachers’ payroll deduction, staff payroll deduction, administration payroll deduction and donations from local businesses and individuals.