HELENA – The Helena Education Foundation is helping teachers around the Helena School District to introduce classroom enhancements and special opportunities for students.

HEF is presenting 11 Great Ideas Grants this week, totaling more than $25,000. The grants will support everything from community gardens and robotics projects to educational trips.

One grant will help students at the Project for Alternative Learning learn to share their experiences through podcasts. HEF awarded PAL art teacher Jeri Rittel a $2,500 grant during a presentation Tuesday morning. MTN meteorologist Curtis Grevenitz was also on hand to help present the award, which was co-sponsored by Cordillera Communications.

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Rittel and English teacher Renee Driessen will use the grant to put together the special “Podcast of Our Lives” class. Over three weeks, students will work together with longtime professional journalist Clay Scott, learning interview skills and how to record, edit and produce podcasts.

Rittel said it will be valuable to give the students the opportunity to tell their own experiences.

“All of these kids have really interesting stories,” she said.

Lisa Cordingley, executive director of the Helena Education Foundation, said she thinks podcasting can appeal to students in a different way.

“It uses their generation’s ‘fireside chats,” she said.

The projects supported by this year’s Great Ideas Grants will serve about 1,500 students, ranging from kindergarten to high school.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do,” Cordingley said.