Teacher's grant puts iPads in hands of young Cape Elizabeth artists

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CAPE ELIZABETH — These days kids use technology in many aspects of their lives, whether for educational or recreational purposes.

At Pond Cove Elementary School, Maryjane Johnston has decided to incorporate iPads into the curriculum in a rather unlikely place – the art room.

“You can combine hands-on art with the research you do on an iPad,” Johnston, the school’s art teacher, said.

Johnston will be purchasing 10 iPad Minis with the $3,000 she was awarded by the Kate Libby Endowment Fund. After Libby, a local artist known for her calendars, died in 2005, an endowment was set up by her family to help fund “small, grassroots” organizations involving children.

Johnston was presented with a check on June 13 and will be telling the children about it at the start of the next school year. She said the iPads will be used to research art history, look at virtual tours of art museums, and draw, paint and build clay models using different applications.

“I’m showing them that iPads can be used to make art,” Johnston said. “You can use it like a paintbrush.”

David Bestes of Art for Everyday, a Kennebunkport-based company that prints Libby’s calendars and awards the endowment each year, said Johnston was chosen out of four applicants because of the unique way she plans to use the money.

“The way she plans to use (the iPads) is really a great way to supplement their education,” Bestes said.

Bestes said he likes that Johnston wants to bring something physical into the classroom that can be used for a long time, unlike the other applicants, whose requests weren’t as long lasting. Bestes also said Art for Everyday likes to use the endowment for “things that are often overlooked by the school budget.”

The money used for the endowment comes in part from donations made by Libby’s fan base. This is the third grant made by Art for Everyday, which has distributed over $10,000 to art projects and organizations.

Bestes said he thinks the iPads will be a great use of the endowment fund, especially considering the importance of technology for the future of the children.

“Things have changed, obviously,” he said. “For kids to be prepared for today’s world they have to have the right tools.”

In addition to the iPads, Johnston is also having a Kate Libby Technology Room set up in the art room. The Pond Cove Parents Association granted Johnston an additional $1,084 to be used for a rug, headphones, and iPad cases to be used in the technology room.

Johnston will also be hanging Libby’s art in the technology room, so the children will be reminded of who made the new additions possible for them.

“When I introduce (the iPads), I’ll definitely be telling them where they came from,” she said.

Bestes said he appreciates this and that it speaks to the “unique relationship” the calendar has with Cape Elizabeth schools. Bestes said the schools often sell them for fundraisers. Bestes said this makes this year’s endowment more meaningful.

“Because of that association with the calendar, we thought it was a great way to give back to the community,” he said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.