3 Montana schools competing for May One School at a Time contest

Posted at 4:05 PM, Apr 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-30 18:05:29-04

BILLINGS – It’s the last month of the school year, which means one more chance for three area schools to win grant money for their pet projects.

Cloud Peak Energy and KTVQ are once again teaming up for the May One School at a Time, a program designed to help improve schools and communities.

Yellowstone Academy in Billings would like to purchase art materials for its summer art program to explore different mediums each day.

"We like to take an exploratory based approach to education and foster creativity, and art is definitely one of those key concepts into that mission that we’re trying to accomplish," art teacher Baylee Riley said. 

The art program gives students a positive outlet.

"These kids have not done well in a lot of their classes outside of the Yellowstone Academy. So coming in here and having the freedom to create, be themselves, express themselves, and not having the black and white, this is right, this is wrong. Art is a lot more grey, and they can fit into their different styles and their ideas and their emotions," Riley said. 

Creating gives students a sense of pride, she added.

"It’s a great coping mechanism for a lot of the students to just get outside of their own brains and just be in the moment on what they’re doing and what they’re creating. And just put everything else aside and possibly create something that’s really beautiful and meaningful," Riley said.

Sidney’s West Side Elementary School would like to purchase pottery and clay supplies.

"Arts actually play a huge role in problem solving and critical thinking in that creativity aspect that kids are going to need as they go on and become engineers or mathematicians or scientists or work in the technology field," teacher Jennifer Baker said. 

Art gives the students freedom to express themselves.

"And so it’s not just an academic process. It’s an emotional process that they can connect to what they’re doing, and I think that’s so important. And it’s great to give them an opportunity to just kind of go with it," Baker said.

The hope is that as they immerse themselves in their work, the lessons last longer.

"But if you’re building something with your hands making a wire sculpture, or you’re making a pinch pot, or creating a sculpture out of clay, those are things that not only the kids are going to remember, but it’s the things that the parents are going to keep on their mantles," Baker said. 

Colstrip’s Pine Butte Elementary School would like to use wobble stools for first-grade students. The stools allow students natural movement and benefit balance and core strength.

"I think that sometimes we forget that they’re children. We forget that they’re 6 years old, 7 years old, and we expect them to sit for hours at a time, and even as adults we get exhausted from sitting," teacher Nikki Barrett-Melin said. 

The stools allow for students to focus on their task, rather than a need to wiggle.

"We are doing what we can to better the education of every child, and we’re looking at optional ways to reach every student in our school, and our goal is that every kid continues to learn no matter what, and if you need to fidget and move, then we have a seat for you, and you’re very welcome to be here," Barrett-Melin said. 

Donations can be made to help any of the school’s projects. To vote, or donate, log on to