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Mill Creek Foundation gift to benefit 'Hands on Habitats'

John Campbell

John Campbell

HOSCHTON — Julie Hitt’s dream was to bring a miniature Fernbank Museum to Puckett’s Mill Elementary.

On Tuesday morning, the Mill Creek Cluster Foundation made that dream a reality with a $7,500 grant for Hitt to expand her resources to teach students about Georgia’s habitats and creatures. Starting with third-graders, the grant is designed to expand throughout the school as Hitt’s room features animal skulls, skins and two acquariums.

“We’re going to get everybody to help out research and provide information,” Hitt said. “As each grade level can use this lab as a hands-on habitat, and really get excited about it.”

The donation is the largest individual grant in the foundation’s nine-year history as it’s donated nearly $110,000 to benefit about 11,800 students in the Mill Creek cluster, MCCF vice president Julie Cunningham said.

Because the habitats and creatures are popular with students around Puckett’s Mill, Hitt said she looked forward to sharing the grant with them.

“I know that they’ll be excited,” she said. “I have kids dropping in my room all the time, that’s why I’m so excited I can share it, because it really touches the science and social studies curriculum of every grade level.”

The foundation also awarded Osborne Middle Principal John Campbell with its “Partner in Education” award as Campbell was a local pioneer for education foundations that now stretch across Gwinnett County. In his 38th year in education, Campbell said education is his passion, and these foundations are an extension of that.

“I wanted to make sure the spark for creativity and innovation stays alive in our schools,” Campbell said. “The teachers have lots of good ideas, and many times they don’t have the funds to implement those ideas. The Foundation not only gives the funds, but it gives the courage for teachers to step outside the box and try innovative and different things that keep the spark of learning alive in our schools.”

The president of the MCCF, Steve Agee, said Campbell is an inspiration for future teachers, and had a direct influence on the foundation.

Other award recipients were Dee Debold and Rick Milleman of the Jones Middle Robotics Department, which received $867.90, and Whitney Young of Ivy Creek Elementary to use $282.50 for science dissections.

Organizers of the breakfast said the grants and donations were made possible because of events like the recent MCCF Gala at Chateau Elan, which raised about $28,000.