Marcy Sobotka, a first-grade teacher at Northeast Nodaway Elementary School, has received a $200 grant through WGU Missouri’s “Fund My Classroom” initiative.

The grant will be used to purchase four African-dwarf frogs and their necessary supplies, providing Sobotka’s students with emotional support and real-life learning opportunities. Sobotka learned she was selected for the grant in May when WGU staff surprised her with a check presentation at her school.

Sobotka strives to equip her first grade students with various coping skills and provide them with opportunities to help support their emotional needs. She believes one way to help her students regulate their emotions is by having African dwarf frogs in the classroom as pets. The frogs live in water and create a stimulating, yet calming, view as they swim and glide about. Students who need to calm their emotions can direct their attention to the frogs and self-regulate. She believes the frogs can also provide her students with several learning opportunities, including life cycles, responsibilities of caring for animals and ecosystems. The grant Sobotka received from WGU Missouri will be used to purchase four African-dwarf frogs and all their needed supplies, including food, a tank and related accessories such as a hood, lights, pump, decorations and plants.

The innovative classroom project is one of 50 across Missouri chosen by WGU Missouri to receive funding. The nonprofit, fully online university issued a call in March for K-12 teachers across the state to nominate proposed classroom projects for the opportunity to receive full or partial funding through its “Fund My Classroom” initiative. Sobotka’s proposal is one of almost 200 nominations received statewide. Most grants were awarded during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-6.