The lights were turned off in Lee Ann Silence’s sixth-grade science classroom at Brownstown Central Middle School.

The only light came from the strings of Christmas lights zigzagging across the ceiling and the interactive whiteboard in front of the classroom.

On the morning of Nov. 30, two men with an oversized check walked into the dark classroom. Silence had no idea what was going on.

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Andy Ball, owner/operator of Brownstown McDonald’s, and Todd Stinson, a general manager with McDonald’s, were there to present Silence with a $500 Make Activities Count grant on behalf of McDonald’s Restaurants of Central Indiana.

Middle school teachers all over the country can apply for a MAC grant of up to $500 to purchase items that will be used for interesting, educational, hands-on activities for their students.

Silence smiled and gave two thumbs-up upon hearing the news.

“I was like, ‘Yes, I finally got one,’” she said. “I know for some people $500 isn’t a lot, but when you’re in education, that is a ton.”

Silence said she learned about the grant opportunity through a flier in her mailbox at school. She had applied for the grant in the past, but this was her first time she received it.

She filled out the application in September, explaining what she needed, why she needed it and what it would cost. Paper and online applications are available, and each owner/operator receives applications from another area and helps select recipients.

“They said you would be notified either Oct. 14 or Nov. 14, so I just thought I didn’t get it,” she said. “Then they came in and surprised me. It was just great. I was really excited.”

McDonald’s Restaurants of Central Indiana has offered the grants to teachers for 16 years, and advertising dollars help fund the grants. That restaurant group consists of 162 locations from as far north as Lafayette to as far south as Brownstown.

Silence was one of more than 40 middle school teachers in 28 Indiana counties receiving a grant. This was the third straight year a teacher from Brownstown received a grant.

Silence said she plans to put her money toward purchasing balances for her students to use in science lab projects. Those cost $350 apiece.

“In the standards in sixth grade, they still have to be able to calibrate and read a balance,” she said. “Mine that I have right now, they are over 25 years old.”

She said that, in the past, the school corporation has purchased a few balances every five to 10 years.

“I have some that are just so old that I tell the kids, ‘As long as it’s within five to 10 grams, I’m OK with it,’” Silence said. “At that point, I want it to be for the practice. But I’ve never been able to actually use it for measuring the correct mass of things because they are just so off.”

The perfect lab setting would include 12 balances, she said.

“I always use them when we are studying matter because we have several labs in which they have to mass whatever they are working with,” she said. “I don’t use a lot of chemicals, but we use it to mass maybe salt or we’ll use it to mass different items for density when we have to have the mass and the volume.”

Silence said the balances are used throughout the school year.

“At their age, it’s the skill of learning how to use the lab equipment — the skill of learning how to read the amount on the balance or the volume in the graduated cylinder and learning what to do with the data they are collecting,” she said. “One of my biggest goals is helping them get ready for the science classes at the high school.”

Earlier this school year, Brownstown Central High School’s science department received a $25,000 grant from America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, presented by Monsanto. Science and engineering teachers

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Make Activities Count grants from McDonald’s

This program is for middle school teachers (Grades 6 through 8) across the country. Locally, grants are presented through McDonald’s Restaurants of Central Indiana.

Only complete applications, with itemized budgets, will be considered.

All activities must take place on school property.

All checks will be made payable to the school.

Grants may be submitted for up to but should not exceed $500.

Only one application per teacher may be submitted.

This year’s application period is closed. Check back with macgrants.com for the next opportunity to apply.