A group of ninth-grade math teachers at St. Paul's Washington Technology Magnet School will have another opportunity next year to help students build relationships with their counterparts in Masaka, Uganda.

The North End area teachers are repeat recipients of inspired educator grants announced recently by the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation. The awards total $29,470 and are being given to teachers at 12 schools for use in the 2016-17 school year.

The grants are designed to encourage critical thinking and artistry among students as well as creativity and innovation among teachers.

The Washington Technology project seeks to expand on a previous effort in which students used their iPads to communicate with Ugandan students to share numerical data about their respective cultures. The 2016-17 update will include creation of a film showing how the students analyzed culture through data.

Students at Battle Creek Elementary and Murray Middle School also will use district-issued iPads in projects funded by the foundation. Battle Creek students will learn about sustainable agriculture while Murray students will work to develop a speaker they can plug into their iPads.

But the grants are being put to more traditional uses, too.

At Groveland Park Elementary, Regan Fox, a first-grade teacher, will use her grant to purchase Rekenreks for her first grade class. The foundation said Rekenreks are similar to an abacus and are excellent tools for teaching number sense to elementary-aged children.

Other projects being funded include the transformation of an "unsightly patch of dirt and weeds into a Japanese style garden" at Parkway Montessori and Community School and the creation of a sensory room to be used to help calm students at Ramsey Middle School, the foundation said.

Battle Creek Elementary also will see separate foundation-funded projects involving birds and bugs.

The grants ranged from $600 to $3,000, a foundation spokesman said.