From providing board games to middle school math students, to getting more microscopes in classrooms, to a Hispanic culture theater showcase, this year’s recipients of the W-JCC Schools Foundation’s Innovative Learning Grants offer a range of projects.
In what would be the organization’s fourth year of awarding grant money, $34,575.77 was distributed across 14 schools and the W-JCC Learning Lab, spread among 46 teachers and 24 grants.
“This year was different in a number of ways,” said Clarence Wilson, president of the Williamsburg-James City County Schools Foundation. “We saw an increase in group grants, that’s where one or more teachers pool their requests, but that’s good because it means we get to help a larger group of kids.”
Innovative Learning Grants are given to teachers to help promote and fund a higher level of teaching and education. Teachers draft proposals for grants, which they send to the foundation. If chosen, grant recipients are given up to $2,000 to implement their proposals. The money is given under the condition that it is only used for the recipient’s proposed idea, and that teachers may only request a specific grant once.
Kim Hundley, a kindergarten teacher at Stonehouse Elementary School, was the first teacher at her school to apply for the grant in 2017. She asked for $890 to allow for the purchase of an incubator and lab coats for her classroom so her students could observe, record and communicate the life cycle of a chicken.
“Growth and the development of animals is part of the SOLs, so that incubator gave me an excellent way to showcase that in the classroom,” Hundley said. “The kids got to watch the eggs and see them hatch, which was a really great visual, hands-on project, and of course the kids loved taking care of the baby chickens.”
This year was her third year applying for the Innovative Learning Grant, joining several other teachers at Stonehouse applying for a $2,000 grant to provide large styrofoam building blocks that students can build things with on the playground. Hundley said grants such as this are a tremendous aid to let out-of-the-box ideas into the classroom without breaking a teacher’s budget.
“It’s not only a great aid to our school, but the whole school system,” Hundley said. “It allows teachers to have these high-impact, high-concept ideas and gives them the resources to implement them, without teachers having to pay out of pocket.”
That was exactly the kind of impact they were looking for, according to Ginny Van Wicklin, vice president of the foundation’s grant committee. She went on to say that the types of grant proposals have also changed over the years.
“When we first started, we got a lot of flashy grant proposals, requests for things like iPads in the classroom, 3-D printers, virtual reality, all creative and all of which we were happy to approve,” Van Wicklin said. “This year, we had more reading programs, hands-on stuff like board games and outdoor classrooms, while less flashy, each is equally impactful as a 3-D printer or an iPad.”
One thing that hasn’t changed? The affect these grants can have on classrooms and schools, sometimes for years to come.
“A few years ago, Warhill High School and a few other schools used the grants to purchase 3D printers when those were still cutting edge,” said Van Wicklin. “Just a couple years later, there are students at Warhill using some of those same printers to compete in a contest from NASA, so the long-term impact of these grants cannot be dismissed.”
THE WINNING GRANTS
“Board” and Engaged: Using Board Games in Math Class: Dr. Mary H. Glisan, Berkeley Middle School
This grant aims to make the student more successful by using board games to engage small groups of students in math instruction. The goal is to keep students engaged while learning the concepts of math.
Mission: STEM-Possible!: Rhea Villanueva and Tonia Eriksen, Berkeley Middle School
This grant will bring technology to life through the use of micro bits, coding and robotic hardware, where the students can code to create LED animation, games and interactive stories among other things while learning to code
C-Pen and Beyond: Julie Hudson and Laura Treese, Berkeley Middle School
This grant provides for C-Pens which can scan text and convert it to speech, as well as give pronunciation and definitions for individual words.
Read & Relax (R&R) Massage Chair Program: Jenny Farley, Berkeley Middle School
This grant aims to increase reading literacy by creating an engaging and relaxing area for students to listen to books and practice reading, and to encourage reading in a structured environment that will not only increase fluency but also decrease anxiety.
No Opportunity Wasted (N.O.W.) Program: William Capers, Jr. and Eric Stone, James Blair Middle School
This grant will go toward funding a mentorship program that will provide young adults with purpose, direction and motivation while navigating middle school.
From Seed to Seed Laboratory Investigation: Jaclyn Miller, James Blair Middle School
This grant will use the Wisconsin Fast Plants program to give students an opportunity to grow plants from seed to mature plant in just one month, providing an immersive science laboratory experience.
Fostering First Language Literacy in the ESL Classroom: Ashley Miller, James Blair Middle School
This grant will create a classroom library that contains books in multiple languages, which will help ESL students gain the literacy they need to be successful in learning and understanding English.
Hygge Center: Laura Kuthy, Leigh Pottle and Lindsey Kravitz, James Blair Middle School
The primary goal of a Hygge center (pronounced “hoo-ga”) is to create an atmosphere of community, with the goal to create a welcoming and calm environment where students will feel comfortable opening up about vulnerable situations, decompress while waiting to see their counselor and work together on common activities.
Settlers to WJCC: Jack Winthrop and Evan Pfeiffer, Lois S. Hornsby Middle School
The board game “Settlers of Catan” will be given to 8th graders, allowing them to learn apply lessons in math and economics in a fun and engaging way.
Digital Recorder Support for Reading and Writing: Geri Farrell, J. Blaine Blayton Elementary School
This grant will provide for the student to hear sight words as recorded by the teacher which will be linked to numbered flashcards, and allow the student to be able to record their voice for the teacher to hear them pronounce the words on the flashcard.
I Can Read Now!: Ellen Frackelton, Clara Byrd Baker Elementary School
This grant will provide books designed to have lots of opportunities at problem-solving using sounds and patterns that some students may struggle with.
Sensory Library: Abby Reynolds, D. J. Montague Elementary School
This grant will provide a sensory library which will help increase student engagement and decrease their feelings of being overwhelmed, overstimulated and overloaded.
Engagement Takes Flight: Ann Vogt, Glenn Roettinger and Nicole Showah, D. J. Montague Elementary School
This grant will provide mini-drones that will be used in reading, math, and technology lessons in a unique and engaging way.
La Cultura Hispana: Understanding Hispanic Culture Through Theater: Alisa Smith, Harvey Stone, Tama Ferrara, Lynda Heath, Michaela Garrison and Abigail Neeley, Jamestown High School and Matoaka Elementary School
This grant brings together high school and elementary students giving them the opportunity to have a better awareness of aspects of the Hispanic world through a six-week period, after which they’ll perform a community-based, multicultural theater production.
Strength in Diversity: A Mirror and a Window in Every Classroom Library: Shayna Walker, Laurel Lane Elementary School
This will provide books for the classroom libraries that would give students “mirror and window” opportunities where they could choose reading level appropriate books that would have characters and situations more like themselves, and providing more diverse reading material to students.
Brain Building Through Music: Cynthia Campbell, Laurel Lane Elementary School
This will provide Orff instruments that can be used with songs, movement activities, rhythmic and metric exercises, as well as for reading and writing music.
STEAM Rolling: Advanced Engineering for Elementary Students: Diana Linkenaugher, Kris VanDeusen and Deborah Besnier, Matthew Whaley Elementary School
This will provide for a mobile STEAM classroom to be used by all grade levels with differentiated learning plans, giving all students more opportunities to actively engage in hands-on projects such as robots, vehicles, wind and solar energy and boats.
I Can See Clearly Now: Microscopes in the Elementary Science Class: Patricia Westmoreland, Matthew Whaley Elementary School
Microscopes will be provided to the students, who will have the opportunity to gain a close-up perspective of organisms and everyday objects not easily visible to the naked eye.
Taking Care of the Whole Learner: Maryann Balint and Julie Bonadonna, Norge Elementary School
This grant will provide a number of tools to help teachers support students who have trouble focusing in a classroom such as a Nature Hop Decal Set which includes numbers, counting pebbles, movement logs and arrows to be used in math.
Building Blocks for Future Engineers: Kimberley Hundley, Dawn Padden, Michelle Bonner, Amy MacDonald and Ronda Vickerton, Stonehouse Elementary School
This grant provides life-size building blocks that students can use to build with on the playground, allowing for more creative play during recess.
Leveled National Geographic Readers (Non-Fiction): Stacey Fields, Toano Middle School
This will provide National Geographic Ladders and Global Issues for the classroom so students can read at their own reading level.
Thinking Outside … No “Box” Required!: Kathryn Chall, Toano Middle School
This will provide an outdoor learning space for small groups, while retaining the garden already in place.
Digital Storytelling: Amy Wallisch and Monica Schauffler, Lafayette High School
This grant will provide digital equipment for use in digital storytelling which can be used in a variety of different subjects.
Pedal Your Way to Graduation: David Andre and Julie Bartolotta, W-JCC Learning Lab
This grant provides funding for several desk bikes, so the students can move while still getting necessary work done, letting students get physical activity while completing classwork.
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.