Innovative Teaching Grants Follow Up Stories
Each spring the Lawrence Schools Foundation rewards teachers and classrooms with funding to support Innovative Teaching Grants. Each year teachers are encouraged to apply for these grants to enhance the educational experience of their students. Grants are awarded to teachers who implement innovative and unique programs or projects for their students that enrich learning, result in increased student achievement and engage students in critical thinking and problem solving.
A majority of the funding of this grant program comes from proceeds from the annual Foundation Follies, communtiy Education Breakfast and private donors.
Here are a few grants in motion!
Christina Smith, Quail Run
What were you doing in fourth grade? Probably not collaborating with a classroom of students in Mexico to design solar-powered flashlights, but that is what Christina Smith’s fourth-grade class at Quail Run Elementary did this year.
Smith received an Innovative Teaching Grant from the Lawrence Schools Foundation and enrolled her students in an eight-week Global Inventors course through Level Up Village, a program that facilitates global STEAM collaboration between students from around the world.
Smith’s students teamed up with a class in Mexico and through the eight-week session, students spent two-four hours per week completing their coursework, planning, collaborating and working with computer-aided design software.
The students communicated with their counterparts in Mexico during the process.
“Students learned about a global issue that many people in other countries experience: unreliable access to electricity,” Smith said. “After exploring the issue, students learned how to use the engineering design cycle to develop a solution to this problem.”
After learning about software and 3D printing, the students designed and created their own solar-powered flashlights, which will be created on a 3D printer. The grant paid for the printer, as well as the tuition for the class. Smith’s students will print 28 flashlights.
“Students have learned about their partners and their partner’s country, which have helped to build global competency and empathy,” Smith said.
Smith said her students have gained a great world view through the project.
“It was amazing to see the cross-cultural connections being made as students got to know their partners,” Smith said. “I think most students thought they wouldn’t see many commonalities with their partners, but the more they got to know one another, the more they realized they had in common.
“The project also encouraged students to look past their immediate environment at some of the real-world issues that are going on around them,” she added. “For example, we had originally been partnered with a school in Zimbabwe, but when all of the political unrest took place last November, our partners were unable to finish the course. That was an eye-opening experience for many as we tried to imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes. It also helped students see that even though they are kids, they can still problem solve and make a difference.”
Cooking In The Classroom
Maren Santelli, Mike Hymer, Jennifer Rapp, Lawrence High School
For students in the Emotional Disabilities program at Lawrence High School, school can be a difficult experience. Depending on students' level of disability, their behaviors can keep them out of most regular classrooms and away from the regular student body.
“The students’ educational program is very individualized,” explained LHS social worker Maren Santelli. “Some students stay in this room all day long, while some students go to a few (regular) classes.”
Santelli and special education teachers Mike Hymer and Jennifer Rapp applied for and received an Innovative Teaching Grant from the Lawrence Schools Foundation to provide these students the opportunities for “Cooking In The Classroom.”
“As the social worker I am always looking for ways to do more life skills and social skills instead of always just academics,” she said. “Our kids definitely have a need for that, especially because they are almost adults and they need to learn independent living skills.”
Enter the grant from the Foundation, which is adding some life skill opportunities for the students. The grant provided the equipment needed for the project, such as a crock pot, a double-burner hot plate, mixing bowls, dishes, utensils, etc…, as well as a storage cabinet to house these items and non-perishable food items.
Each week a student gets to cook. The process starts with students working with the instructors on deciding on a dish to prepare, finding a recipe, making a grocery list, shopping for the needed ingredients, staying under budget, cooking the meal, and cleaning up afterwards.
“They are learning about having to stick to a budget, follow a recipe, general cooking skills, washing your hands - a lot of these kids don’t cook at home and sit down and have meals together,” Santelli said. “They are able to see something through, be able to eat it and share with others.”
The first week a student made a chicken alfredo pasta. The second week featured Korean beef in a crock pot. Last week marked the third student’s turn. He chose to make a mac and cheese dish.
“It is a five-star recipe – a casserole mac and cheese - but I am going to make it six star,” he said proudly and confidently.
Under supervision the student followed the recipe, browned the ground beef, mixed the ingredients and baked the casserole. He was asked what the coolest part of being able to cook was for him.
“You get to create it yourself,” he said. “The way I cook, I make it artistic. I watch all the cooking shows. I see it as an art form. I need to learn to cook. People need to learn to cook so they can survive properly.”
For Santelli and staff, this life-skill project is a hit.
“We don’t see problem behaviors when they involved with this activity like we might when we try to get them to do math or something like that,” she said.
And the result of the third student’s cooking? “He was so proud,” Santelli said. “He wanted everyone to sample his food. We packed up the leftovers for him to take home to his family.”
Telephoto Zoom Lenses For DSLR Cameras
Shari Flakus, Erika Waller and Jennifer Scotten, South Middle School
Everyone can take a photo with their smart phones these days, but students who sign up for electronic media photography classes at South Middle School, get to use more than their phones. Much more.
Two years ago teacher Shari Flakus received a Lawrence Schools Foundation Innovative Teaching Grant to purchase some digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras for her class. This spring she, Erika Waller and Jennifer Scotten were awarded another ITG which provided telephoto lenses to go with the cameras.
“This has allowed students to take their photography skills even farther as they learn about depth of field and how different lenses can create dramatic photos, even when far away from the subject,” Flakus said. “They are amazed at the quality when they compare their work to pictures they take with their i-pads or cell phones.”
The opportunity to use quality cameras and lenses has been eye-opening for the students.
“Telephoto lenses really made me realize my love for photography,” student Evan Bannister said. “Before this class, I had no clue how amazing photography could be.”
“I love using the DSLR cameras and the telephoto lenses,” added Sarah Derby. “I feel very lucky and grateful that we have the privilege to use them.”
The cameras and lenses are used for a variety of purposes at South as students shoot nature photos, portraits, and school sporting events among other things. However, more than photography and creative skills are being learned in the class according to Flakus. She explained how the students work both in groups and independently. and how well they treat the equipment with respect.
“An unexpected outcome from the use of the cameras and lenses is the growth in maturity that the students have towards the class," Flakus said. "Not only are students learning photography skills, they are learning how to be responsible, respectful young people, which is my ultimate goal as a teacher."
Building Proficiency Brick By Brick
Karen Gipson and Amanda Williams, Free State High School
Free State High School world language teachers Karen Gipson (French) and Amanda Williams (Spanish) received an Innovative Teaching Grant for their project Building Proficiency Brick by Brick. The grant money allowed them to purchase LEGO storytelling sets to help students enhance their speaking, listening, reading, writing and comprehension skills as they engage in oral storytelling and creative writing through hands-on language activities designed to build proficiency brick by brick.
The sets provide multiple opportunities to engage in teamwork, communication and collaboration and are being put to use this fall.
Gipson said her French 2 students are learning about rooms and furniture and prepositions of location. The LEGOS provide a fun way to increase their proficiency in the target language.
“Each group built a room of a house and then we did a gallery walk in which students were able to study the creations of the other groups and then wrote descriptive sentences about each one,” she said.
The kits will also be used by French 1 students, as well as Spanish students this fall.
More To Come...