The SLP Public Schools Foundation is pleased to present the recipients of the 2017-18 Innovative Classroom Grants.
Sixteen grant awards totaled $52,674 and focus on STEM (55%), Reading (23%), the Arts (14%), and Transitions (6%).
Middle School Science Department: Science Skills are Life Skills
Nearly every student at St. Louis Park Middle School now has access to materials that engage them in rigorous lab investigations and engineering design projects. A new science curriculum is being implemented over the next two years, that will replace curriculum that is 20 years old. The $10,000 grant from the SLPPSF is being used to purchase state of the art equipment such as: microscopes, heart models, a tremor table, fossilization kits, 3D printers, digital balances, and sling psychrometers. The new curriculum, along with the enhanced equipment, will provide students with opportunities to manipulate their environment to understand abstract concepts instead of relying solely on text to learn about them. Students will also develop critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaborative skills as they work with peers. Most importantly, students will be able to make connections to the relevance of science in their everyday lives!
St. Louis Park High School Action Team
An Instructional Leadership & Development Program/Social Action Team is being developed for students in grades 10-12 at St. Louis Park High School. Students will explore transformational leadership and social action opportunities in the school and community. These activities will be youth directed, and the specifics of the quarterly activities are still under development. Some examples could include “The Kindness Rocks Project.” This project will inspire others to try random acts of kindness, by randomly placing rocks with encouraging messages written on them for students to stumble upon. Those who find the kind rocks would then place them for others to find, continuing the random acts of kindness. The project serves 15-25 students in grades 10-12. The grant will provide money for transportation and guest speakers.
High Interest-Low Lexile Books for ESL Reading Students
ESL learners at Susan Lindgren Elementary can now use classroom sets of books by renowned Minnesota author, Gary Paulsen. The grant is also enhancing small group reading activities using high interest/low lexile books.
Audiobooks for Struggling Readers
The purchase of a school/institutional membership to Learning Ally is giving struggling high school readers access to narrated audiobooks with “voice text” (text is highlighted as audio is heard). This resource is a way to build reading success. As many as 280 students qualify for use of the program. Reading is a critical component for all academic success and this program reaches out to students who most need the support.
Building and Design: Flower Boxes at the High School
This grant pairs students from the Learning Disabilities Math class with Developmentally Cognitively Disabled (DCD) students and the woodworking class. They are collaborating to design flower boxes, build them, and use a budget to determine what will need to be purchased in terms of dirt/flowers/vegetables etc. SLD math students will put their skills in a geometry unit to practical use as they create a design for flower boxes that can be placed outside the school(s). The SLD math class will collaborate with the Woodworking class to have the flower boxes built to size. The DCD students will then apply basic budgeting skills to determine what and how much can be purchased based on given amounts of money. Planting of the boxes will be completed during the students' plants unit in Science class. Together, multiple student groups will work together to use their academic skills in a practical way. The flower boxes will be on display to show student work.
Culturally Relevant Literature at Peter Hobart
A large selection of guided reading books that are culturally relevant have been purchased for reading instruction at Peter Hobart Elementary. The books are being used to build foundational and comprehension skills for kindergarten through second grade students. The books also provide black, brown and indigenous students with materials that reflect their culture, while at the same time, benefitting white students by giving them multiple perspectives on life.
Being A Writer
The Being a Writer program is being implemented at Susan Lindgren Elementary. The program provides a writing-process approach to teaching writing that interweaves academic and social-emotional learning for students and professional development for teachers. Students will use authentic children's literature and learn to work in a collaborative environment. The curriculum will facilitate student discussion, the respectful exchange of ideas, and help students develop their own voice. This program will build on and support the skills being used in the current curriculum materials in Making Meaning and Being a Reader.
Using Spoken Word Poetry and Rap to examine Minority Group Cultures
Seventy students enrolled in the new 12th Grade U.S. History of Minority Groups and Cultures course now have an opportunity to work with local slam poet and rap artist, Toussaint Morrison. Students will work for one week with a rap artist to write and perform original work which analyzes an event from U.S. History and connects it to our present and future, through the lens of race and equity. The students will emerge from this project with a greater sense of purpose in terms of U.S. History, racial equity, their role in the future of America on its journey towards unity and with the ability to write and perform a spoken word poem.
P.I.E. (Partners in Education) Nights
Second Grade students and their parents/guardians in all of the four elementary schools will have an opportunity to attend P.I.E. Nights that are offered throughout the year. The events provide free books to students and provide resources to parents/guardians that promote learning and reading at home. The collaborative efforts of all district second grade teachers has the added benefit of team building and resource sharing. The grant makes it possible to purchase books with multiple perspectives and reading levels. Strengthening the school/home relationship is a known strategy for improving student achievement.
50-60 second through fifth grade students will participate in a musical production at Aquila Elementary School. The grant will provide quality body microphones and other costs related to the production. No participation fees are required to ensure that any student can be a part of this creative outlet. Students can find success while practicing fluency and expression of language. Visual and performing arts are often a way for students who find other aspects of school difficult to thrive. The musical will be in production from January until the performance dates in March.
Enhancing Innovation: PSI Makerspace
This grant provides funding to purchase materials for a “Makerspace” as an extension of the Park Spanish Immersion Media Center. This space will have extensive materials where students and staff members can gather, collaborate, tinker, create, and explore. The space will also provide enhanced differentiation to foster opportunities to ignite students’ interest and increase motivation. These activities will build problem solving skills as students fully engage in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) tied to Minnesota state outcomes. The grant will fund materials and staff development resources.
Smart Music in the Classroom at the Middle School
This grant is being used to purchase the Smart Music composition software and Finale software programs. A dedicated microphone system will also be purchased. Students can record themselves playing with the music being worked on in class. They can also hear the other parts in the band as they play. The grant will reach all band students in grades 6-8. This technology will allow learning to be tailored to each individual musician.
Engineering and Fab Lab
This grant allowed the High School to purchase two SLA (3D) printers and start up supplies for the combined science, engineering, Fab Lab and Robotics curriculum. Students use CAD to design custom parts to function with their Lego(TM) pieces to create a robot capable of navigating through a maze. Students can use the SLA to print models and a variety of objects that can be used in Robotics projects. Learners benefit greatly from the SLA printers as they see their design go from the abstract on the computer to a functioning prototype in hours. The cutting-edge technology is an example of real world applications in the classroom.
Arts Integration at PSI
This grant is being used by classroom teachers at PSI to develop fine arts lessons that are incorporated into the existing integrated units, grades K-5. Lessons include visual arts, music, theater, and maybe even dance! Staff will collaboratively gather materials and co-teach lessons with a lead teacher. The lessons will have connections to the existing curriculum, will focus on cultural and racially-conscious topics, and will address the state fine arts standards. This project allows students to learn about different forms of art from Spanish-speaking countries and other cultures. This aligns with PSI's goal of creating global citizens with an appreciation for diversity. Research shows that student learning is enhanced by the skills that the arts foster: creativity, patience, imagination, cooperation, risk-taking, planning, and countless others.