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2014 cohort of grantees

Tiffany barnes

1st Grade, Garden Hills Elementary School

Atlanta Public Schools

Project: Ready to Read

Over the years, Ms. Barnes noticed a need for appropriate reading materials for students who entered first grade below a first grade reading level. Her school uses Accelerated Reader as a motivation for reading, however, the school library and her classroom libraries were lacking Accelerated Reader books leveled between a .5 (the lowest level) and a 1.9.  ‘Ready to Read’ funded the purchase of 300 hard-bound books (a mix of fiction and non-fiction) that fell in this reading range. By working with Perma-Bound, Ms. Barnes purchased over 300 books that were already marked for Accelerated Reader levels, making it easy for the students to choose their own books and test successfully.  


On average, Ms. Barnes’ classes gained an entire grade reading level in a five month time span due to the motivation and excitement provided by Accelerated Reader. This project resulted in eighty three out of one hundred and twelve students achieving their reading goal and maintaining an 80% or higher score on their Accelerated Reading quizzes. This was the highest amount of students per grade for Garden Hills Elementary!

Tiffany Barnes

Andrew bowers

Chorus, Milton High School

Fulton County Public Schools

Project: Music/Technology Teacher Station

The booster club at Milton High School invested funds into student music and technology workstations, but they were not able to put money towards a teacher workstation that could unify the existing student workstations and allow for class-wide instruction and assessment in aural skills. Mr. Bowers used project funded a quality teacher music and technology station, including a laptop, keyboard/piano, and a workstation that helped aid all of his classes in their daily work.


‘Music/Technology Teacher Station’ helped to fill a need for more ways to easily integrate technology into the music classroom. There was a need for more ear training skills in the choral classroom and the set-up and software helped to make this happen. It aimed to help a listening skill deficiency. By having the teacher station in the room, Mr. Bowers was able to easily access the technology components and programs. With the use of Auralia and Musition, he was able to incorporate more listening into the classes - Especially for AP Music Theory.

Andrew Bowers

Katie carlson

2nd Grade, Garden Hills Elementary School

Atlanta Public Schools

Project: Learning Gardens

Garden Hills Elementary School had the remnants of an abandoned garden and students with little to no exposure to healthy eating and gardening. As a result of the Atlanta Families’ ‘Learning Gardens’ grant, Garden Hills Elementary now has 15 garden beds and an entire school that has transformed their instruction to incorporate the learning gardens.


The mission of the Learning Gardens Project was to help Garden Hills Elementary create, sustain, and use onsite gardens through plant-based learning, field trips, use of outdoor gardens, and plant activities in the classroom. In the process, students participated in activities that increased science knowledge, sharpened math skills, spurred literacy and support lessons in geography, writing, and social studies.


The outcomes of this project exceeded all of Ms. Carlson’s expectations. The learning gardens made learning exciting for both students and teachers. Allowing students to leave the walls of the classroom and learn through hands-on experiences in the dirt changed the climate of the school as a whole. Students started making healthier choices in the cafeteria because they were exposed to trying new things and realized how much work it takes to grow the fruits and vegetables that were being served. This project brought the entire school community together with a common goal and way to serve in the community.

Katie Carlson

Elizabeth emerson

1st Grade, Springdale Park Elementary School

Atlanta Public Schools

Project: Curriculum Integration

Prior to Ms. Emerson’s project, she taught curriculum in segmented chunks: reading, language arts, math, science, and social studies. Unfortunately, Ms. Emerson discovered that students were not able to retain the learning in this compartmentalized way. Often, they forgot much of the information they learned very soon after a topic ended. In addition, their limited class time prevented them from delving deeper into science and social studies curriculum.


‘Curriculum Integration’ allowed Ms. Emerson to integrate different core subject areas into cohesive, thematic units to maximize student interest, increase knowledge of science and social studies curricula, improve nonfiction reading abilities, and grow students’ abilities to solve real-world problems using a combined knowledge from all core subject areas. Research shows that students are most successful when they are able to combine their knowledge of individual curricula areas to solve real-world problems. This grant enabled Ms. Emerson to integrate these subject areas by providing students with differentiated, small-group reading materials focusing on science and social studies standards; high-interest, interactive instruments to bring these standards alive for the students; and valuable math literature to highlight the application of math to their lives.

Elizabeh Emerson

Nicole ford

STEM Education, Feldwood Elementary School

Fulton County Public Schools

Project: Geo-Learning Gardens

The main goal of creating ‘Geo-Learning Gardens’ was to provide nature-related learning that developed observation and problem-solving skills, science and math abilities, imagination, creativity, and collaboration between students, teachers, and stakeholders ensuring lifelong learning and student achievement.


Ms. Ford began with a “Garden Design Layout Contest”. Students and families measured the perspective garden space to help find area and perimeter and then created a digital garden layout. Ms. Ford then printed their designs and had the school, garden committee, Roots & Shoots volunteers, and PTA representatives vote on their favorite design. The students did such a fantastic job, that they decided to take the five top designers and create a “Garden Design Crew”. This crew designed the entire garden layout.


Another goal of this project was to incorporate nature as an integral part of children’s daily Learning. The classroom benefited students by enhancing established classroom curricula and academic standards through expanded year-round and place-based teaching opportunities. The program engaged and involved parents, students, local clubs and community businesses, and increased student, teacher and parent appreciation of environmental stewardship.

Nicole Ford

Jennifer freeman

7th Grade Science, KIPP STRIVE Academy

Atlanta Public Schools

Project: Lead @ STRIVE

There is a strong academic focus at KIPP STRIVE Academy but not a lot of opportunities for students to grow in social, emotional, and interpersonal areas. Ms. Freeman wanted to create a program focused on the character development of the schools’ scholars that didn’t have access to those opportunities.


By founding the 'LEAD @ STRIVE' program at KIPP STRIVE Academy, Ms. Freeman was able to select 12 students and expose them to opportunities and experiences used to shape their character. She used art, nature, and conversation to drive personal change and give students the opportunity to grow in ways that were not possible inside of the classroom. As the program began to take shape, she decided to focus more on the experiences that would lead to discussions about the type of character development she sought. Ms. Freeman and her students attended a performance of In The Heights, which lead to discussions of culture and global connectedness. She held an artist-in-residence workshop where students were taught how to paint a picture that resulted in conversations about openness, perseverance, support, and focus. Ms. Freeman finally ended with a weekend retreat in the Georgia Mountains where she and her students completed physical, mental, and emotional challenges that pushed them to change perspectives, redefine themselves, and set goals for the types of people they were becoming. Ms. Freeman plans to continue the program for years to come.

Jennifer Freeman
Chantrise Hollima

chantrise holliman 

English, Westlake High School

Fulton County Public Schools

Project: The I Am Project

Ms. Holliman's 'The I Am Project' sought to change the students' perception of their core subjects like English, Math, Biology, and Government at Westlake High School. Ms. Holliman discovered that her students felt forced to learn these subjects without understanding how they were relevant to their lives. The 'I Am Project' offered students the opportunity to study these subjects in the context of exploring the rich heritage from which they come. Students explored content acquired in 9th Grade Literature, Biology, Algebra, and American Government to accomplish this goal.

The 'I am Project' was inspired by a quote from Plato in Republic:

"Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind"

Ms. Holliman worked hard to allow her students to create knowledge in these core subject area for themselves by understanding how each subject pertained to their individual experience.

Celeste McNeil

celeste mcneil

5th Grade Writing, KIPP STRIVE Academy

Atlanta Public Schools

Project: Kindle the Fire of Reading

Although students are offered a top quality education at KIPP STRIVE Academy, the school does not have a library. Instead, English Language Arts teachers have a small collection of books in their classrooms from which students may borrow. The books are dilapidated. Duct tape binds their bridges. Pages are torn, tattered, or missing. These signs of wear and tear are not signs of mistreatment or vandalism, but rather the natural progression in the life of a book that passes through hundreds of hands. The 'Kindle the Fire of Reading' project aimed to address this very issue. Students need to be reading relentlessly, and by providing students with access to technology and literacy with Kindles, Ms. McNeil worked hard to ensure that they learn to love it, choose to do it, and feel confident in their ability to do it well.


While the bookshelf in Ms. McNeil’s classroom is still fairly sparse, hundreds of new books are just a tap away through the screens of her classroom Kindles. The Kindles are organized by both reading level and genre. For example, a student on a third grade reading level can pick up one of the two Kindles designated for this level, depending on whether he/she prefers fiction or nonfiction. Every book that he/she accesses is right at his/her learning level, and can therefore lend confidence and growth. Not only do the Kindles provide targeted reading, but also differentiation by way of personal choice. Students can read descriptions and reviews of the books, as well as get suggestions for other titles in which they might be interested. No longer are students constricted to reading a small handful of books that match their level, but they can peruse a large selection in a quick and exciting way.

Stephanie Johnson

stephanie johnson

Principal, Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School

Atlanta Public Schools

Project: Integration of Urban Agriculture Education and a Community Garden

Ms. Johnson’s ‘Integration of Urban Agriculture Education and a Community Garden' initiative was to support Maynard Jacksons’ school and community goal to create a rooftop community garden (which is a very beautiful field). Ms. Johnson used startup resources from the Atlanta Families’ Awards and Zeist to purchase supplies for the garden and storage for tools and garden equipment. A basic component of the garden is classroom and laboratory experiences which Ms. Johnson implemented through the schools’ science and engineering courses. Additionally, she incorporated an after school garden club with students and community volunteers to ensure all stakeholders had opportunities to become involved.


In the classroom and during garden club, students learned concepts and theories dealing with a broad spectrum of agricultural and agribusiness topics. They also learned to cook using the vegetables they grew in the garden. The sessions were followed by the laboratory mode of instruction (the garden placed on the roof and hydroponic stations built throughout the building) where concepts and theories were carried through to their application. Here, the students were taught “hands-on" skills that ensured that the skills learned were practical and usable. Both classroom and laboratory instruction were utilized in a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) component of the program. In this approach, students worked and learned in a real-life situation where they obtained on-the-job skills. This project was a major success!

Dan Sims

Dan Sims

Principal, Tri-Cities High School

Fulton County Public Schools

Project: Project Go Now

African-American young men continue to struggle more than other populations both with the transition to high school and persistence/graduation. The goal of ‘Project Go Now’ was to strengthen their ability to transition successfully into high school and increase graduation outcomes. This project focused on a select group of students that engaged in targeted transitional interventions prior to completing middle school. Mr. Sims believed that providing struggling middle school students with early exposure to high school would make their transition more smooth.


Fifty-three participants engaged in regular contact with the high school setting. Sessions included visiting classrooms, guided interactions with students on various academic and behavioral ranges, tours of the facility, specific sessions about the expectations of high school, and the overall building of strong relationships. The project also involved parents as part of the transition in order to build a proper home-to-school relationship.

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