2016 cohort of Grantees
3rd Grade, Feldwood Elementary School
Fulton County Public Schools
Project: Engaging Learning for All
Bored students don’t learn. Bored and frustrated teachers struggle to teach. ADHD students and most 21st century learners need stimulation to thrive. The purpose of this project was to meet the needs of active learners by supporting teachers in their endeavor to infuse innovative teaching strategies. ‘Engaging Learning for All’ developed visual media of Ms. Bridges’ teacher-made songs and then developed a workshop for educators to learn how to implement these songs in their classrooms. Ms. Bridges created her songs using frameworks designed to engage kinesthetic, visual, audio, and linguistic learners simultaneously. The professional development workshops offered multiple modality strategies to enrich student learning and make class fun for 2nd through 4th grade teachers and students during pre-approved teacher workdays.
Teachers walked away with links to quality visual media of standards-based songs that Ms. Bridges had written, as well as CDs with the songs for classroom use. Visual media was made available in the form of music videos and “break breaks” featuring her actual students. The videos and CD included skip count songs used for multiplication, as well as hip hop style songs for Social Studies biographies, Native tribes, Science concepts, and more. Teachers also walked away with an understanding of how to use the songs to promote kinesthetic learning, classroom transitions, memorization, and understanding of concepts.
Visual Arts, Druid Hills Middle School
DeKalb County Public Schools
Project: Improving Divergent Thinking Through Digital Storytelling
This project encouraged students to express their thoughts and perspectives without the fear of being incorrect and/or failure. ‘Improving Divergent Thinking Through Digital Storytelling’ was a project that promoted conversations regarding the arts and humanities as these conversations help to develop students’ use of critical and divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to think through problems using a variety of interpretations and perspectives. Ms. Bailey teaches at an international school, with a very diverse population. Therefore, all of her students bring incredibly unique experiences to the classroom. This project enhanced her students’ divergent and critical thinking skills by exposing them to various art pieces of all mediums and then encouraging them to exchange their diverse experiences.
First, students observed masterpieces in four different categories; oppression, self-portraits, enlightenment, and current events in the media. Following the discussion of each artist, students were required to compose their own artistic creation by reflecting on their conceptualization of the discussion, and the artist’ creative process.
As a culminating activity at the end of the semester, students told their own stories, regarding their identity and how they felt about their roles in society. The students then created their own visual representations of their worldly views. Students used digital cameras to photograph various objects in their lives that represented their identity. Finally, they created a script and storyboard and produced their findings digitally using photos and voiceovers. The digital stories were evaluated based on their significance, communication of emotions, and use of visual effects.
1st Grade, Timber Ridge Elementary School
Cobb County Public Schools
Project: Active Seating
Children learn best when they are taught through a variety of pathways to the brain simultaneously. Many students have difficulty focusing on lessons or remaining on task sitting at a traditional classroom desk or table. Students who are kinesthetic learners have brains that allow them to maximize learning while moving.
The purpose of this project was to increase student learning by stimulating multiple brain pathways. ‘Active Seating’ provided students the opportunity to stimulate their muscles while also stimulating their brain. Studies suggest that classroom design influences levels of interaction and engagement. And, engagement and active learning improves retention. This project allowed four Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and Second Grade teachers along with one K-2 Special Education teacher to add stand-up desks, Hokki stools, Ergo Stability Seats, and Bouncy Bands to their classrooms. These innovative seating opportunities allowed students to release energy as they learned and worked. Research from the Accessibility Solutions & Research Center (AMAC) indicates that movement helps learning and that students who have the opportunity to stand up or fidget during class are more engaged with the teacher and with their work. It’s proven that being allowed to move/release energy while working produces higher quality work, better group collaboration, higher self-esteem, and increased achievement. This project was a success!
Special Education, Vaughan Elementary School
Cobb County Public Schools
Project: Multi-Sensory Room
Multi-Sensory rooms and the equipment that are seen in them are designed to create a calming and yet stimulating environment for individuals with sensory needs. The ‘Multi-Sensory Room’ was set up for all students but geared more towards those with autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing delays. A study conducted in 2004 showed that at least 1 in 20 children’s daily lives are affected by helping those individuals with a sensory processing disorder and/or autism have a successful school day. The ‘Multi-Sensory’ room is used for education, therapy, leisure, and recreation. There are countless reports that state how the use of such a room can improve mood, reduce disruptive behaviors, decrease anxiety, improve communication and enhanced social interactions. This is important because individuals with autism or a sensory processing disorder can over respond to the simplest things such as light, sound, or the feeling of their clothing on their skin. This specific room has specified equipment and activities that benefit specific sensory processing difficulties because this room was designed to meet the needs of all, not just one sensory need. In the 'Multi-sensory Room', the following sensory needs were met: visual, motor, tactile, and auditory. Some of the materials in the Multi-Sensory Room included: a bubble tube, a ball pit, a hanging chair, an inflatable rocker, and a heat sensitivity activity wall.
Principal, Henderson Mill Elementary School
DeKalb County Schools
Mitch Green is a committed veteran educator, having served both Gwinnett and DeKalb County Schools. He began his career serving special needs students at the middle school level. As an assistant principal, he developed programs that intervene on behalf of at-risk youth resulting in graduation.
As principal of Henderson Mill Elementary School, the first STEAM-certified school in the State of Georgia, Mr. Green constructs cohesive teams of teachers who build quality relationships with students, collaborate in meaningful ways, and engage students in purposeful work.
Project: Steam-PBL Collaboratory
PE, Mountain View Elementary School
Cobb County Public Schools
Project: Don't Just Sit ~ GET FIT!
Ms. Janas noticed that, even though activity is important to many, some students and community members prefer less strenuous exercise. ‘Don’t Just Sit ~ GET FIT!’ was a project used to install fitness challenges, with signage, around the track where her students were able to take a break and jump start another fitness activity for a brief circuit training method. Signage was also put around the track with distance markers to encourage the kids to push themselves to the next marker.
These circuit stations allowed her students and staff members the opportunity to exercise while at recess. This project was also used to create a ‘100 mile club’ that encouraged students to exercise with T-shirts as special recognition and a ‘healthy breakfast’ for students who joined the club. Fitness is a very important part of Mountain View Elementary. This is their foundation for all of the other learning strategies in place.
Principal, Beaver Ridge Elementary School
Gwinnett County Public Schools
Project: Student Collaboratory
Effective collaboration is a skill that must be taught to students and practiced on a regular basis. In order to solve real world problems, students need opportunities to collaborate and work through solutions as a team. “Student Collaboratory” created a space in which the 1,300 students at Beaver Ridge Elementary had the opportunity to use technology equipment, makerspace materials, robotics equipment, and innovative materials to enhance learning.
Mrs. Lillard realized that many of her schools’ students did not demonstrate the stamina to persevere through difficult challenges or demonstrate the grit to complete a task. The “Student Collaboratory” was a fun, welcoming environment that positively impacts student learning through hands-on practice of standards and skills in the area of STEM. Students learned to persevere through difficult problems and appreciate the feeling of productive struggle. Students grew to understand the importance of teamwork and had many opportunities to practice the skill of communicating and working together to accomplish a task. These are important skills that are needed in school, college, and career. When these skills are continually practiced in the environment of the Collaboratory, they transfer to the classroom as teaching and learning continues.
Chemistry/Biology, Norcross High School
Gwinnett County Public Schools
Project: All Fired Up for Digital Science Notebooks
The goal of this project was to prepare students to write college-level lab reports by the beginning of their first AP science course. Ms. McHardy observed that many of her students lacked sufficient skills with writing formal lab reports and using technology to analyze data.
‘All Fired Up for Digital Science Notebooks’ allowed students to use portable devices to create digital science notebooks and develop their skills in communication, data analysis, collaboration, and digital literacy. The project targeted the 9th and 10th grade students participating in the accelerated science track at Ms. McHardy’s high school. Students used Kindle Fire tablets to create and share digital notebooks, complete with pictures and graphs. By maintaining these notebooks, students gained greater abilities to give and receive feedback and to process data in more realistic scenarios.
This project allowed students to create their lab reports as Evernote notebooks. They were then synced with any computer with internet access and shared between multiple people. This means that multiple students were able to analyze the same data and contribute to the same document simultaneously. From their own homes, students worked together in a variety of groupings to gain practice with teamwork and digital productivity tools. ‘All Fired Up for Digital Science Notesbooks’ was a huge success at Norcross High School.
Principal, KIPP STRIVE Primary Academy
Atlanta Public Schools
Project: Big Potatoes: Nurturing Entrepreneurship Through A School-Based Farmer's Market
The goal of ‘Big Potatoes’ (renamed Dollars & Sense) was to ensure that KIPP STRIVE Primary Academy’s scholars were prepared to participate in our larger society as innovators and micro-business people. The primary school curriculum is so expansive that it often did not include time for entrepreneurship education. Most supplementary entrepreneurship/business programs, such as Junior Achievement, are awesome, but are offered exclusively to middle and high school students. Ms. Shaheed strongly believes, however, that it is critically important to let her scholars know from a young age that entrepreneurship is a viable career option. Through participation in the project, scholars gained increased confidence in their unique ideas and developed the necessary skills to successfully plan for and execute these ideas. Her scholars were supported as they dreamt big, planned purposefully and executed effectively as young entrepreneurs.
Through ‘Dollars & Sense’ KIPP Strive Primary scholars, beginning in kindergarten, had the unique opportunity to learn and embody the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. They studied the lives and work of key entrepreneurs. And then worked together as a team to plan for and execute a successful on-site farmer’s market that tended the harvest from the schools’ Captain Planet organic garden.
2nd Grade, Starling Elementary School
Gwinnett County Public Schools
Project: Primary Parent Academy
The purpose of this project was to create a resource for parents in the Starling Elementary School community that positively impacted student achievement in mathematics. ‘Primary Parent Academy’ was a place where parents learn Common Core Math concepts with and from students. For parents that are unable to attend the workshops, videos were created and uploaded to Ms. Williamson’s school’s website for viewing.
Since Georgia changed to Common Core curriculum, the biggest frustration that parents share is the ability to help their child with “new math.” Many parents have trouble understanding and helping their child with math at home. They are unfamiliar with the methods and strategies to teach the standards, often confusing the student and frustrating the parents. With the help of K-2 teachers, this project was able to identify the most difficult math standards for each grade level through the use of 1st and 2nd grade district assessments. Ms. Williamson then looked at how those standards grew vertically and how they could bridge an understanding from school to home. The 'Primary Parent Academy' was a project for students to be the facilitators and assist their parents with understanding the strategies that are used within the classroom. This project was a wonderful opportunity to bridge the gap in understanding from school to home and provide parents with strategies and tools they could confidently use.