"For our kids, they are getting the unique chance to see what true innovation looks like — it's messy and often not how you expected it to be, but it is always a learning experience and can even be fun!" said Colleen Cutcliffe, chair of the grant committee and a district parent, in a prepared statement. "I am grateful to all of the parents and community supporters who have donated to MPAEF (Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation) to enable our district leadership to carry these important grant opportunities forward to our teachers."
The mission of the grant program is to allow teachers to pursue innovative teaching programs in their classroom, grade or school, and to provide educational experiences that students would not have otherwise. The grant program began in 1984 to honor Jeanie Ritchie, a founder of the education foundation.
Below are some of the programs funded by the grants:
A Mindful Classroom: Encinal School teacher Rachel Naishtut will be teaching her students a variety of mindfulness techniques — mindful listening, mindful breathing, mindful movement and practicing gratitude. These techniques will help students focus on academics, as well as be more aware of those around them.
Active-Academics: Physical education teachers across school sites will engage fourth through eighth grade students to determine if it is possible to collect individual student activity data and correlate that to academic performance. Data collection will start with participating students wearing Fitbit fitness monitors throughout the day.
Apple Valley: Encinal School second grade students will experience the interactive "Apple Valley" curriculum, where they will pretend they are living in rural California in the 1800s and attending classes in a one-room schoolhouse in rural California. They will practice reciting poetry, use chalk and slates, bring lunches in boxes and sacks, and do chores at school and at home.
Call and Response: This grant gives elementary and middle school students the chance to hear professional musicians perform and discuss what makes jazz a unique American art form. Jazz Band, Band 2 and Orchestra 2 students at Hillview Middle School will work in small groups with the professional musicians on the specifics of instrumental technique, phrasing, articulation and how a jazz ensemble rehearsal differs from other ensemble rehearsals.
Dinosaurs Rock Assembly: Encinal School third graders will participate in an assembly program where there will be life-size dinosaur fossils and other prehistoric items that are 10,000 years old to over 500 million years old. There will be a visual display and interactive presentation. The program includes a real fossil dig.
Engineering in Action: A Hillview Middle School project that combines engineering and art in an outdoor interactive exhibit for students. Students will build a board from PVC pipes attached to a steel wall using magnets.
Melba Beals: Hillview Middle School teacher Valerie Cypert will teach seventh graders about Melba Beals — one of the students from the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine African American students who helped desegregate Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Students will read an excerpt from Beal's book "Warriors Don't Cry" and complete an activity that deepens their understanding of her experience. The project culminates with an in-person presentation from Beals.
Microloans: Oak Knoll School teacher Michelle Tom's fifth grade class will participate in a unit on poverty and hunger. Students will learn about factors contributing to poverty, develop and research solutions, and then apply for and use microloans to start their own businesses.
Outdoor Classroom: Natural STEAM: The goal of this grant at Encinal School is to provide supplies that help get students outdoors in a focused, productive way, connecting them with nature while completing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) challenges and learning math, reading, writing and science. Regular work will include math practice with chalk, silent reading, partner reading and a writing workshop.
Start the Growing: The grant for Sandra Horowitz's project for Laurel School fifth grade students will the school purchase a sturdy, lockable, walk-in greenhouse so that students can learn about how new plants can be started from seeds, cuttings, roots or bulbs.
The grant recipients will be honored at a reception on Wednesday, Nov. 20, in Menlo Park.
To see the full list of grantees, go to mpaef.org/jeanie-ritchie-innovation-grants.
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