New Kent schools awarded grants

NEW KENT – Last week, the Review reported that the New Kent Educational Foundation (NKEF) donated over $17,000 to New Kent County Public Schools for 2013-2014 instructional grants.

This week, the Review is detailing how exactly the NKEF funding will benefit county teachers and students in and out of the classroom.

The $17,064.77, which will finance 28 of the 38 instructional grant requests, will be shared among the four schools and help bring improved learning across the board.

"We normally allocate $15,000 towards teacher grants, but this year the applications were so strong that we decided to increase our funding level," said NKEF President Christopher Lindsay, a 2002 New Kent High School graduate.

This year, the NKEF donated $2,810.94 for grants at New Kent Elementary School, $2,637.34 for George W. Watkins Elementary School, $2,724.56 for New Kent Middle School, and $3,240.37 for New Kent High School.

The foundation also donated $5,139 to the entire division for the IPad Pilot Program grant.

The school system will receive nine IPads, $15 ITunes cards, and accessory pieces, including cables.

"There were six individual applications for IPads to be used in instruction. We decided to increase our funding amount and purchase nine IPads to create a 'Technology Library,' from which all teachers could pull IPads for instruction," said Lindsay.

"If this is successful, hopefully we can add to the library next year."

Under the IPad Pilot program, teachers will submit an application for the IPads, and a committee comprised of Instructional Technology Resource Teachers and the Director of Instructional Technology Ross Miller will select nine teachers to receive them for the school year.

IPads will be returned at the end of the school year and once again become available through the application process.

New Kent Elementary School grants:

•Actively Engaging Students in Reading & Math ($242.91): Fourth grade teacher Mary Margaret Gillette, along with a Remediation Coach and/or Special Education teacher, will use the grant money to engage below level math and reading students with task cards and games.

•Everyone is an Author ($553.11): Jennifer Milby, Steve GoodSky-Hetzig, Shannon Bennett, and Melissa George, will work with K-5 language arts students who are struggling with writing - and who have difficulty organizing their thoughts and fine motor skills.

First Author software will identify the students' levels of writing and helps them choose a topic, pick a picture prompt, and write with supports.

•Cozy Shades ($368.40): Jennifer Milby, Melissa George, Lauren Birkhead, Jessica Roper, Terri Nash, and Beth Dyson will place 56 cozy shades in classrooms, pre-K to 5th grade.

The cozy shade is a light filter that can easily be placed over fluorescent lights in classrooms. Studies have shown that fluorescent lights in classrooms can increase children's stress levels, disorganization, and blood pressure. Placing cozy shades in classrooms can decrease students' stress and sensory disorganization.

•Putting Small Hands on Mathematics ($238.60): Kindergarten teacher Remle Sherman will use the hands on math materials throughout the year to reinforce kindergarten SOLs, including: more/fewer/same, fractions, adding to 10, money, weight, and time.

•Weighted Lap Lander Blankets ($264 - $24 left unfunded): Preschool teachers Theresa Nash, Lauren Birkhead, Elizabeth Dyson, and Jessica Roper will use four weighted lap blankets for students with sensory/attention deficit needs that interfere with their learning and the learning of others.

The lap blankets will increase sustained attention and appropriate participation, while offering sensory and tactile input, during circle time or other teacher-directed activities. The students will place his or her hands inside the pockets for tactile input and to keep their hands appropriately engaged.

•Behavior Management Program ($500): Suzanne Cashin will be responsible for this project, open to third and fourth grade special education students.

Cashin will motivate students to exhibit a more positive behavior when they come to school, develop a sense of responsibility, encourage student work, facilitate classroom management, and improve math/money skills by using a reward system.

Students will receive "money" for good behavior and completing tasks so they can buy items from a classroom store. Each item has a price tag and students are encouraged to count and save their money. Money can also be taken away for not completing tasks or misbehaving. The students will understand that going to school is their job and they will be paid for doing a good job.

•E-Books ($500): According to Librarian Michelle Prough, using an "ebook" format will allow staff to bring text from a digitized book onto a large screen via interactive board technology.

The project will purchase 30-40 nonfiction reviewed and acclaimed ebooks.

•Mice or Mouse Devices ($143.92): Lauren Birkhead, along with all preschool teachers, paraprofessionals, and therapists working with preschoolers with special needs will work with eight specialized mouse devices on student computers.

These devices are smaller in size, as to fit a preschooler's hand, and only have one button.

George W. Watkins Elementary School grants:

•Large Easels for Implementation of New Programs ($1,191.24): Melissa Ellis-Johnson, along with fellow Kindergarten teachers Laura Williams, Michelle Cottrell, Heidi Schneider, Stephanie Mohr, and Samantha Sartain, have recently implemented several programs, such as Daily Five, Wilson Fundations, 6+1 Writing Trails, and Morning Message that require the use of large easels and chart tables. However, the current easels and chart tables are too small and lack sturdiness.

The kindergarten teachers will write information on the six chart tables in front of students and have students write on the charts as well. The large easels and chart tables will be more effective than the white boards because they allow students to refer back to information and can be seen around the room.

•Listening to Learn ($65.70): First grade teacher Andrea Howard will receive six sets of headphones, which will give students more time to listen to reading, especially through programs and online. Using headphones will help students focus on their own stories and work independently.

•Reading Express ($749): Heather Picone, as well as all the GWES fourth grade teachers, will receive a year membership for the online reading program, designed to build reading comprehension skills using games, e-books, lessons, quizzes, etc.

•Close Reading: Take a Closer Look ($631.40): Reading Specialist Angela Sanders and Assistant Principal Patricia Kern will organize and facilitate a book study for K-5 teachers that focuses on close reading strategies with both non-fiction and fiction texts.

Teachers will learn about close reading - when the student analyzes any given text at the word, phrase, paragraph, and section level to determine the most important details and how they fit together to convey the author's central ideas.

New Kent Middle School grants:

•The Spine Crackers: A Grade-Wide Reading Book Club Initiative ($545.05): Sixth grade Social Studies teacher Lindsay Horne will "extend [her] students' love of literature and reading beyond the classroom walls and allow them to meet with their peers who share their passion" - with the 6th grade book club, for the ninth year in a row.

The book club will purchase current literature, including "Virginia Young Readers Books for 2013-2014" and other novels chosen by Horne.

•Pen & Ink Whimsical Trees and Pen & Ink Watercolor Mixed Media Animal Studies ($454): Art teacher Emma Florek will introduce the 8th grade advanced art students to watercolor painting and pen and ink drawing. These two separate lessons will help incorporate 8th and 9th grade VA fine arts SOLs and create a portfolio to reference in high school art classes.

•Algebra I for Va. End of Course Algebra I ($485.51): Algebra I teachers Eleanor Edwards-Martin and Nicole White will get support materials to bridge the gap for some learners and increase the achievement of all Algebra I students.

•Math 8 SOL Coach Books and ActivSlate60 ($350): Math teacher Nicole White, as well as Cynthia Parking, will use the Math 8 SOL Coach for remediation and SOL review. The teachers will also use the ActivSlate60 to take notes and project work onto the Promethean board.

•NKMS Jazz Band ($500): Band Director Greg Wrenn will establish a jazz band program at NKMS and purchase sheet music for the ensemble.

Lego Robotics Club ($390): Lego Robotics Club leaders Anthony Massimini and Dana Studdard will receive eight Free Build Buckets of Legos for the 36 students in the club to make sure that every student can participate in meetings.

The Lego Robotics Club, which focuses on 6th-8th grade math, science, and engineering, helps students problem solve and think outside the box, integrate technology to complete building videos, and develop teamwork skills.

New Kent High School grants:

•Supplies for Chemistry Classroom ($793): Chemistry teacher Suzanne McIninch will receive a vacuum pump and distillation set up for upper level chemistry classes.

A vacuum pump is used to demonstrate various changes in gases with increase and decreasing pressure, as well as compressibility. A distillation apparatus demonstrates the boiling points of certain liquids, and purification - all of which are concepts discussed in the chemistry SOLs.

•Reading Across the Curriculum ($92.67): Candice Barkley, as well as all other mathematics teachers, will have access to new fiction novels (at the media center) with a math theme. Math students would get extra credit for reading these novels and completing a worksheet, created by media specialist, Tracey McKinney.

The project is designed to give the math teachers a means to support the school-wide literacy emphasis.

•NKHS Science Department ($332.50): Science teacher John Spiak will receive items for the earth science and ecology classes, which have been lacking hands-on labs.

The earth science classes will receive two pocket wind meters and one sun finder, while the ecology classes will receive 20 informational packets on common native trees in Virginia.

•Vegetable/Herb Garden Plot ($772.20): Tom Watson's horticulture classes will build 12 raised beds, as well as plant and maintain a garden. If the class produces a "reasonable crop," the fresh produce will be donated to the local food bank and/or supply fresh vegetables to the cafeteria.

•Digitizing Photography I ($750): Art and photography teacher Sarah Revell will receive a high quality digital SLR 35mm camera. Students, who are now required to bring a digital 35mm SLR to class, will have one in class to learn from.

•Tchouckball for All ($500): Irene Bierie, of the Health and Physical Education department, will implement "Tchouckball for All," an intervention program for every student, no matter their athletic ability.

Tchouckball is a Swedish invented game with no guarding, blocking, or interceptions, so it prevents intimidation, and allows kids to become more involved in the game.

To date, the NKEF has donated nearly $300,000 directly to New Kent County Public Schools, continues to administer three scholarships to deserving high school seniors every year, and financially supports the school's performing arts programs.

"The New Kent community has been so generous in supporting the Foundation, and we hope that we are able to continue funding these types of projects with the community's support," Lindsay said.

The New Kent Education Foundation gets its money through fundraising and community contribution. Its mission is to "channel the community's resources to promote and enhance educational opportunities for the students and staff of New Kent Schools."

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.