East Side schools get grants for innovation

Money will bolster African American history, aerospace programs

Among the recipients of a St. Paul Public Schools Foundation grant for innovative teaching methods are four teams of East Side teachers.

The teachers are among a pool of 16 groups receiving small grants from the school district’s foundation. The 16 grant awards total $26,000.

A total of 28 applicants applied for the grants. Their requests totaled $64,299.03.

The grants are awarded annually, and are decided upon by a committee made up of school board members, community members, retired teachers, school district staff and the teacher’s union.

“We’re confident that these educators will change students’ lives with these creative learning experiences, and we’re proud to support their contributions to student success,” said Mike Anderson, director of the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation, in a statement.

The programming that comes out of the grants will begin in January.

African-American history bolstering

A project proposed by a team of three teachers at Hazel Park Preparatory Academy will help bolster the school’s second annual African American History program.

The $2,575 grant will be used to help involve students in research, writing, music, dance, drama and reflection around African American history.

According to the grant summary, the school started an African American history unit last year, and it was well received by students, parents and teachers.

“The project is a sincere and passionate attempt to understand and capitalize on Hazel Park’s diversity of cultures by bringing our students and school community together to learn about the accomplishments of notable African Americans throughout history,” it states.

The grant summary states that “one of the issues contributing to the achievement gap is a lack of confidence on the part of some African American students about the knowledge and academic skills they have.

“This program is intended to allow the students to become experts about African American history through research, writing and presentation.”

The teachers also emphasize integrating artistic performance into the curriculum, offering students a chance to be exposed to music, dance and drama.

Hands-on learning

A team of teachers from Farnsworth Aerospace Lower wants to bring more hands-on learning to kindergarteners.

According the team of five school staff who applied for the $1,500 grant, kindergartners’ curriculum “is void of the materials needed for students to actively explore aerospace and pique their curiosity.”

So, they propose to buy equipment that allows kindergarners to play in their school’s science centers, acting as astronauts and scientists.

While playing, the idea is that they’ll build vocabulary and oral language, and improve communication skills.

Learning to grow (food)

A project proposed by Parkway Montessori and Community School teacher Kristen Simonson involves teaching adolescents about food and agriculture.

The program, titled “Erdkinder Garden,” would help students learn where their food comes through, through active learning -- with the help of a $2,729 grant, students will learn how to garden by working with soil, and growing and eating fresh food.

Students will play an active role in deciding what to plant, and will start seedlings indoors in the winter, transplant them to gardens, maintain the gardens, harvest produce and then cook meals with the food.

Fables and folktales

A project proposed by third-grade teachers at Hazel Park Preparatory Academy will offer third-graders a chance to read African American fables, legends and folktales.

Then students will be asked to create their own tales and present them to the class.

The $3,000 grant from St. Paul Public Schools Foundation would bring in an artist from the Givens Foundation for African American Literature, who would help children connect to the literature.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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