Grants spark classroom innovation

More than 200 teachers from 26 communities are getting more resources for classroom innovation thanks to $215,000 in grants through our Spark Grants program. Conceived of by philanthropists Letitia and John Carter, the initiative is based on a simple premise: students learn best when given real-life opportunities to engage in academic content in meaningful, non-traditional ways. And who better than classroom teachers to lead the way?
Full-time third-grade teachers in any public or charter school statewide could apply for grants of up to $1,000 to fund programs to engage students through unique experiences and creative learning methods. First launched in 2013, previous rounds had been limited to urban school districts such as Providence and Central Falls. The creativity and impact of the first two rounds of proposals was impressive. The Carters believe that third grade is a crucial period in the academic development of children and expanding the program will put more youngsters on the road to a lifetime of academic achievement. We agree. Their vision is giving teachers a remarkable opportunity to be innovative, and we are more grateful than ever for their generosity.

We wanted bold ideas, and we got them: teachers submitted proposals that ranged from art projects and gardening to classroom technology and field trips. Eligible uses included software licenses, field trips, equipment, and other resources that otherwise would not be available in the classroom.

At Pawtucket’s Elizabeth Baldwin School, Michelle Gorman will create a read-out-loud center to address literacy delays.

“Some students are non-readers and having a center where they can participate as a group and follow along to text and answer questions would be a huge benefit to their learning,” says Ms. Gorman. “When students hear text read to them and then follow along with the story, it increases their knowledge of how to pronounce words and word vocabulary.”

At East Providence’s Orlo Avenue School, Amanda Betchy will buy floor and table-top drums to teach students how to read music and make connections across cultures.

“Students will learn how to read traditional musical notation and to how perform and work together. This could lead to a college scholarship by inspiring students to go out for marching band or chorus in high school,” says Ms. Betchy. “Students will learn about different drumming cultures around the world and how the music influences their daily lives.”

Elementary schools in Barrington, Burrillville, Central Falls, Charlestown, Coventry, Cranston, Cumberland, Glocester, Hopkinton, Johnston, Lincoln, Middletown, Newport, North Kingstown, North Providence, Portsmouth, Providence, Richmond, South Kingstown, Smithfield, Warren, Warwick, Westerly, and Woonsocket also received grants.

Each Spark Grant project is unique in its own way but together, they are united by a shared commitment to engaging students in meaningful and creative experiential learning experiences. We eagerly look forward to celebrating the success of each project in the months ahead.