IPEI Awards Two Connecting Classrooms Grants

December 14, 2015

It’s about working together!

IPEI, the Ithaca Public Education Initiative, has awarded two Connecting Classrooms Grants, the first in 2015-16 school year which is its second year. The Connecting Classrooms Grants program is IPEI’s fourth and newest grants offering for teachers, staff and others with ideas for enhancing educational opportunities for Ithaca City School District (ICSD) students.

The two grants total $9,714 and will impact 1200 students, according to IPEI Grants Committee Chair Connie Patterson. The next review for additional Connecting Classroom Grants this year will be after the January 29, 2016 deadline for Statements of Interest. “A Brief Introduction to West African Drum and Dance” is led by Jonathan Keefner, music teacher at Enfield Elementary School; and “Belle Sherman Outdoor Learning Space & Nature Trail Development – PHASE ONE” will be directed by Principal Daniel Breiman.

Ann Caren, IPEI Board Member and retired teacher, expressed: “This will give teachers who know their students well an opportunity to tailor grants to the interests and needs of their current students or think ahead to projects they might want to develop over the summer. Many teachers I know spend time over the upcoming break reflecting on the work they have done over the past four months and come back to school re-energized and ready to start a project in the spring. This is a chance for them to work with colleagues and have funds to think ahead at a time when school district funds have may have been expended for the year.”

A Brief Introduction to West African Drum and Dance

Lead ICSD Applicant: Jonathan Keefner

With ICSD teachers: Christopher Bell, Karen Cushman, Jennifer Kivisild, Gregory McQuade, Ross Mizrahi, Dorothy Preston, Brandon Reyes; Sulley Imoro- Guest clinician; Moxie Kumba Ensemble- Performers; Baruch Whitehead and the Ithaca College Drum and Dance Ensemble- Performers.

A Brief Introduction to West African Drum and Dance is a workshop series designed to give as many students in the district as possible the opportunity to interactively learn about West Africa culture, history, music, and life. At the end of the series every student who was involved will come together at the high school with Mr. Imoro and several other guest artists to perform the piece they learned for their peers, family, and the community. Collaborating teachers will gain the necessary resources and understanding of the topic to include an African drum and dance unit in their curriculum. This work will be able to be included in a “world music” section of a curriculum, band will also have the sustainability to stand alone as a powerful addition to a regular year-long curriculum.

Belle Sherman Outdoor Learning Space & Nature Trail Development – PHASE ONE

Lead ICSD Applicant: Daniel Breiman

With ICSD teachers from both Belle Sherman and Caroline Elementary, Cornell Architecture students, and the Finger Lakes Land Trust

Teachers, specialists, teacher assistants, and teacher aides to plan across grade levels and buildings to develop engaging, authentic curriculum around a new nature trail at Belle Sherman Elementary School. The grant project will build and strengthen local connections through the vast resources and expertise at Cornell University, Belle Sherman, Caroline Elementary, and locally. The grant will also provide some materials and supplies to support the planning and development of the nature trail.

Connecting Classrooms Grants build on IPEI’s successful models for encouraging and supporting innovative teaching and deeper learning. “Our intent is to be the catalyst for ICSD staff to seek and develop innovative collaborative partnerships between teachers within a school, across grade levels and/or between schools,” according to Patterson. “It’s about working together,” said IPEI Executive Director Christine Sanchirico. “This is really our guiding principle for the new grants.”

IPEI initiated Connecting Classrooms Grants using funds IPEI received from generous community members who donated to its Our Children * Our Schools * Our Future campaign. One of the capital campaign’s three goals was to expand programs and grants. IPEI’s other grants programs are funded by the Annual Fund and Adult Spelling Bee.

IPEI has allocated significant resources for Connecting Classroom Grant recipients to plan, develop, and implement their visions that are aligned with the grant criteria. Connecting Classrooms Grants criteria include: internal collaboration among ICSD staff; identification of overall promise or potential of project aligned with school and district goals; plan encourages active learning and student engagement; realistic, thoughtful outline of process; proposed budget aligns with project goals and intended outcomes; potential for academic impact; and process for effective evaluation of the project.

“IPEI is pleased and excited to support these fantastic proposals that find new ways to get students actively involved in learning and discovery. Each project was created by a group of educators who have chosen to focus on scientific content while incorporating language arts, math, and technology. We are impressed with the teachers’ vision and commitment!” said Patterson, an IPEI board member and retired educator.

IPEI expects that these large scale projects will be oriented toward student engagement that support learning consistent with school and district goals. “IPEI has dedicated funding to encourage innovative thinking, further engage students, and increase the sense of community between groups of teachers and students,” explained Patterson. To be considered for funding, projects must have a plan for sustainability and a method for evaluation. Patterson added that applicants first consider whether the request fits into IPEI’s other grant categories (Teacher Grants, Red and Gold Grants, and Community Collaboration Grants).

The next review of project proposals will be following the deadline for Statements of Interest, January 29, 2016.

IPEI Awards 16 New Teacher GrantsAdult Spelling Bee is Sunday, March 6