SEF awards more grants; Foundation gives $6,000 to six proposals

by Ed Harris

South End Elementary School extended day kindergarten teacher Paula Gorham loves to tell stories, be it to her children or her students. This joy helped her craft the Interactive Storytelling Experience program that was recently awarded a $400 grant from the Southington Education Foundation (SEF).
“I love storytelling,” Gorham said. “I like to make it different.”
The grant will allow Gorham’s to use multimedia materials and props when her students read their favorite books or create their own. Along with puppets, Gorham’s class will utilize Pixie, a digital storytelling program.
Gorham also plans on having her students perform and retell some of the stories to other students at South End.
The students in Gorham’s class have already created their own books, complete with illustrations, following a recent unit on ladybugs. The students were able to use premade photos, or their own drawings, for the illustrations.
“It becomes much more interactive,” Gorham said of the storytelling.
This is the second grant that Gorham has received from the SEF. Gorham received funding for a pilot program at South End and Kelley Elementary Schools for a Countdown to Kindergarten program during the last round of grants.
Gorham’s most recent grant was one of six that the SEF gave out to five different teachers in the local school system. All together, the grants totaled about $6,000.
“These teachers are wonderful,” said Beth Pestillo, the grant committee chair for SEF and a director on the group’s executive board. “They’re constantly coming up with new ideas.”
DePaolo Middle School teacher Betty Swist received a grant for her Whisperphones for the Improvement of Language and Literacy proposal. Whisperphones are acoustic feedback devices that provide students the ability to improve their listening, speech and reading skills.
DePaolo already has five Whisperphones and the grant will allow for the purchase of 24 more.
“Language is the foundation for learning,” Swist said, noting the positive feedback she has received from students.
Katherine Diaz, a music teacher at Kelley and Plantsville Elementary Schools, will use her grant to purchase West African percussion instruments, such as the balafon and the boba, for a program that will offer different learning experiences for young musicians.
Diaz will integrate the West African music style into the general music curriculum and also form an after school or recess group based around the percussion instruments. The students will also performances at each school to showcase the project.
“The instruments are handmade in the [African] villages,” Diaz said.
Derynoski Elementary School speech teacher Jane Syme received a $1,500 grant for her Apps that Focus on Social Skills on Two iPads proposal. The program will allow Syme to utilize applications available on the iPad to motivate and engage autistic students in communication and social skills, in an effort to improve social interaction.
“There are a multitude of apps,” Syme said. “It’s fun. It’s challenging.”
Kennedy Middle School math teacher Amy Perry received grants for two proposals, Exploring Middle School Mathematics with Nintendo Wii and Singin’ & Singin’.
Perry was not able to attend the SEF grant reception, but other Kennedy School staff members briefly described the programs.
The Wii program will utilize games, such as baseball, to help encourage students to understand how to calculate statistics, such as speed and distance. The singing program is reminiscent of “Schoolhouse Rock.”
To date, the SEF has given out nearly $100,000 in grants.

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