By JEN CARDINES
The Southington Education Foundation (SEF) held a recognition ceremony for the eight mini-grant recipients from the 2015-2016 school year on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at The Orchards.
Since 2010, the mini-grants have been awarded to educators in the community to benefit learning based programs from a variety of subjects. The ceremony gave the recipients an opportunity to share how the money was implemented and talk about the causes.
“These grants have been given to educators and community leaders that have been able to put into action some very special experiences for our Southington students,” said SEF grants coordinator Jan Galati.
Southington High School teacher Kari Peschel-Luise kicked off the presentations by sharing how she used the grant to fund a “columns in architectural history” project for her students. She explained that all pieces of architecture have a story, and how the class relates that to the pillars of their lives. Luise integrated the arts into STEM, as the history of each column comes to life when it is built.
“We want to bring the world into the students…we are turning our own columns and actually creating the story,” she said.
Next was Joann Grant from DePaolo Middle School, who works with future business leaders students to create t-shirts.
“The grant entails a vinyl cutter which cuts out the imprint and the design,” Grant said. The shirt production is a fun learning tool for the business leaders because while they make designs and sell the clothing, they learn about surface area, formatting, customer relations, and how to adequately price the merchandise.
The Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington (ECCS) utilized the money for “Arithmatricks” math skills kits. These math conceptual development kits have been purchased for every family day care provider, nursery school and child care center in Southington to better prepare young learners for kindergarten. ECCS director Joanne Kelleher said that the YMCA, library, and home providers also received kits.
“To get that many people involved is awesome,” said Dale Riedinger. “It not only helps so many members of our community, but it will continue on as those children come to public schools in Southington.”
YMCA Camp Sloper benefits from SEF grants as well. They recently constructed an indoor, multi-seasonal library for campers to use, including books, puzzles, and board games. The Meade Family Library encourages reading for pleasure, which is asset number 25 of the 45 developmental assets.
“We wanted to take a new approach at reading,” said YMCA operations director Mark Pooler. “We tried to change the attitudes of our campers and staff that reading can be just as fun as arts and crafts, archery, and nature.”
Denise Feltz is one of three women that worked together on a project called Camp RISE to benefit children with significant disabilities. Her son is 17, and while his peers are learning to drive, attending summer programs, and working at jobs, children with disabilities aren’t able to do those things. The camp was designed to transition the students from their extended school year (ESY) to a program that could benefit them outdoors in the community.
“Now speaking as a parent, I went to pick up my son and I saw a whole lot of happy kids,” Feltz said. “We are thrilled that the camp came into being, it will be self-sustaining, and we’re hoping to make it a four-week instead of a two-week.”
Hatton Elementary School PTO used their money for theatre productions. Todd Cutler told the room that the cost to acquire the play rights alone is significant, let alone set building and costumes. The drama and arts club is using the SEF grant to put on their spring production of Shrek Jr.
Jennifer Paul and Stacey Simpson recalled the SHS book club that they spearheaded. The reading specialists read statements from former club members, which said why Book Club was so valuable to them. What started as the Urban Book Club six years ago has now become a growing group of students from various backgrounds.
“Since that time, the book club program has just evolved and it has become more and more inclusive and more about empathy and getting more people to read,” Paul said.
Southington Public Schools technology analyst Debbie Miller concluded the evening with her presentation of SMILE: STEM Mobile Integrated Learning Experience. Designed for elementary students, SMILE gives hands on learning about science and mathematics. Students at Thalberg operate robotics from iPads and computers at skill levels compatible with their age.