The Southington Education Foundation (SEF) held its 2018-19 grant recognition ceremony at the Southington Community Cultural Arts (SoCCA) on Dec. 3, showcasing a variety of different initiatives and programs that Southington Public Schools employees have brought to life with the grant monies SEF has supplied.
“We are delighted to host this event and share what you’ve done and celebrate,” said SEF chair Paula Knight.
SEF has awarded over $250,000 in grant- and program-funding in Southington since its inception. Board of directors member Jan Galati said all of Southington’s schools, and students of all ages, have been impacted in some way through SEF.
Six mini-presentations were given at the ceremony by grant recipients.
Karen Isner, a math teacher at Southington High School, received a grant to enhance the school’s math team and allow them to compete in competitions against other high school teams.
“Without this grant, the math team would not exist,” said Isner. “We had done lots of fundraisers on our own, but it was not enough.”
The math team pushes students to go beyond what they’ve learned in the classroom, developing critical thinking skills while also developing patience.
Oshana Elementary School teacher Amy Gennaro received a grant for merging augmented reality (AR) with writing to bring writing to life for her students. The program works with a device called a “merge cube” which allows users to physically hold and interact with three-dimensional objects using AR technology, thus bringing writing activities to life.
“Writing can be a challenge for students, and getting the motivated can be challenging for teachers,” said Gennaro. “With the virtual reality goggles, it allows students to research what they want to write about.”
Kennedy Middle School teacher Amy Perry received a grant from SEF to join students with seniors to collaborate on a project called “rock our community.” the project produced hundreds of hand-painted “kindness rocks” with inspirational messages that decorated the linear trail.
“This project allowed JFK teachers to make a difference and make a positive change in our community,” said Perry. “Through a community collaboration, our students painted these rocks with empowering messages, and developed relationships with seniors in our community.”
Jessica Monson from the STELLAR program, which provides opportunities for students with special needs, received a grant to bring students to Prospector Theater in Ridgefield.
The theater provides job opportunities for adults with disabilities, and one of the major focuses of the STELLAR program is job exploration and transition into the workplace upon exiting the school system. The theater matches individuals to jobs that fit their interests and skills.
Kindergarten teacher Saralyn Wright from Oshana Elementary School used an SEF grant to purchase interactive alphabet books geared towards students who may need a different way to learn their ABCs.
“The traditional print books are boring to students who are more used to learning on devices today,” said Wright. The interactive alphabet books come with codes that can be input in an online program. The program will read excerpts from the book out loud and provide relevant educational activities along the way.
It does not take the place of books, but is designed to be utilized in conjunction with the books and the new Smart TVs at the school.
After each grant recipient’s brief presentation, director of pupil services Meg Walsh gave a presentation on a new initiative being utilized in Southington schools: emotional intelligence (EI).
Walsh explained that in a business, generally, if employees are happy, business will do better. The same goes for students in school.
“When students are happy, there is a greater engagement with learning,” said Walsh. With EI, students are encouraged to communicate their emotions. Students in the classroom use a mood map to let teachers know how they are feeling. Teachers and administration are being trained to notice and respond to students in the most effective way.
SPS administration works with the Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale to develop the program. Using the power of emotions, the school system can create a more effective and compassionate society.
SEF partners with the community to secure resources, inspire excellence and enrich student achievement.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.