Great Falls Public Schools creates a Win-Win for Students and Teachers: Special Education Teacher, Cherie Stordahl shares students are under so much pressure from a very young age to keep up with so many things. When students find themselves unexpectedly and unintentionally in a fight or flight response, they need a safe place to go to de-escalate that will help them maintain their dignity. Creating a safe, therapeutic, and soothing space for students to use when their bodies and/or minds are rushing out of control is imperative to building a classroom climate of acceptance and understanding. “
“Sensory tools are a great way to help students learn how to identify the feelings they are experiencing when they are triggered and how to express the intervention, they need to help them calm down. Sensory tools help students get back on track and continue learning. This creates a Win-Win situation for students and teachers. Through this grant I am planning to develop ways to meet the changing sensory needs for our students utilizing CanDo TheraPutty, Big Joe Bean Bag chairs and multi-color liquid encased fancy playmats .”
Wobble Chairs for Frenchtown Elementary School: 2nd grade Teacher, Kim Duke’s goal “is to add lots of physical movement to her classroom throughout the day. Recent studies have shown that movement gets the brain ready to learn. She is planning to utilize a variety of different seating arrangements that would allow more movement, such as wobble chairs, scoop rockers and balance balls at different heights.
“Daylight like” Skypanels in the Billings West High School Library: Rachel Schillreff, Librarian used her grant to install full spectrum lighting and “daylight like” skypanels over the ballasts in the Library. She shared, many studies across the nation have shown that poor lighting and mundane environments can have an adverse effect on student and teacher morale. We believe based upon our research that this would increase student and teacher morale and also have an effect on student achievement.
Time to Update at Plains Public School: Teacher, Debbie Brown’s plan is to use the grant to purchase several Chrome Books to help replace what she currently has. “My classroom is the Montana Digital Academy room, but I also have EdReady, Title 1 and junior high study hall. The current technology has many issues, today alone the IT person came five times to fix issues. In this day and age, it is necessary to have updated, working computers for the benefit of our students” per Debbie.
Growing Solar Work Force in Missoula:Mr. Cummins, Teacher at Sentinel High School, “tells us his engineering class will be starting a unit on solar energy and production. We currently have a variety of solar panels however we do not have the ability to track the voltage over time. These Vernier Probes purchased will allow us to track voltage production over time and let us compare different condition to optimally produce the most power. These will make Voltage, Current, Resistance and Power much easier to understand. Solar is one of the fasted growing fields and therefore we will prepare students for the ever-growing solar work force.”
Flashlight Friday in Belgrade: At Heck Quaw Elementary School, teacher Annie Aschim, shares all students read at different levels, and to increase reading motivation, I would like to provide an engaging experience called “Flashlight Friday”. “This grant will help our class purchase flashlights for independent reading during Flashlight Friday and organize our guided reading library.”
Hang out in Helena in The DaVinci Room: Justine Albert, Instructional Coach at Central Elementary School, “asks us to imagine a space in which students are free to explore different technology and concepts. Students can use different toy sets to free build, complete a design challenge, and use the engineering design process to design whatever the mind can create.” This space, aptly named: The DaVinci Room”, helps students to explore concepts related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.
Students will be introduced to design challenges through the use of Legos and block building kits. Educators and students will engage in coding practices by using OSMO kits and programmable Lego kids to learn how technology and physical pieces interact.
Discovering Crocheting at the Crow Agency Public School: Teacher, Connie Michael shares “Social Emotional Learning is the focus for our classroom this year. What I have observed while doing these lessons with my students isn’t that they are hesitant to share or participate in these activities, it’s that they are uncomfortable with relaxing. In my research I discovered crocheting. Crocheting actually brings with it a slew of health-boosting benefits. Besides being a cool, classic skill and a method of creative expression sometimes in unexpected ways, it actually has mental, physical and emotional benefits.
Art through the sense of Touch in Great Falls: “Many students with visual impairment have had limited access to authentic art materials”, says teacher Erin Barr at Montana School for the Deaf and Blind. The materials and tools purchased will allow students that are blind, visually impaired or deafblind a chance to experience a wide variety of art, so they can think creatively while expressing themselves artistically.
Out-of-the-Box-Thinkers in Kalispell: "Computer programming, or code, is the new international language. It reaches across borders and connects people from all over the world", said Caroline Lynch, teacher at Elrod Elementary School. By teaching our students to code, we are breaking down our classroom walls so they can be worldwide communicators, problem-solvers, and out-of-the-box-thinkers.
All students from kindergarten to fifth grade will be exposed to coding, all while boosting student engagement and strengthening pathways in the brain to encourage innovation.
Wordless Picture Books in Great Falls: Great Falls Public Schools Preschool teacher Ryan Beam, shares “Wordless picture books give early childhood educators a chance to build language and vocabulary in students through the use of multiple story readings, tier 2/3 vocabulary instruction, spontaneous conversation and concept development and understanding.”
Read for Pleasure in Billings: Librarian, Annie Rice says, “Our goal of 21st Century learners is to show an appreciation for literature by electing to read for pleasure. We will purchase popular fiction titles in Spanish. These novels will be available to all LC ELL students as well as throughout the Billings School District.”
Studies have shown “there is a strong correlation between literacy in one language and literacy in a second language. Just by being in the library, a Spanish speaker gets exposed to the wealth of material available in the English language.
Fighting obesity in Kalispell: “With obesity and obesity-related illness overtaking tobacco use as the number one preventable cause of death, it is vital to get our youth active and nutritionally educated,” says Ross Darner, teacher at Evergreen School in Kalispell.
The school’s Evergreen Fitness Team (EFT) program does just that. Due to budget constraints, the school district has no money for the project. Staff raise the funds each year so students in grades 2-8 and their parents can take part at no cost.
Darner’s Karen Cox grant will help purchase equipment and healthy snacks for the program.
Stress management in Billings: “January is a month of change,” says Rachel Schillreff, librarian at Billings West High School. “Our students come back from winter break and immediately begin to prepare for final exams and a change in classes, both of which are stressful.”
Many libraries across the country offer stress management opportunities during this time, Schillreff says. Now, with help from a Karen Cox grant, Billings Senior can do so, too. The grant will help the library provide yoga and meditation classes, a relaxation nook, information on stress management techniques, a visit from therapy dogs, and more.
Special education in Bonner: Bonner teacher Breeann Adam will use her Karen Cox grant to buy an iPad Air 2 and several apps designed to reinforce learning for students with autism and other disabilities.
“These are typically students who require creative and unconventional methods of learning and review,” she says. “Evidence shows that students on the autism spectrum particularly benefit from using technology.”
The iPad Air 2 and apps will help Adam’s middle school students with reading, math, communication, speech and language, and other skills.
Great books in Great Falls: “Someone once said there are two kinds of people, those who love to read and those who are reading the wrong books,” says Great Falls High School teacher Joan Dailey. “It is my mission to put the right books into the hands of my students.”
Every year, Dailey surveys her students to learn their interests and reading habits, then gives them personalized book recommendations.
Some students avoid the library because they can’t finish a book in the allotted time and end up paying fines, she says, so they prefer to borrow from her classroom library.
Dailey’s Karen Cox grant will help her add about 40 high-interest young adult books to her classroom library, keeping it current and relevant.
Hokki in Helena: “We are a wiggly bunch!” says 4th-5th grade teacher Jodi Delaney at Broadwater Elementary in Helena. “Hokki stools are specifically designed to help students ‘keep moving while sitting still.’”
These ergonomically designed stools are beneficial for a wide variety of students, but they aren’t available for children who don’t have it specifically written as an accommodation, Delaney says.
“I have several students who need this tool to develop muscular strength and better posture/balance, as well as help them focus on task safely,” she says. Delaney will use her grant to buy four Hokki stools.
Music in Bonner: Potomac School teacher Sarah Schmill uses hand chimes to teach her 5th-8th grade music class how to read music and play an instrument. But her two sets of hand chimes are damaged beyond repair. “I have to turn students away from my class because I don’t have enough instruments for them to play,” she says.
Schmill’s Karen Cox grant will purchase new hand chimes, allowing her to include as many students as possible in the class.
Salish culture and earth science: Rebecca McGillivray of Hamilton Middle School used her grant to bring tribal elder Tim Ryan to teach students about traditional and contemporary uses of rocks and minerals. Nearly 150 students learned about geology, archeology, and indigenous culture.
Teaching weather: Yvette Jordan of Vaughn School District helped create “Tantalizing Temperatures,” a district-wide project that taught students about weather through math, reading, and writing. Her grant purchased materials for the project.
Reaching struggling readers: Gail Grossman of Riverside Middle School in Billings purchased Scholastic Action, a bimonthly magazine filled with articles designed to engage struggling middle school readers.
Humans & horses: Jeanne Cline of Custer County High School sent several students to the Pivotal Movements Equine Therapy Center in Miles City with her grant. “The goal is for students in the Emotional Education Program to develop healthy social and emotional skills,” she said.
Dogs and calculus: Birch Fett of Hamilton High School bought five T1-84 calculators for calculus class for the project “Do Dogs Know Calculus?” The project took calculus outside the classroom (and recruited Fett’s two Labrador retrievers).
Playing to learn: Children learn by playing, and kindergarten teacher Molly Kast of Rattlesnake Elementary in Missoula spent a lot of her own money to buy educational games and activities for her students. She needed more resources but couldn’t afford them. Her grant helped her buy math games, costumes and props, and much more.
(NOTE: this is not a complete list)
Here is what a few of the 2014 Karen Cox recipients did with their grants:
Teaching weather: Yvette Jordan of Vaughn School District purchased materials for “Tantalizing Temperatures,” a district-wide math project that allowed students to learn about weather across the curriculum.
Basic supplies: Jessica Dufresne of Daly Elementary in Hamilton needed basic supplies like markers, crayons, child scissors, and construction paper. Her grant allowed her to purchase these, along with writing journals and books.
Humans and horses: Jeanne Cline of Custer County High School used the grant money to send several students to the Pivotal Movements Equine Therapy Center in Miles City for a day. “The goal is for students in the Emotional Education Program to develop healthy social and emotional skills,” she said.
Document camera: Kati McCaslin of Thompson Falls purchased a document camera for 5th and 6th grades to share student work, project educational games, and more.
Dogs & calculus: Birch Fett of Hamilton High School bought five T1-84 calculators for calculus class for the project “Do Dogs Know Calculus.” (Fett also recruited two Labrador retrievers, Bristol Bay and Kava, for the project.)
Julia Hall, preschool special education teacher, Jefferson Early Learning Center, Missoula. Hall’s school serves preschool students with and without disabilities. “One area of our curriculum focus is on emotional awareness and emotional regulation, and important skill for future learning and success in school,” says Hall. “These can be challenging skills for young children to learn, particularly for students on the autism spectrum.”
Hall will use her grant to buy materials from the Incredible Years Emotional Literacy Curriculum, including a lifelike puppet the size of a four-year-old child. Children can easily relate to life-size puppets who look like their peers, Hall explains.
Wally the puppet helps children learn by modeling appropriate behaviors like sharing. He also helps them recognize facial expressions and emotions.
Sally Triplett, 5th grade teacher, Lincoln Elementary, Great Falls. Triplett will use her grant to provide quality books to all 5th graders and bring students of all reading abilities to grade level reading proficiency or above. The books are geared to motivate students to read by moving away from fear of failure and toward a genuine enjoyment of books. Triplett says the program will supplement two classroom libraries, helping students “to become high achievers and life-long readers.”
David Chalmers, 9-12th grade science teacher, Heart Butte. Chalmers teaches in one of Montana’s most isolated, high-poverty schools, on the Blackfeet Reservation. “I want all of our students to be so excited about science that they want to come to school every day because they might miss something ‘cool,’” he says. “I want them to discover science so that they can see that learning can be fun, can be useful, and can be a way for them to experience the world around them.”
Heart Butte lacks many of the basic items needed for a science program —Bunsen burners, beakers, cylinders, test-tubes, and the list goes on. Chalmers will use his grant to purchase many of these basic items, in his quest to build a strong science program from scratch.
Kim Duke, kindergarten teacher, Frenchtown Elementary, Frenchtown. “With 21 kindergartners, my goal is to meet the very diverse learning needs of each of my students,” says Duke. Her grant will help by purchasing Insta-Learn materials. These “self-checking” materials reinforce and speed learning by providing immediate feedback to children. “They provide hands-on student instruction while freeing up the teacher to work with small groups,” says Duke.
Cheryll Amen, 2nd grade teacher, Orchard Elementary, Billings. Research shows young readers need to hear expert reading modeled every day, says Amen. But her students are in the lowest socioeconomic bracket and receive little or no reading support at home. With her grant, Amen will set up listening centers so students can hear good reading and practice independently. The grant will purchase CD players, headphones, and read-along CDs to supplement current reading instruction in her classroom.
Abby Stitt, 3rd-4th grade combined teacher, Potomac School, Bonner. Stitt’s grant will allow her school to buy applications for 15 iPads. She explains: The Pages application allows the iPad to become a word processor. Meteor Math helps students master math facts. Geographia teaches states and capitals, and National Geographic World Atlas provides access to outstanding world maps.
Lauree Sayler, K-5 music teacher, Florence Carlton Elementary, Florence. Sayler’s grant will purchase special construction paper for students to make masks for a school-wide event that weaves art, reading, writing, speaking, and music, using Hanneke Ippisch’s Spotted Bear, A Rocky Mountain Folktale as a theme. Students will present their masks, stories, poems, and songs at a community event. “In this day of rigorous test taking, this activity will allow students to participate in higher level thinking skills and creativity,” Sayler says.
Angie Sinrud, K-8 Explore School teacher, Helena Public Schools. Explore School brings homeschool students into the public school district for science education. The program works to meet the needs of students with various learning styles, since learning style differences may be part of the reason kids are homeschooled, Sinrud says. Her grant will help purchase science equipment for the program.
Susie Kenison, 1st grade teacher, Ridge View Elementary, Belgrade: To become good readers, children need to spend time daily with engaging books they can read successfully. “But many families don’t have appropriate books at home for early readers,” says Kenison. With school funding cuts, she has to spend her own money on books for her classroom. Kenison’s grant will buy books from the Take Home Reading Program, bringing her students an extensive selection of quality books at their reading level.
Amanda Howland, 2nd grade teacher, Orchard Elementary, Billings. Second grade teachers at Orchard are “eager to widen our students’ interest in writing,” says Howland. “However, classroom materials are very limited.” Her grant will give teachers access to a variety of writing tools, teacher resource materials, and supplies to “foster independent writers who are able to communicate their ideas.”
Tanya Kirschman, K-6 counseling, Highland Elementary, Billings. Kirschman’s grant will help reduce bullying at her school with the Purple Hand Pledge program. This program motivates students to apply healthy problem-solving and anger management skills, Kirschman says. Students who adhere to the pledge (“I will not use my hands or my words for hurting myself or others”) qualify to win monthly prizes. Kirschman’s grant will help purchase the incentive prizes.
Dawn McCrohan, kindergarten teacher, Bitterroot Elementary, Billings. Dawn’s grant will purchase several popular books used with the common core math standards for counting skills, patterning, and sorting skills.
The books are suggested/required but not provided by the school district, she says. “I either have to borrow these books from other teachers who are also using the books or track them down through multiple libraries. Sometimes I have to do without because we can’t get our hands on the books.”
Lisa Scott, 7th grade teacher, Castle Rock Middle School, Billings. Scott’s grant will buy Flip video cameras so her students can participate in an annual math competition called “Reel Math Challenge.” Students will work in teams of four to create videos of innovative solutions to challenging math problems that relate to real life.
Tammy Hetland, Becky Mundt, Karen Nave, Kim Watterson, and Darla Williams, extended studies, Billings Public Schools. These five teachers work with gifted students in grades 3-6, at 22 elementary schools in Billings. Their grant will allow them to purchase materials so these students can explore real-world science.
Science is the subject that most intrigues young high-ability learners, yet it is taught less frequently than any other subject in elementary school. Plus, gifted students are significantly more likely to retain science content when they have the chance to learn at a fast pace and think in ways associated with inquiry: asking questions, planning and conducting investigations, and using appropriate techniques to gather data. This grant will allow them to do just that.
Tyra McDonald, grades 6-8, C.S. Porter Middle School, Missoula. Tyra’s grant will purchase seven “clickers” so teachers at C.S. Porter can do presentations on inter-write boards or projectors without going back to the computer every time they need to change slides. Often the computer is located in the back of the room, which hinders group discussion and classroom management. The clickers will allow teachers to move around the classroom and switch slides from any location. Sweet and simple.
Kasey Dirnberger, grades 6-8, C.S. Porter Middle School, Missoula. Kasey’s grant will purchase an internet hub and router, allowing the school’s exploratory teacher, who works with all grade levels, to use laptop computers with wireless internet access. This will free up the school’s current Computer On Wheels (30 computers in one cabinet) for use in the rest of the school’s classrooms. The goal: more computer access for all students and teachers.
Vicki Wittman, grades 9-12, Bozeman High School. Vicki aims to increase the reading skills of struggling readers by offering more high-interest, high-level books associated with the research-based Read 180 program. Currently, students in Read 180 classes for multiple semesters often run out of high-interest books. They tend to avoid libraries and have difficulty finding books they like within their reading level. The grant funds will purchase additional Read 180 books to keep those students reading and loving it.
Katherine Bachrach, K-8 counseling and guidance, Helena Flats School, Kalispell. Katherine will use her grant to purchase “Why Try” training and materials. The successful “Why Try” program reduces truancy and classroom distractions by engaging at-risk students. The program teaches students essential life skills such as effective communication and listening, understanding the consequences of their actions, making decisions, resisting peer pressure, overcoming challenges, and the importance of personal effort and motivation.