Laurel PTO Funds 33 Staff Projects Through Mini-Grants Initiative!
Improving Social-Emotional Skills through Mindfulness - Jeannie Wynne, Kindergarten
Studies have shown that young people benefit from learning mindfulness in terms of improved cognitive outcomes, social-emotional skills, and well-being. With this grant, Mrs. Wynne plans to pilot “Mindful Mondays” in her Kindergarten classroom. Funds will be used for professional development, the purchase of mindfulness curriculum and supplies for lessons. While this grant will initially benefit one kindergarten classroom, the impact could spread across Laurel School as Mrs. Wynne is willing to work with other teachers based on the success of the pilot program.
Class Guitar and Instruction for First Grade, Spanish Immersion - Elizabeth Harrison, 1st Grade Spanish Immersion
There are many songs to play in classes for learning the Spanish language and culture. Ms. Harrison will use this grant to fund guitar lessons and a purchase a class guitar to use for daily singing and school events. While this grant will initially benefit the students in the 1st grade Spanish immersion classes, they could eventually perform and sing with the Kindergarten and 2nd grade classes.
Promoting Practical Life Lessons: Teaching Kids to Sweep - Elizabeth Harrison, 1st Grade Spanish Immersion
Mrs. Harrison suggested a child-size broom and dustpan for classrooms, so students could assume the duty of sweeping outside their classrooms. Students will learn the skill and responsibility of sweeping with a rotating job schedule. This Montessori or Waldorf-like learning experience will benefit students and teachers alike. (NOTE: Brooms and dustpans will be purchased for classrooms/teachers who opt in.)
Creating the Next Generation of Food Scientists - Jeriann Hirsch, 2nd Grade Team
The 2nd grade team requested a "Tower Garden" for the six second grade classes to share as part of their new TWIG Science unit called, "A Garden for Life". A Tower Garden is a vertical growing system that uses aeroponics, which is the same technology used by NASA. Plants grow with water and nutrients instead of soil. Plants grow to harvest in 3-4 weeks and use only 10% of the water and 10% of the land normally needed to grow the same amount of food. The fast growing cycle makes it easy for 6 classrooms to share one Tower Garden; the Tower is on wheels, so it can be easily rolled into each classroom; and since it uses no soil, there is no mess to clean up. The Tower Garden will take the learning in this new science unit to a higher level as students study plants and learn what they need to grow.
Professional Development and Inspiration for Teachers - Nari Yee, 1st Grade; Kyle Tashman, 2nd Grade
Many professional development conferences and workshops offer valuable experiences for teachers to connect with and learn from other teachers. There is no better way to inspire creativity and motivate teachers than to allow them to collaborate with other professionals outside their school districts. This grant will be used to send two teachers to a teaching conference of their choice. Learnings will be shared across grade level and Laurel school as applicable.
Supporting Innovation in Math Education - Caroline Lucas, 3rd Grade
After piloting two math education tools in small groups in Mrs. Lucas’ classroom, select third and fourth grade teachers determined additional students would benefit. Both VersaTiles and Learning Palette create positive learning environments that increase student confidence and allow for more individualized instruction in math. They allow for more small-group instruction because students who are working independently are more engaged and excited. This grant will be used to purchase VersaTiles and Learning Palettes for Mrs. Lucas’ full class and two other teachers, who would like to pilot them in their classrooms.
Improving Brains and Bodies through Yoga - Sandra Horwitz, 5th Grade
Yoga has long-term physical and mental health benefits for all people and can help students’ bodies and brains. It helps students learn about how their muscles and bones support their growing bodies, build core strength, and develop coping mechanisms when they need to calm themselves down. Mrs. Horowitz, a certified yoga instructor, has been leading her 5th grade class in yoga as part of their PE curriculum. This grant will be used to purchase a class set of individual folding yoga mats with an impermeable layer, so they can be used outside.
Introducing Creative Ways to Stay Fit and Active - Teagan Stapp, PE
Laurel’s physical education program provides a variety of opportunities for students to explore new ways to stay physically active. Mrs. Stapp works to find creative ways to engage students in sports and play. She plans to implement a cardio-based drumming program (DrumFIt) for students in third through fifth grade. While the supplies have already been purchased, this grant will be used for a one-year video subscription to DrumFit.
Seeding Student Voice and Choice through Gardening - Emily Chen, English Language Learning
This project started as a new year's resolution with Mrs. Chen’s second grade class of English Language Learners. A couple of the students got really excited about the idea of using (and improving) their gardening skills to help beautify our campus. They also have very big - and generous - ideas about what to do with all of the food they grow! This project will benefit any of the second graders who volunteer to help in the garden at lunch on Wednesdays. With the additional funds, Mrs. Chen plans to expand to a first grade lunch as well. For these first and second graders, gardening at lunch gives them more of a voice and choice during their recess times. They are learning valuable lessons not just in science, but in teamwork, patience, creativity, and responsibility. Funds will be used to purchase plants, seeds, mulch, watering cans and plant labels.
Increasing Literacy with Magazine Subscriptions - Emily Chen, English Language Learning
This grant will be used to provide youth magazine subscriptions, such as Highlights and National Geographic Kids, to students and families in the English Language Learning program at Laurel. Mrs. Chen will work to identify appropriate magazines, which will be sent directly to the students’ homes. These students and their families will benefit greatly from having regular English-language reading resources.
Exploring the Science of Sound - Rachel Bergeron, Music
Children love to explore sound and make music while they thump, clang, and clunk, and there is no better way to learn about vibrations or pitch than allowing kids to do just that! Over the past few years, Laurel’s lower campus has built a Music Wall that includes a wonderful mix of sounds to explore on “real” outdoor percussion instruments. The wall currently contains two empty panels and requires some minimal maintenance to fully complete the project. This grant will be used to purchase a high-quality Wall Marimba and restore existing instruments.
Cultivating Creative Expression through Shadow Theater - Rachel Bergeron, Music
Each year, Mrs. Bergeron leads the fourth grade classes in shadow theater using limited supplies. This grant will be used to purchase science fair boards for individual screens and puppet materials.
Exploring Culture and History through Choreography - Rachel Bergeron, Music
The fourth grade classes at Laurel are learning about music from different cultures this year. This grant will pay for an artist to teach choreography as well as an overview of the Persian culture and historical context of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. This will include in-person teaching for fourth-grade classes and the creation of a video to use with others/future classes.
Enhancing Mathematical Education through Games - Eva Sullivan, Instructional Coach
Math games are a powerful way to support practice in computational skills, mental math strategy, socio-emotional learning with peers and partnerships, and concrete mathematical understanding. All the while, students are deeply engaged in their learning (without realizing that they're learning!), and teachers can observe and learn about their students in a low-stakes, meaningful way. This grant will be used to purchase the tools and materials for math games, such as dice, playing cards, counters, markers, dominoes, and number lines. The materials would be gifted, over time, to Laurel teachers and students of all grade levels. Mrs. Sullivan will also work with and distribute materials to instructional aides and paraeducators to use with their students and small groups. All materials will be reusable year after year and support Laurel’s school-wide math program.
Facilitating Innovations in Reading Education - Eva Sullivan, Instructional Coach
The first grade teachers have been working together with Laurel’s Lower Campus reading specialist, Liliana Gomez, to enhance small group reading work in their classrooms. Each first grade teacher had release time to observe Maestra Gomez teaching a small group in her reading room and spent some time together as a team reflecting on the strategies and routines that stood out. Some powerful tools noticed were small magnetic trays and letters that Maestra Gomez uses with her students to practice phonics, spelling, and writing. This grant will be used to purchase a set of six magnetic white-board trays and four sets of magnetic letters for each of the first grade teachers. The materials are non-consumable and will be used for years to come to teach phonics and reading.
Rethinking Classroom Design - Krista Carroll, 2nd Grade
Research shows there is a strong correlation between classroom design and learning outcomes. Furthermore, both students and teachers deserve to love their classrooms and feel organized and inspired by their space. A fresh, clean, welcoming classroom can have an endless impact on student learning and teacher motivation and productivity. Unfortunately, classroom set up and design overhauls take time and money that most teachers just don’t have. Many teachers are forced to keep the same theme year after year, or use old furniture and organizational products, because they need to prioritize between classroom design and basic school supplies. This grant will be used to redesign and organize classrooms that are in need of a refresh at Laurel’s Lower Campus.
Redesigning and Organizing Classroom Libraries - Megan Stone, 3rd Grade
This grant will be used to purchase baskets and other supplies to redesign and organize Laurel’s Upper Campus classroom libraries to maximize space and reading engagement. Third-grade teacher Megan Stone will take the lead in working with teachers to determine needs, and she will work with a PTO liaison as needed on project execution.
Redesigning Library Seating to Encourage a Love of Reading - Sheila Warren, Librarian
School furniture can contribute significantly to learning by increasing engagement, focus, and productivity. For example, comfortable and flexible seating options in school libraries can help facilitate a love of reading and provide much needed space for relaxation and stress relief. This grant will be used to purchase improved seating options, such as high-quality bean bag chairs and window seat cushions, at Laurel’s upper campus library.
Preventing Summer Learning Loss by Increasing Access to Books - Sheila Warren, Librarian
Laurel School teachers and staff work diligently to ensure that learning continues over summer breaks by suggesting activities and resources to prevent learning loss. However, without access to school supplies, such as age-appropriate books, many students’ skills, knowledge and excitement for learning fade over an extended break from school. This grant will be used to purchase additional books and reusable book bags to send home with students in Laurel’s Caring & Sharing program over the summer.
Expanding Book Access and Building Community - Leigh Wilson, Reading Specialist
Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization with a mission to catalyze the building of a community, inspire readers and expand book access for all. This grant will be used to set up two new Little Free Libraries at Laurel’s lower and upper campuses. The libraries will be created and maintained by kids, for kids.
Improving Reading Comprehension through Audio Books - Leigh Wilson, Reading Specialist
Audiobooks are an excellent tool to allow struggling readers to participate in book clubs and discussions that spark their interest, but are beyond their reading level. Among other benefits, audiobooks help students engage in text and gain exposure to more words, improving vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking skills. This grant will be used to purchase a specified reading teacher Kindle/Audible account, so audiobooks can be accessed by third and fourth-grade students who would benefit from them.
Bridging the Gap between Literacy and Engagement with a Book Vending Machine - Leigh Wilson, Reading Specialist
Elementary school students work so hard to make gains in their literacy development, and there is no better way to keep them engaged and excited than by providing acknowledgement of their progress. This grant will be used to purchase a Book Vending Machine, which could be used to reward students, provide ticket raffle prizes, and could even be stocked with professional books for teachers. It could be stocked before new reading units, and teachers could have their students select books for their book clubs, among many other uses. The vending machine will be placed at Laurel’s Upper Campus.
In addition to the above projects, the following proposals were approved for funding from other sources (e.g., other PTO budget line items, field trip funding, Measure B funding).
Redesign of Lower Campus Staff Room - Sam Thomas, Kindergarten
Jump Rope Assembly - Teagan Stapp, PE Teacher
Fourth Grade Spanish Immersion Field Trip to the Mission District in San Francisco - Antoinette Marquez, 4th Grade
“African Moon” Show for Kindergartners - Raquel Toca, Kindergarten
Dance Workshops with a Colombian Maestro - Elizabeth Harrison, 1st Grade
Fidgets in a First Grade Classroom - Nari Yee, 1st Grade
Inventing, Coding, and Coding with Makey Makeys - Krista Carroll, 2nd Grade
Chapter Books for Third Grade Book Clubs and Group Reading - Megan Scatena, 3rd grade
Using a New Musical to Teach about the American Revolution - 5th Grade Team
Piloting Graham Fletcher's Building Fact Fluency Kit - Courtney Maury, Math Intervention Teacher
Portable Air Conditioner for Lower Campus Classroom - Linda Dugoni, 1st Grade Teacher