SUMMARIES OF SELECT 2008 GRANT PROJECTS
Project: An Evening Under the Stars
Linda L. Hodges * Hotchkiss K8 School * Hotchkiss, Colo.
Linda Hodges’ 2008 Arch Coal Foundation Innovative Teaching Grant provided the means to acquire three reflector telescopes, a light-up solar system, Moon-in-My-Room light and a solar system floor puzzle. She used them to create a memorable astronomy lesson for her kindergarten students and their families called “An Evening Under the Stars.” To accommodate everyone, it consisted of six sessions. Each began with students giving a short presentation on the solar system. Hodges then demonstrated how to use the telescopes and led everyone to the playground to try them out. The goal was to provide an innovative, home-to-school connection by enabling students and their families to explore the night sky together. The project further enriched students’ understanding of the vastness of the solar system and enabled them to explore some of its intricacies, while giving their families an opportunity to participate in the cooperative learning process. Afterward, they enjoyed a snack and a cup of hot cocoa together. Parent responses included: “I learned so much from our kindergartner!” “Do the kids have as much fun as the adults?” and “I want a telescope now!” Hodges has shared the materials with other grade levels.
Project: Ready, Set, Strategize!
Kelly Rienks * Paonia Elementary * Paonia, Colo.
Kelly Rienks applied her 2008 Arch Coal Foundation Innovative Teaching Grant toward the purchase of board games aimed at helping her fifth-grade students practice and master strategic thinking and mathematical reasoning. The goal of the easily repeatable project was to help students attain skills that will benefit them in many problem-solving situations, according to Rienks. Students not only learned to play the games, but also participated in classroom tournaments. Some also completed writing activities based on the games. Throughout the year, Rienks saw her students’ strategy skills improve, and their verbal and written explanations of tactics and rules became more detailed and thought out. In addition to playing the games in class, students also taught students from other classrooms how to play and took the games home to share with their families. Parental feedback reinforced that playing the games was a positive interaction for the whole family.
Project: Winter Ecology
Zac Lemon * Hotchkiss High School * Hotchkiss, Colo.
Zac Lemon used his 2008 Arch Coal Foundation Innovative Teaching Grant to help prepare students enrolled in the school’s advanced biology college course to survive if ever lost in the Mesa Lakes area of Grand Mesa during winter. Lemon purchased seven sets of snowshoes and took the students on a four-hour walk of about two to three miles. They discussed topics previously covered in class, including the transition in ecosystems due to increases in elevation, key characteristics of various tree species, as well as active winter animals, their behaviors and identification methods. The group also discussed winter survival techniques and how to make snow caves. Students gained an understanding of winter biology and are now able to relate their knowledge to all seasons, according to Lemon, who presented the program a second year and considers it a major success. Several students thanked him for such a great educational opportunity. Some also mentioned they now have the confidence to go out in the snow and use their knowledge to start up a new hobby – even purchasing their own snowshoes to do so.
Project: Plants as Food and Medicine
Alicia Michelsen * Lamborn Vision School * Paonia, Colo.
Alicia Michelsen devoted her 2008 Arch Coal Foundation Innovative Teaching Grant to helping high school students become familiar with native and common plants and to use them in practical and innovative ways. Michelsen’s course went beyond the study of botany in the traditional sense to help students become more comfortable and confident in nature; know the uses of plants; and be able to identify poisonous plants and fungi. In addition to the parts of the plant, students learned about related myths, legends and folklore, as well as ways that the plants can be used. Over the course of the year, some hands-on exercises included making Reishi mushroom healing soup, elderberry honey, onion poultice, burdock vinegar, burdock poultice, a healing salve of comfrey and calendula, slippery elm cough drops and eucalyptus steam. The course helped students develop a more positive relationship with nature, according to Michelsen. The Lamborn Vision School has closed its doors, but Michelsen intends to teach a class on herbs as food and medicine for all ages through the Vision Home and Community Program.
Project: Civil War Highlights
Nancy Rowe * Garnet Mesa Elementary * Delta, Colo.
Students in all four Garnet Mesa Elementary second-grade classes got an opportunity to become part of the learning process, thanks to Nancy Rowe’s 2008 Arch Coal Foundation Innovative Teaching Grant. While studying the Civil War era, the children took on roles and presented a skit for teachers, parents and other students on some significant people and issues of that time. Rowe purchased decorations, flags and costumes like the uniforms worn by President Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. One class created roles about slaves – how they were brought to the states by boat, sold at auction and forced to work on plantations – and how they held secret meetings on how to become free. Another class introduced Peg Leg Smith, who developed the idea for an Underground Railroad, and Harriet Tubman, one of its most famous “conductors.” A third class developed a poem about Grant and Lee, and the last class read the Gettysburg Address, dressed in top hats like President Lincoln’s. The students learned more by participating in the play than in previous years, and they will continue the program yearly, according to Rowe.
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