Outdoor StoryWalk at Brownsville Elementary School Headlines 2022-23 Shannon Foundation Grants Supporting Innovative School Projects

Ten Albemarle County Public Schools teachers have been awarded grants by the Edgar and Eleanor Shannon Foundation for Excellence in Public Education. The grants, which total just over $15,000 will support innovative programming in county elementary, middle and high schools in the 2022-23 school year. According to the foundation, teachers who have received grants each year have documented increases in student test scores and a greater enthusiasm for learning.

One of the major projects funded this year was designed by Gay Baker, the media specialist and librarian at Brownsville Elementary School. Baker will use her $5,000 grant to create a StoryWalk exhibit on school grounds.

“I was very impressed with similar learning experiences that I have seen created by schools and libraries in other parts of our country,” Baker said. “StoryWalks offer a wonderful opportunity for students to enjoy quality literature during time spent outdoors. Interaction with text will help students improve vocabulary, increase comprehension skills, and develop background knowledge in a variety of content areas such as math, social studies, and science. Related STEM activities will help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” she explained.

While the walk will receive plenty of use during the school day by all grade levels, pre-K through 5, Baker said she hopes that families and children will use the walk even when school is not in session. In building the displays, she would like to partner with community service organizations, such as Eagle Scouts. Stories that will be featured could be shared online with families, and among future enhancements, Baker notes, could be the addition of sound and other interactive features to enhance quality of learning.

Two other teachers, Susi Page from Red Hill Elementary School, and Lisa Boyce from Henley Middle School, also received Level Two project grants. With her grant of $4,169, Page plans a raised garden to become part of Red Hill’s outdoor learning space. Students will have the opportunity for hands-on learning in caring for plants and animals and in interacting with them in their natural environment. Boyce will receive $2,253 to design science laboratory projects that incorporate concepts in science, technology, engineering, art and math to create greater student confidence and enthusiasm.

Six Shannon Grants were awarded through Level One funding:

  • At Western Albemarle High School, Meghan Streit will receive $750 and ask students to assist in researching, reading and analyzing books that can be added to the school library. This is the second year of a project that began last year when Streit collaborated with students to select great American stories that became part of classroom libraries curated by students.
  • Hollymead Elementary School’s Catherine Simpson will use her $750 grant for an outdoor playground for special education students that will utilize sensory and active play materials to promote fine motor skills and to increase their interaction with one another.
  • Two Burley Middle School educators, Tina Goode and John Worozbyt, will share a $700 grant to develop opportunities for science students to build such devices as rockets, solar ovens, derby cars, and kites as a pathway to enriching problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork.
  • Angie Foreman also is taking a scientific approach to learning at Stone-Robinson Elementary School, using her grant of $698 to install a garden pond, where students will employ their observational skills to learn about ecosystems, life cycles, food chains, and environmental stewardship.
  • At Mountain View Elementary School, Lori Brodhead will apply her award of $378 to create a sensory learning station for students in the Bright Stars preschool program.
  • And, Anne Straume will work with third graders at Meriwether Lewis on a project titled, Eaten Alive!, through which students will research how such plants as the Venus flytrap interact with their environment to sustain their life.

The Shannon Foundation for Excellence was established in 1990 to fund projects by public school teachers in the city and county that represent innovative programming. The Foundation is named for University of Virginia President Emeritus Edgar F. Shannon, Jr., and his wife Eleanor in honor of their contributions to public education over many years.

This year, the Foundation is also funding three projects that total $6,938 for Charlottesville City Schools educators. Overall, grants this year for both county and city school divisions total $21,946.

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