Ridgefield, CT, June 9, 2015

The Ridgefield Education Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of their Spring grant cycle and will fund nearly $18,000 in projects for the 2015-2016 school year. “This is a 114% increase in funding from last year. We were able to provide teachers with more substantial gifts that focus on the latest trends in educational programming. Being that this is our 4th grant cycle, we are proud of this accomplishment”, states President Avery Costigan. The foundation sees this effort as “Research and Design” for the district where educators can take a risk and try something new without burdening the school budget. They award projects based on the criteria that it is a pilot program and can help move education forward. Use of 21st century skills, innovation, creativity and collaboration all also required characteristics. The foundation ensures projects align with district goals and priorities.

The winners are:

Mindfulness for Ridgefield Public Schools

Scotts Ridge Middle School teacher Kristen Kleis wants to bring the practice of mindfulness and yoga to enhance the wellness quotient of middle school students. The program will be implemented over the year and just 5-10 minutes of the practice of ‘mindfulness’ and breathing can help and strengthen the psychosocial, physiological and physical abilities of both student and teachers. Teachers will attend professional development, peer teach practices and implement programming before, within and after school. Spanish teacher, Kristen Kleis says “all wellness priorities are easily connected to the vision and the program is aligned with the themes of current parent workshops offered by the district. Thus, this programming has the potential to impact the community as well.” Cost $1,160

The Life and Times of Mark Twain

East Ridge Middle School will be collaborating with the Mark Twain House and Museum, Hartford, CT, and introduce a new writing program and assembly that builds student learning and critical thinking utilizing new strategies around the life and times of Mark Twain to complement the complex text of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. 7th grade English teacher, Elizabeth Misiewicz explains, “The new program has an impact on curriculum and the students in a significant way. The 2 step program not only involves the students reading the book but also the Mark Twain House and Museum traveling to Ridgefield to conduct an informative assembly that that ties Mark Twain’s life to the 7th Grade curricular theme, The Emergence of Character”. The project will include Scotts Ridge Middle School as well. Cost $1,722.22

ArchForKids: Kids For Community

The Art teachers at both Branchville and Farmingville Elementary Schools, Elizabeth O’Hara and Rachael Zumbo-Penney, want to bring a STEAM-based program that offers projects to deepen students’ understanding of the world built around them via architecture, design, engineering and urban planning. Rachael Zumbo-Penney and Elizabeth O’Hara elaborate, “This program will teach Math, Science, English Language Arts, Visual Arts and Social Studies through hands on projects that not only align with common core standards but extend and enrich current school curriculum.” This project will cover the 3rd grade ArchForKids workshops at the two schools and will culminate in a joint opening and exhibition of the student work at the Ridgefield Recreation Center titled “Healthy Living and Recreation for our Community.” Cost $2,500


Analyzing The Composition of Matter using SCiO

Ridgefield High School’s science department would like to update several of its methodologies to incorporate more inquiry based learning by introducing a state of the art handheld sensor, SCiO, that works with a smart phone to analyze matter on the molecular level. Aine Kapell and Elizabeth Ziegler, Science teachers, share that, “ with the introduction of this portable sensor, [they] are seeking to bring a cutting edge, relevant inquiry tool and technique into the science curriculum, such that the students gain the necessary skills expected of 21st century learners.” This tool has the potential to reach beyond the classroom and across courses. Ridgefield High School PTSA will be underwriting $500 for the project. Cost $2,513


Creating Innovators Through a Library Learning Commons MakerSpace

A makerspace is a “do-it-yourself,” high energy community space for students and staff to collaborate and be creative. Ridgebury Elementary school wants to create a Makers Space that uses technology, equipment and materials that enhance the curriculum. Joyce Rak, Media Center Specialist, details, “ This project will cover grades K-5 in one form or another. We have the opportunity to create innovators. Innovators take risks and learn from ‘failure’ in order to achieve success”. This program is already supported by the school’s PTA that has granted $4000 in library commons furniture and material. REF’s portion will create a true “pilot” Library Learning Commons school because all project components will be executed. Cost: $3,025


Digital Fabrication and 3D Printing

East Ridge Middle School would like to add a 3D printer and scanner to their Library Learning Commons. This project aims at enhancing and supporting STEM initiatives as the district prepares for Next Generation Science Standards. Deb Sullivan,8th Grade Science teacher explains further, “It will allow students access to cutting edge technology and develop 21st century skills for success.” Jeff Swiatowicz, Assistant Principal, adds “the acquisition of this technology increases access to the entire school community. Not only can it be used as a training tool for staff but offers endless possibilities with expanding STEM to STEAM”. The Ridgefield Public Schools will underwrite a $948 scanner. Cost $3,854


Improving Employment Outcomes for Adults with Disabilities by Building Inclusive Environments throughout Ridgefield

By collaborating with The Prospector Theater, a local non-profit dedicated to providing unique vocational training opportunities for adults with disabilities, Ridgefield Public Schools RISE (Ridgefield Intensive Special Education) & CCSN (Center for Child with Special Needs) staff will first help educate the Ridgefield High School staff to the challenges facing those individuals with disabilities in a half day professional development presentation. Understanding challenges these individuals face daily to enter the classroom or the workforce will help improve awareness, build empathy, and inspire further creative inclusive ideas by the regular education staff. In the second half of the presentation staff from The Prospector Theater will highlight the model they have used to employ adults with a wide range of disabilities in an inclusive setting and build a strong transferable skills. The Ridgefield Public School staff will supplement this with suggestions on how to teach skills in a variety of multi-modal approaches. This part of the training will be targeted towards local employers who are interested in employing adults with disabilities but don’t have the knowledge, skills, or resources to do so currently. Emily Pambianchi, Director of Employment at The Prospector will be working alongside Joe Kowalczyk, Ridgefield Public School Post Secondary and Transition Coordinator, and Sallie Jo Boehle, Ridgefield High School Special Education teacher. Cost $3,000


REF’s Vice President,Tina Malhotra, thanks the Ridgefield community for their continued support for REF’s programming and efforts. “None of these projects would be possible without it!”


The Ridgefield Education Foundation looks to support initiatives that focus on 21st century learning with creativity, innovation and collaboration. By serving as a catalyst for innovative programs, leveraging the use of technology and enhancing the resources available to educators, REF hopes to help move education forward. The Ridgefield Education Foundation is a 501c3 not for profit organization. Donations are considered tax deductible. The foundation always welcomes new team members! Visit www.ridgefieldeducationfoundation.org to learn more.

Ridgefield Education Foundation Announces 2015-2016 Grants

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