Guest column: Help Students With Innovative Classroom Experiences

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Guest commentary

I love surprises!

Last spring when a large envelope containing 18 thank-you notes and an invitation to a pasta luncheon from a third-grade class arrived in the mail, I was baffled until I remembered that the previous summer my husband and I had funded a grant which enabled their teacher to join the online Spaghetti Book Club.

This is a website which allows students to publish book reviews. Membership provides a home page for the class and a bulletin board for book discussion and the exchange of ideas with students of all ages around the country.

We attended the luncheon and were delighted as the young people proudly shared their published book reviews with friends and family. How gratifying it was to experience firsthand the effect our donation had on these budding authors who had published their own work.

Each year Collier County educators are invited to apply for grants through Connect With a Classroom, an initiative of the Education Foundation- Champions For Learning. These grants, which may be as small as $20 and as large as $2,000, help facilitate all kinds of innovative lessons, many of which are designed by the teachers themselves.

Champions For Learning funds these requests through contributions from various businesses, clubs and organizations, and by individuals who take an interest, as we did. Proceeds from the specialty Florida educational license plates also help fund these requests.

The grant requests, which state the educators’ goals, proposed lesson plans and explanation of benefits to their students, are posted online. Having read hundreds of these requests over the past few years, I continue to be inspired by the fresh ideas generated by teachers who serve our community.

This fall the Connect With a Classroom program has funded many excellent programs, but many requests remain unfunded. One such request is from a teacher who has designed a unit of study around the purchase of Flip cameras, essentially tapeless camcorders, which the students will use to create PowerPoint presentations and ultimately digital portfolios of their work.

With the purchase of crime scene and forensic lab materials, another teacher would give fourth-grade students the experience of real-life scientific exploration.

Field trips broaden the learning experience by extending it beyond the classroom, but they can be costly. To enhance the study of the utopian novel “The Giver,” an eighth-grade teacher requests funds to take students to Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero, where visitors can learn about the Koreshan Unity, a cult that moved there in the late 1800s to build a communal utopia.

Others are hoping to expose students to local treasures such as the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the Naples Zoo. Trips to tour Collier County public libraries, which many of us take for granted, will introduce some students to a world of materials to which they previously did not have access.

There is no shortage of imagination and enthusiasm among teachers in Collier County who are continuously seeking new ways to motivate their students. Unfortunately, funding for such projects, is in short supply. Please consider funding a grant request by going to www.ChampionsForLearning/CWAC. It is a great way to Connect With a Classroom.

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