Rhode Island Foundation Awards 80 Teachers Grants for Classroom Innovation

PROVIDENCE, RI — The Rhode Island Foundation today announced that 80 teachers will share $75,000 in grants thanks to the generosity of two local philanthropists through a pilot program designed to encourage innovation in Providence schools.

Conceived by philanthropists Letitia and John Carter, the Spark Grants program offered Providence third-grade teachers the opportunity to apply for up to $1,000 for proposals that would engage students through unique experiences and creative learning methods in order to stimulate their interest academics.

“Once again, Letitia and John Carter are leading change by example. Our hope is that their vision inspires new creativity and an unprecedented exchange of ideas and experimentation among teachers,” said Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation, which manages the Spark Grants program.

In many cases, teachers teamed up to apply. Among the 54 applications that received funding are a plan that calls for students to use tape recorders in order to improve their verbal skills and a proposal to give students wireless devices that will enable teachers to monitor their responses during classroom discussions.

“We believe that third grade is a pivotal time in children’s academic development. What they experience in the classroom now will put them on the path to a lifetime of academic achievement,” said John Carter.

Full-time third-grade teachers in any public or charter school in Providence were eligible to apply. Grants were awarded to teachers at 22 of the city’s 24 elementary schools. The funds will be distributed through the Providence School Department.

“We are exceptionally grateful to the Rhode Island Foundation and to Letitia and John Carter for these Spark Grants,” said Providence Schools Supt. Susan Lusi. “This type of support to our schools from great partners like these is critical in moving the work of our district forward. And infusing grant funds directly into classrooms is an ideal way to stimulate and sustain the creative energy of our educators who seek to supplement the traditional methods in delivering important lessons to their students.”

Eligible expenses include software licenses, field trips, equipment and other resources that otherwise would not be available in the classroom. Spark Grants are for one-time expenses and cannot provide ongoing funding to sustain projects.

The announcement took place at Veazie Street Elementary School, where third-grade teachers Maureen Bracewell and Kim Cotter-Lemus received funding for their proposal to enhance their students’ understanding of math and science through the construction of a marimba, which is a musical instrument similar to a xylophone that originated in West Africa.

“Students will apply their scientific, mathematical and musical knowledge in an authentic, experiential way as they learn to build the marimba by measuring the wood and pipes, tuning the individual bars and locating the nodal points,” said Cotter-Lemus.

“Such real world application of concepts and skills will lead to a more holistic understanding across the curriculum while making these subjects more relevant to our students,” explained Bracewell.

Recipients must agree to provide a one-page summary at the end of the school term describing how they used the funds and what the grant has accomplished. The successful applications and outcomes will be posted at rifoundation.org before the start of the next school year.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island.  In 2012, the Foundation made grants of more than $30.4 million to organizations addressing the most pressing issues and needs of the state’s diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visitwww.rifoundation.org.

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