CHELCO Grants Provide New Opportunities for Teachers
Seven Okaloosa County teachers received instructional grants thanks to CHELCO’s contributions to the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation (OPSF). The teachers applied for the competitive grants, detailing the ways in which they would spend the grant funds and how the grant would help their students and classrooms.
Bonnie Whitfield, CHELCO’s Communication and Community Affairs Coordinator, Cindy Gates, Okaloosa County School District, Executive Director Community Affairs and Okaloosa Schools Foundation, and School Administrators presented the teachers at Baker and Laurel Hill School’s their checks.
Baker School CHELCO Grant Recipient - Elizabeth Richards
This grant will be used to purchase two authentic, high-interest literature books that will help her students develop a love for reading. The students will read and discuss a portion of the book each day in class; answer questions pertaining to the book that match up with the standards; and at the end of the book, complete a project showing their understanding of the book. By reading current, high-interest literature, students will be more engaged.
"When students enjoy what they are reading and it is challenging and interesting, they learn more," said Richards. "Reading novels together is also a great way to get children to realize how enjoyable reading can be and help develop life-long readers. The books selected have very meaningful themes. Hidden Figure’s highlights women in a science occupation, along with the challenges they face during the Civil Rights Era. Curveball has a boy, near my students’ age, facing many difficulties in his life and how he uses photography to overcome them. This novel speaks to children about overcoming adversity which is a skill they will need in adulthood."
Laurel Hill School CHELCO Grant Recipients
Kathleen Foy Redfern
Using the Wonder Robot, students will practice computational thinking to develop 21st-century skills through the Wonder Workshop’s robotics curriculum guide which focuses on the six fundamental coding concepts. Students will also develop skills in becoming an effective communicator through collaborating with fellow peers and using critical thinking skills to design creative solutions.
The Wonder Robot will provide an opportunity for students to investigate the world of robotics, engineering, and technology. This robot was designed for students at the elementary level. The robot’s interface displays a picture-based language for coding and drag and drop feature to develop multiple-step sequences. The Wonder Robot moves in centimeters. Students will need to account for metric measurement when developing a code during a challenge. The Kindle Fire tablets will be used as the coding tool for Wonder Robots. The robots will be utilized in the classroom for students to demonstrate competence in coding tasks.
"Through the participation of the Wonder Robot’s Learning to Code curriculum, students will be introduced to the six basic concepts of coding through a hands-on approach," said Redfern. "The students will investigate different problem-solving techniques when completing the guided challenges. The Wonder Robot offers five different apps for coding advancement. Students can begin coding a simple sequence, to algorithm designs incorporating sensors, loops, and conditional flows. Students working with the Wonder Robot will experience how engineers use the design cycle to achieve an ultimate goal. As a teacher, the Wonder Workshop offers multiple free resources which include curriculum for beginning to advanced coding education, a cross-curricular lesson library, and online professional development courses."
The goal if this grant is to use meaningful books to teach and promote interest in Florida history through reading. To also use the computer program Spelling City to help promote a growing and stronger vocabulary to help with reading comprehension. Grammar Revolution is a computer program that can also be used at home and in station time. This program helps students learn how to use proper grammar through videos and downloaded lessons.
Students will be able to use the computer program at the school in stations as well as at home. The books will be used in classroom readings and shared readings. They will use information from the books to do projects and reports that will increase their knowledge of Florida history.
"The benefits this would mean to my students would be varied across multiple subjects," said Beck. "The building of academic vocabulary will not only help them with their writing but also their learning as they advance in school in all subjects. They will build teamwork skills as they work in groups on projects based on things learned through the course of reading the books in Florida history."
Bluewater Elementary School CHELCO Grant Recipients
As the sponsor of the Young Astronauts Club, Erk provides hands-on activities for students to explore the world of aerospace and rocketry. The Young Astronauts Club is a 5th-grade extracurricular club that meets before school once a month. The mission of the club is to encourage 5th-grade students to explore the world of space and to encourage them to discover and investigate how we leave our world and explore other worlds within our solar system and beyond. Fifth grade standards for earth/space science correlate with the mission of Young Astronauts and many of the activities continue in all fifth-grade classrooms at our school. The goal of this grant is not only to excite students about space exploration but also to encourage them to continue and develop a passion for STEM activities in their future. This project would enable our students to have more hands-on activities than they currently have in fostering this love of earth space science.
In the Young Astronauts Club, students discuss and investigate how rockets leave our atmosphere against the force of gravity, how humans live in space on a spacecraft, how spacesuits are developed to keep astronauts safe, how spacecraft land on other locations in our solar system, and how we have much to still explore in the universe. They do this through hands-on activities by creating various prototypes such as water bottle rockets, space suit potatoes, landing gear containers, and other such projects.
"This project will specifically provide students with materials needed to investigate basic trajectory using straw rockets," said Erk. "I was given three PITSCO straw rocket launchers from a retiring teacher, but lack the supplies needed to provide the investigation for students. This project will also enable me to purchase a parachute maker project and subsequent materials for students to investigate how to reenter the atmosphere of Earth or Mars and land safely."
In this project, students will work together to develop solutions to various problems that humans encounter in space exploration. It is the intent of the Young Astronauts Club to encourage students to continue their investigation of space exploration and continue to develop their problem-solving skills in middle school and beyond.
This grant project, “Chromebooks in the Classroom,” will fund the purchase of three Chromebooks to be used in a third-grade classroom, with the goal of enhancing STEM instruction and overall motivation to learn. “Students are expected to be extremely literate in the over-advancing field of technology, and additional technology devices will facilitate this literacy,” said Stephens. “Additionally, students truly come alive when given the opportunity to use devices, such as Chromebooks. It engages them deeply in their studies and encourages them to ask, “What else can I learn?” Chromebooks are ideal for this type of implementation because they are easy to use, require little maintenance, and economical as well. Technology promotes the creation of life-long learners who have the drive to take it to the next level, and that is what the Chromebook can do for this classroom!”
Currently, at Bluewater, the third-grade teachers have access to one Chromebook cart that is shared amongst all 9 classrooms. The cart has 19 Chromebooks to be used by approximately 180 students (across the grade level). The additional Chromebooks in Stephens’ classroom will allow more of her students more access to these devices. “In order to be successful in STEM, students not only need to learn the material but also need to have practical applications,” said Stephens. “There are STEM opportunities around us all the time that students do not see and these Chromebooks will provide that access, in the form of a greater opportunity of research. This benefit of using this device will not end at the elementary level, but will solidify a foundation for use of devices in middle school, high school, college and even in careers for students who will have first had their hands on technology, in the form of a Chromebook, at Bluewater.”
This grant will provide technology for Roberge’s students to use to master standards in math and science. “We will be using the Chromebooks for mastery of standards in math and science using such programs as Moby Max, BrainPop, and Prodigy,” said Roberge. “We will also be able to complete interactive lessons through Pearson for our Elevate Science program and Math lessons through Think Central. This technology will keep students engaged while learning math and science standards.”
Blackburn will be attending the 2019 Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA) Professional Development Conference with help from this grant. The FMEA Professional Development Conference is one of the largest music education professional development events in the United States. In addition to approximately 250 clinic sessions and concerts, it is host to 22 All-State Ensembles featuring Band, Orchestra, Chorus, Guitar, and Elementary Orff students conducted by world-class conductors and teachers. This is an opportunity to receive up to date training on current trends and instruction methods in elementary music education.
Blackburn will implement lessons, knowledge, and skills gained from the FMEA Professional Development Conference throughout the 2019 school year and will be able to incorporate up to date instructional practices in the classroom. Student engagement, knowledge, music skills, and theory will be increased. Student music learning gains will be monitored throughout the year with ongoing assessments.
Information and resources gained during the Florida Music Educators Association Professional Development Conference will be shared with all Okaloosa county elementary music teachers during our spring county Professional Development day in March.
Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation Teacher Grants
The generous contribution from CHELCO was matched, dollar-for-dollar, through the Consortium of Florida Education Foundation (CFEF) matching grant program so that twelve additional teachers could receive $500 grants through a competitive Okaloosa Public School Foundation grant process:
Tammie Richter- Crestview High School
The goal of this project is to incorporate a variety of active seating into the classroom that encourages movement-- allowing fidgety students to stay on task. Students who need to fidget to focus are restricted by traditional classroom seating. For some students, especially ones with learning disabilities such as ADD, ADHD, and sensory perception disorders movement is critical to foster overall learning.
Students will have several seating options available to explore which one is right for them. Many students use exercise balls that were introduced as a seating option in the classroom three years ago. This project will introduce a second option for movement. Students often don’t receive the amount of physical activity their bodies need, which can lead to restlessness and diminish their ability to focus. Introducing students to active learning is showing them how controlled movement helps them concentrate on complicated tasks. Alternative seating such as wobble stools, standing desks, and sensory mats will encourage students who need to move more options as opposed to fighting the restrictive nature of a chair.
“In a reading classroom, students are required to sit for long periods of time,” said Richter. “Active seating is fidget-friendly and will improve attention, memory and ultimately increase achievement scores. Active sitting encourages students to stay in motion and when used correctly can help a student focus. In a 2008 study conducted by the National Education Association (NEA) ‘children, especially those with ADHD, fidgeted more when a task required them to store and process information rather than just hold it. This is why students are often restless while doing math or reading, but not while watching a movie.’”
Meghan Seekamp - Destin Elementary School
The goal of this project is to develop problem-solving skills using a hands-on approach. Hands-on learning approaches in Kindergarten have been proven to promote student engagement, teamwork, and exploration better than other activities. Educational Award-winning Magna-Tiles are one way for students to explore basic shapes, construct larger shapes, and build 3-dimensional shapes while working toward to the goal of mastering the Kindergarten Geometry standards as well as developing social and teamwork skills. Magna-Tiles are an appropriately sized, safe, and durable manipulative for students.
Students will work in small groups with the Magna-Tiles at free stations, where they will have time to explore and create on their own or in groups. Magna-Tiles will also be utilized in daily math stations where students will be given instructions on what shape to make with the tiles and the reverse, where they will be given a completed shape and have to discover, record, and recreate what shapes formed the object or picture they are presented with.
“Problem-solving skills and teamwork are an integral part of working with Magna-Tiles,” said Seekamp. “Students can create larger shapes together, share and exchange shapes, and solve station tasks together. Students will also utilize activities from the Magna-Tiles Invention book, which includes activities to create such as castles, animals, and shapes.”
Tina Barron - Destin Middle School
All students will benefit from having more access to technology in Barron’s class, particularly since they often utilize Google Classroom as an instructional tool and learning vehicle. In addition, her ELL and ESE students who suffer from severe processing disorders and/or face language barriers can utilize audio and language translations of complex text and may complete assignments interactively rather than constructing responses manually. Aides and interpreters are scarce, in high demand on campus, and are not always available to assist ESE/ELL students. Having Google Translate and other tools available can help students learn to navigate certain tasks on their own, with additional support from me, their peers, aides, and interpreters. For students with dysgraphia or fine motor issues, being able to type assignments rather than write them longhand is a blessing. Since 8th-grade students type their FSA Writes rather than draft their essays on paper, having technology readily available for frequent typing (writing) practice may alleviate some of the intimidation and anxiety that accompanies standardized testing.
“Currently I have one working student laptop available for my classroom, yet many of my classes have 28 students or more,” said Barron. “I serve both regular and advanced students and have multiple 504, ESE, ELL, and gifted students. Learning how to appropriately use technology and increase familiarity with computer programs outside of browsing the internet and social media sites is imperative for students as we prepare them for high school and beyond. Although an IT class is required for graduation, and we do offer IT as an elective here at DMS, not every student opts for that course while in middle school. Many students are experts on their smartphones and tablets, but struggle using actual laptops for research and papers.”
Karen Osborn - Kenwood Elementary School
This grant proposal is for a small-group set of Osmo bases and applications. The classroom already has the iPads needed to use the Osmo applications. Osborn was first introduced to Osmo at the Emerald Coast Science Center. The student goals for this project are to:
- foster creative problem solving
- foster logical thinking
- introduce students to coding
- increase opportunities to develop math fluency
- increase independent, student-centered learning
“During their daily math/science station rotations, the Osmos (and iPads) will be available for students to use in the technology station,” said Osborn. “By using them during stations, each student will have their own Osmo, application, and iPad. Each student will be required to complete an accountability record/reflection after each day’s session. In this way, the teacher can monitor any issues or misconceptions encountered by the student. The teacher will also be able to adjust the application used by each student.”
The benefits to the students are:
- Osmo fosters learning in key areas such as creative problem solving, art, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
- Coding Awbie teaches logic, problem-solving skills, and coding
- Coding Duo teaches coding with multiple chains or lines
- Coding Jam teaches advanced coding concepts and how to create music
- Masterpiece teaches drawing and creative confidence
- Newton fosters creative problem-solving skills
- Numbers teaches counting, addition, and multiplication
- Tangram fosters spatial relational skills
- Words teach spelling and critical thinking skills
- Monster teaches drawing skills and builds creative confidence
Glenda Nibert - Meigs Middle School
The goal of this project will be to increase student writing skills and overall linguistic proficiency through continued daily practice and the use of resources designed to enhance instruction and materials.
“My students will create and design their own writing folders, which they will reference for the duration of the school year to assist them with assessments that measure text-based responses, essays, and the art of writing,” said Nibert. “These folders will act as an ever-growing portfolio that is customized to meet the needs of each student, as our class continues to embrace a growth-mindset in developing quality writing. The benefit of receiving this grant is that my students would have access to more physical materials that they could use to aid them in building their writing portfolios, which would assist them not only in state assessments but in becoming life-long learners who can apply and articulate writing skills across other subject areas and aspects of their education.”
Heather McClaren - Plew Elementary School
The goal of this grant is to hire a part-time testing coordinator to administer makeup tests for students. “Test coordinating and administrating keeps me away from servicing our 800 plus students which are already a full-time job,” said McClaren. “Labeling tests and organizing materials for teachers takes hours but is also important to a successful FSA (Florida Standards Assessments) administration.”
Hiring a testing coordinator would allow McClearn to continue to focus on the mental health of students through the following activities:
- Help students with concerns about academic, emotional or social problems
- Help students process their problems and plan goals/action
- Mediate conflict between students and teachers
- Improve parent/teacher relationships, conferencing
- Lead MTSS (Multi-tiered System of Supports meetings
- LEA (Local Education Agency) for IEP (Individual Education Plan) parent meetings for ESE (exceptional student education) students
- Facilitate bullying prevention, empathy, & character development programs
- Organize and lead small group counseling programs
- Mentor Coordinator (over 20 mentors)
- 504 coordinator
- Classroom guidance lessons (KG-5th grades- 42 classrooms)
- ELL (English Language Learner) Coordinator / WIDA (English proficiency test) testing coordinator and Administration
- Teacher FSA training / create & follow school & ESE testing schedule
- Refer students to psychologists and other mental health resources
Counseling (individual & small group [Banana Splits (transition in family-like divorce or separation)/ Grief group / Friendship group]), and classroom guidance lessons will be conducted. McClaren will be available for teacher conferencing on intervention development for MTSS & PMP (Progress Monitoring Plan) writing and Parent / Teacher conferencing.
“I will be available to successfully administrate FSA testing without taking precious counseling services away from our 800 plus students here at Plew ES,” said McClaren. “Student mental health and well-being should be our highest concern and hiring an individual to do FSA testing part-time would demonstrate that priority.”
Amy Pendleton – Plew Elementary School
For this grant, the students will use the science kits to learn about the scientific process by utilizing hands-on kits based on relevant 5th grade Science topics including the water cycle, forces and motion, electricity, and earth science.
The students will work in cooperative groups during Science Stations to follow directions on the various kits to explore and experiment with scientific principles. The students will learn ways to clean water, build a hand-powered flashlight, use circuits to explore energy, explore the relationships between electricity and magnetism, and learn about the types of rocks and minerals on Earth, and experiment with forces through magnets. These kits will be used during the unit of study with the 5th-grade students.
“The students will develop team-building skills by working together to follow the kit directions in Science Stations,” said Pendleton. “The students will also learn relevant scientific principles related to the 5th grade Science curriculum. The students will apply the principles to other experiments and concept learning.”
Brittany Tate - Pryor Middle School
The goal of this grant is to provide flexible seating and fidget options for Pryor students in hopes of increasing student engagement and promoting collaborative learning in science.
“Currently, my classroom has two flexible seat options,” said Tate. “This results in only two students, each period, having the opportunity to sit in an alternative chair. This grant will help to provide more students with more options for classroom seating. This grant will add five additional flexible seating options. The traditional chairs that do still remain in the classroom, with the support of this grant, will be equipped with fidget bands across the legs of the chair. These bands will allow students to still have movement even while sitting in traditional chairs. The grant will also provide portable desks so that some students can sit on the ground.”
These flexible seating options will increase collaboration and engagement as the students can move while instruction and learning are occurring. This is supported by the 2016 Steelcase Education study, which showed that classrooms designed to support participative learning increased student engagement compared to traditional row-by-column seating (Scott-Webber, Strickland, and Kapitula). Students will be in cooperative learning groups while using these flexible seating options which will further increase their engagement and the learning environment.
To further increase student engagement, students who frequently wander the room, fiddle with pencils/rulers and speak out in the classroom will be provided with appropriate fidget items. By keeping their hands moving, student engagement can increase. Currently, 40 Exceptional Student Education students move through my classroom throughout the school day. These students have documented accommodations that encourage them to use fidget items to increase their focus; however, my classroom currently does not have any of these items. This grant will help to provide students with these necessary tools to help them succeed in the classroom.
“Many students at Pryor Middle School do not take Physical Education because of the need for Intensive Math and Intensive Reading,” stated Tate. “That combined with the 40 Exceptional Student Education students in my classroom, many students need the opportunity to move, fidget and get out of the ‘typical’ student chair. This grant will help to provide the students with the ‘chairs’ needed to do this. The stools, wobble chairs, bean bags, and portable desks will enhance the students’ learning environment by giving the students options for how they will learn each day. This will increase their engagement by keeping the students moving while learning. Students in traditional chairs will also be given the option to move by using the fidget bands that will be attached to the legs of the chair. Of the 40 ESE students, many of their accommodations allow for the use of fidget items. This grant will provide 11 fidget items for the science classroom.”
Susan T Watson - Ruckel Middle School
The Hero program allows a school to focus on a shared vision of school-wide positive behavior p where students, faculty, staff, and parents celebrate the same behavior achievements. At Ruckel Middle School the goals in the Hero Program are to reduce discipline referrals, to encourage/motivate those students that lack work ethic, and to show kindness/respect to all. At our school – Everyone is important or no one is important.
“We are implementing this program in our Intensive Reading classes, Critical Thinking classes, Learning Strategies, and Student Training Program,” said Watson. “Students and parents will be given flyers to explain the program, how it works, what our goals are, and how to use it. Parents and students will receive instructions on how they can download the Hero App to their phones and keep track of the points they earned each day for displaying those target behaviors in these classes (being on time – responsible – on task). As students arrive in class each day the program will be up and running on the teachers’ computer. All students in the respective classes have been uploaded by class period for those teachers. As they see the behaviors, they will click the student’s name, choose the behavior and award them points. Each time this happens, the parent's phone will also ding to let them know that their student is on task, on time, and being responsible/courteous. As a student is awarded points, the points can be redeemed for a small incentive, or the student can choose to let them grow to work towards a larger incentive. In addition, at the end of each month and then quarter, the students with the highest point values will receive an incentive from the school.”
The students that Ruckel will target are in the Early Warning System. These are students who struggle either academically, personally or both. Parents will be able to see the great things their child is doing while at school. “As these students begin to see the benefits of their positive behaviors, it will encourage them to continue those behaviors in all aspects of their life,” said Watson. “Ultimately the results will make them not just better academic students, but responsible young adults that understand the need to behave, be on task, and to be respectful.”
Robert Maddens - Shoal River Middle School
The goal of this grant will be to utilize the hyper-competitive nature of developing adolescents to motivate students and capture their attention, making them more willing participants.
A lockout buzzer system will be used in review activities and formative assessments. With the buzzer system, it is immediately apparent which students are prepared and which are not, as well as identifying areas where students may need to improve. This system is ideal for jeopardy style review/skill building.
“Students develop a self-accountability by having to show their knowledge with the buzzer system,” said Maddens. “They also must develop patience and self-control, in restraining their desire to buzz in early. Finally, a sense of teamwork in selecting participants and working together to answer the questions.”
Melissa Harrelson - South & Central Schools ESE
The goal of this grant will utilize technology to address the needs of visual learners individual to their specific needs in accordance with their IEP goals. All of the students on Harrelson’s caseload have hearing loss ranging from moderate to profound in severity.
“I will use the iPad to provide resource assistance to my students through a variety of apps and visual support for students who are deaf and require specialized support,” said Harrelson. “Many deaf students need the visual support to enable them to make connections to spoken vocabulary using pictures and videos. This technology can allow the material presented to be more accessible to them. The signing students will have access to a wide variety of technology including a videophone app to use to communicate with the outside world through Video Relay Interpreting services. This technology will be necessary for them as they transition to college and/or the workplace.”
The benefits to students include using iPad technology to teach new language skills (in sign language and auditory/oral methods), teach the students to use the Bluetooth technology available to their hearing aids and cochlear implants to better access to sound through technology and to develop individual lesson plans for the wide age and ability range that Harrelson teaches weekly. “I serve students from PreK-12th grade in a variety of placements-students at a center school for ESE students, VE classes, mainstream and even students who are dual enrolled at the high school/college level,” she said. “This iPad can help me design lessons to use for any student, any placement and any age. It is also very portable since I do visit 3-4 schools daily.”
Shannon DeBerry - Wright Elementary
The goal of this grant is for DeBerry’s English Language Learners (ELLs) to be able to access and create videos in their native language that will assist with classroom language arts assignments, assessments, and overall comprehension (written and oral).
Students will be assessed by observation, reading readiness checklists, and work samples before implementing the iPads using Clips (movie maker) app. Students will be trained in the use of Clips app to utilize and generate. After students become adept at using the iPad and app, alternative assessments will be conducted using the technology that will provide a true measure of my students’ comprehension.
“Two of my students do not speak English,” said DeBerry. “The remaining 16 are bilingual but lack English reading and writing skills that impact their academic/social growth in the classroom. Our interpreter comes in the classroom for a 45-minute block. Many times throughout the day, I am unable to effectively communicate with my students without calling for the interpreter. With the use of the iPads, I will be able to record the interpreter giving instructions.”
The iPads will be utilized to assist students in all academic areas. DeBerry plans to create movie clips that highlight key points in lessons. She and the interpreter will preview the text(s)/lessons and make video clips in her students’ native language. The use of this technology will allow students to become engaged in the lessons and not have to wait until the interpreter arrives. Students will use the iPads to play videos and make their own movie clips that show their understanding of content materials.
In addition to classroom use, the iPads will be available before and after school parent assistance. “Many times I am approached by parents and the language barrier has prevented me from communicating with my students’ families,” said DeBerry. “The interpreter and I will use movie clips to explain homework, classroom events/procedures, and tutorials for filling out school forms. Having the means to build upon the home-school relationship will positively impact student growth.”
CHELCO is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative employing more than 140 people and serving 48,000 accounts in Walton, Okaloosa, Holmes and Santa Rosa counties in the panhandle of Florida. CHELCO's official name is Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, which is named after the river and bay that are prominent features of the area. CHELCO’s headquarters is in DeFuniak Springs, with area offices in Freeport, Bluewater Bay, Baker, Auburn, and South Walton County.
The mission of CHELCO is to safely provide quality services and products at a competitive value while adhering to the cooperative principles. The vision is to continuously promote the quality of life for our members, employees, and communities within the scope of CHELCO’s core business.
CHELCO is proud to be a part of the Touchstone Energy network of cooperatives. Touchstone Energy is a national alliance of local, consumer-owned electric cooperatives providing high standards of service to members large and small. More than 750 Touchstone Energy cooperatives in 46 states are delivering energy and energy solutions to more than 32 million members every day. Touchstone Energy cooperatives serve their members with integrity, accountability, innovation and a longstanding commitment to communities.
About the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation (OPSF)
The OPSF is a not-for-profit community-based public school foundation. It is a partnership between families, schools, community, and business. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting and extending the educational opportunities of all individuals within Okaloosa County. Since its establishment in 1995, OPSF has funded educational enrichment programs including teacher grants for unique programs, student scholars in the Take Stock in Children Program, community educational initiatives, and student and teacher recognition awards. For more information about Take Stock in Children and the Okaloosa Public Schools Foundation, visit www.OkaloosaSchools.com/OPSF.