We are thrilled to announce $120,000 in projects that the Colonial Fund will support this school year. These 12 projects cross a variety of disciplines and will impact every student in our schools today and in the years to come. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the Colonial Fund is able to respond quickly to the most pressing and critical needs in our district
District Wide (all schools)
WholeSchool Mindfulness – Students, teachers, staff and families are increasingly feeling stressed, anxious and overwhelmed by all of life’s demands. Mindfulness programs being implemented in all SPS schools help us sort through these feelings and create more aware, resilient and compassionate people who are ultimately better equipped to tackle life’s demands now and in the future. Learn more.
Media Center World Language Book Project – Across SPS, 36% of students’ first language is not English. Creating world language collections in all of our schools’ media centers will enhance the sense of belonging in the Shrewsbury community for our English language learners and give more students the ability to see perspectives from their own cultures represented in the books they read. Research shows that students who have access to books in their home language are better engaged and more successful in school. (See full article.) These are just some of the titles we have purchased for our media centers:
Civics Curriculum Expansion - In 2018, Gov. Baker signed a law, making it a “requirement for Massachusetts public high schools and school districts serving eighth-grade students to provide at least one student-led, non-partisan civics project for each student.” In addition, that same year, DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) “voted to approve a revision of the History and Social Sciences curriculum framework, which will improve the impact of civics education across multiple grade levels and subject areas.”
In Shrewsbury, we continue to identify ways to broaden and deepen our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. At the same time, we look to increase student interaction with, and exposure to, individuals who have respectfully and productively participated in civic action. This funding allows SPS to enhance the way civics and social studies are taught through a combination of professional development for teachers, new classroom and independent resources for students and hands-on experiences like field studies and guest speakers. The goal is for students to understand history from multiple perspectives, to respectfully and productively talk through issues with others who disagree, and to form a path forward to be more knowledgeable and impactful citizens.
“Do The Math” - This program will provide teachers with additional tools and curriculum aides to help elementary students build or rebuild their understanding of key math topics. Complementing the existing math curriculum, “Do The Math” will help students further develop the number sense they need to reason, the skills they need to compute with accuracy, and the ability to apply their mathematical reasoning and skills to solve problems.
Improved & Expanded Leveled Reading Libraries - Leveled reading books are those that have been categorized into levels of difficulty so they can be matched to a student’s reading ability. Teachers use these leveled texts to instruct students with high quality books that are challenging enough for them to make progress and then move through the different levels as they grow as readers. With support from each school’s PTO, the collection of leveled reading books at each elementary school will be expanded to ensure each school has enough books for all levels of readers. The collections will also be updated so that the books are current and reflect the interests and diversity of the SPS student body.
Expanding the K-4 music program with ukuleles - We will enhance the music education of our K-4 students by adding ukuleles into the music curriculum in all five of our elementary schools. This will introduce instrument play and reading music earlier than we are currently able. We believe it will also spark interest, bring joy and help develop a love of music in our youngest students that they will carry with them into our middle and high school music programs.
Character Strong - Character Strong is a research-based social emotional learning curriculum for middle school and high school students. Students and their adult advisors are following the Character Strong curriculum during the Advisory periods at Oak Middle School. Founded in 2016, and now serving over 1 million students in 2500 schools, Character Strong provides a structured and comprehensive curriculum that works to create community within the classroom and enable students to interact over topics related to empathy, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Read page 3 of the Fall 2021 Shrewsbury School Journal to learn more about how this valuable new program is working at Oak Middle School.
Shrewsbury High School
Character Strong - Character Strong is a research-based social emotional learning curriculum for middle school and high school students. Students and their adult advisors are following the Character Strong curriculum during the Advisory periods at Shrewsbury High School. Founded in 2016, and now serving over 1 million students in 2500 schools, Character Strong provides a structured and comprehensive curriculum that works to create community within the classroom and enable students to interact over topics related to empathy, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.
Challenge Course improvements - Created 10 years ago, through the generosity of a PEP (Physical Education Program) grant, the Challenge Course at SHS is, year after year, one of the most valuable and popular classes in the 9-12 Physical Education Program of Studies. Working with trained teachers, students step out of their comfort zone and push their preconceived limits to tackle 13 elements on this outdoor ropes course. Over an entire semester, students are able to conquer fears and obstacles they never imagined.
After many years of consistent use, the course needs updates to all of its equipment: ropes, harnesses, belay devices, helmets and re-training for instructors. The improvements to the course will ensure it remains a safe, vibrant part of the SHS curriculum. This investment will also enable us to rent out the course to local colleges and corporations for team building activities. The rental fees we collect will be put towards ongoing maintenance and enhancements, making the Challenge Course self-sustaining in the future.
Coffee Cart Business Venture "The Daily Grind"
Shrewsbury High School’s Special Education Pre-Vocational program established The Daily Grind during the 2020-2021 school year as a way of connecting students and staff. It was a centrally located coffee shop set up in the High School media center, where staff could purchase coffee, snacks, and greeting cards. This year, thanks to the Colonial Fund, this business model was further enhanced through the purchase of a mobile coffee cart, which allows students to deliver coffee and tea to teachers and staff throughout the morning.
According to Meghan DeLeon, Director of High School Special Education, “The Shrewsbury High School Pre-Vocational program focuses on helping students gain real-life on the job training, hygiene skills, self-help skills, customer service skills as well as functional communication. Developing a coffee cart business creates a chance for faculty and staff to connect with students they might not have the opportunity to interact with during the school day.”
The students have been actively involved in the setup of the coffee cart program. When the first supplies arrived, students were busy assembling and taking inventory. Two students and their teacher also met with Mike Goldman, a representative from Good as Gold Coffee to learn more about the distribution process, cost and options available for wholesale purchase. Mr. Goldman was able to provide sample coffee, look at the coffee cart setup and offer suggestions like how to efficiently prepare iced tea/coffee, save costs with their sugar free flavor syrups and offer monthly memberships to consumers.
In addition to bringing students and staff together, the program offers many opportunities for collaboration between different groups of students. High School Computer Science students helped develop “The Daily Grind” app that faculty and staff can download and use to place their order every morning. Art students helped to design the logo. Middle School students from the Oak Middle School Design Lab created a vinyl sticker of the logo to put on the side of the cart (they made it using the laser cutter which was purchased with Colonial Fund money 3 years ago!). Kelli Mcsweeney and The Colonial Store at the High School donated hats and shirts with the Daily Grind logo for the student workers to wear. The Colonial Store is also selling special Daily Grind re-usable steel mugs for staff to purchase. It’s been a phenomenal group effort!
The Daily Grind invites all faculty and staff “to beat the daily grind, enjoy a cup and unwind”, and help students gain hands-on experience with running their own business.
Proceeds from coffee sales will go back into the business, making it a self-sustaining venture. Through their work, students will develop valuable, marketable skills that qualify them for jobs outside the high school. In addition, the drink ordering app will be created and maintained by other students in the high school, making this an inclusive venture. This is an exciting opportunity for our students and a welcome treat for teachers and staff.
Math “ Thinking Classrooms” - This pilot program will reimagine learning space in up to 7 math classrooms this school year. 5 white boards will be mounted to classroom walls to create vertical, non-permanent work surfaces where students will work through math problems in small groups. The idea behind this is that when students are sitting, they don’t always feel part of what is happening in the classroom and are more likely to disengage. But when students are standing in groups and working collaboratively on vertical surfaces, they have to communicate, persevere, be patient, rely on themselves and their classmates, etc. The goal with this classroom model is that students persevere longer working on problems without teacher assistance and that they try out ideas and experience the thinking process as nonlinear and sometimes messy. The focus isn’t on just getting the answer to a problem but rather helping students become thinkers. For more information on this classroom model, listen to a discussion with Peter Lijdehal.
New Equipment for the SHS TV Studio - Classes in the SHS TV Studio continue to be some of the most popular at the high school. In order to grow that program to meet student demand and also expand the scope of projects that students need to complete outside of the classroom, additional mobile cameras and audio equipment are needed. One immediate goal is to launch a monthly student-produced talk show that will air live in the evening and feature not just what is happening at SHS, but in the community at large. Whether or not they pursue a career in the broadcast industry, this project based program teaches students real life skills like communication, teamwork, and problem solving, sometimes in front of a live audience, that students can use in the workforce.
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