2016 Mini-Grant Award Winners

Staci Calder – Smithsburg High School

Award: $800
Project: Digital Piano for Choir

The Digital Piano for Choir will provide multiple levels of technology for the students in the Choral Program at Smithsburg High School. The Digital Piano features contemporary connectivity while maintaining the traditional piano form that is currently used daily in the classroom. Students will be able to connect to the instrument with iPads and personal devices, providing endless opportunities to create, record, and develop their musical skills. At the same time, the Choral Program will have a quality instrument for traditional rehearsal and support.

Students in the Choral Department will be better equipped to meet the process of creating, performing, and responding that make up the framework of the National Association of Music Education (NAfME) and National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) current Music Standards. As a result, individual musical literacy will be enhanced and the overall Choral Program will continue to grow and thrive.

Amanda Schwarz – Springfield Middle School

Award: $560
Project: Dot & Dash Join Genius Hour

Genius Hour is a time where students self-select a research topic and create inquiry questions to guide their research. Every Friday students are able to work on their projects and develop their ideas. Many students choose coding as their project. Dot & Dash would help students learn code and apply their knowledge to real, working robots. They can build, move, and more. They work with an app on the iPad which would encourage our county’s 1:1 initiative. This is also an interdisciplinary project because our Media Center utilizes a MakerSpace model that encourages students to build and create projects.

Having access to these robots will encourage students to pick coding as their Genius Hour project. Students will learn how to code and apply their knowledge to make Dot & Dash complete various tasks. Their final results will be showcased to their parents, teachers, and school administrators during classroom visits and the final presentation. Dot & Dash will be housed in the Media Center to encourage all students, not just those in my science classes, to learn coding and explore the possibilities of the robots. Students will have access to the robots during class, 2.5, lunch, and after school.

Melanie Desmond – Marshall Street Center & the Job Development Program

Award: $1000
Project: Using BrainPop, Jr. for Differentiated Learning

BrainPop, Jr. will enhance the instruction that we give our students by providing greater differentiation. It presents closed-captioned, animated, educational videos (usually 5 minutes or less) with in-depth information in a format that is easy for our students to understand and which they find engaging.

It offers a wide variety of cross-curricular subjects that match up well with the various instructional  topics that we teach throughout the school year, supporting life skills as well as academics. It takes difficult concepts and breaks them down into attention grabbing, easy-to-understand explanations for our students with severe and multiple disabilities. Its visual presentation of topics helps reinforce lessons for our students with autism, who typically are visual learners. It’s especially beneficial to all our students because research has shown that information is more effectively processed when presented in pictures, words, and sound than when presented in words alone.

BrainPop provides additional resources as well, such as interactive learning games, quizzes, worksheets, and other activities that are valuable in reinforcing and extending the lessons. Their website is technology friendly, and will work with our projectors and Smartboards, as well as student iPads.

Teachers and Para-Professionals will use BrainPop, Jr. on a daily basis during Homeroom as well as during Content Area classes to differentiate instruction by providing a multimedia approach to learning, increasing student engagement, and active involvement. Students will watch closed-captioned short educational animated videos on curricular topics. After viewing, students will play the interactive educational games and online activities that accompany and reinforce the lessons via the classroom Smartboards or their individual student iPads. Greater differentiation allows our students greater educational success.

 Melissa Dickinson – Western Heights Middle School

Award: $500
Project: WHMS Poetry Slam

The WHMS Poetry Slam inspires students to express themselves through writing and performance. Seventh graders attend an assembly where poetry champion Gayle Danley performs and speaks about the importance of self-expression through the arts. Later, 100 students participate in workshops throughout the day where they begin to develop their ideas and voices through poetry. Students are selected through a lottery because many more want to participate than we have space for. Later, Ms. Danley returns to coach students who will perform their works on stage in our slam. Finally, the grand champion is selected by the entire student body.

Through this program, students gain knowledge about self-expression through the arts. The large portion of our students are from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds; the opportunity to work with professionals, and see that those experts have an honest interest in their thoughts and opinions, is priceless to them because it teaches them that they matter. Each year, I have students who have barely spoken a word in class, students who struggle with basic concepts of writing, stand up and share experiences for the very first time. There is nothing more powerful that finding the ability to speak your truth, and these students write everything from humorous observations on the fashion around them to anguished expressions of the losses they have suffered to family violence, the prison system, and foster care. The excitement they show when their words are applauded by their classmates, and the validation that gives them, is life-changing.

 Amberly Karacz – Antietam Academy

Award: $1,000
Project: Antietam Academy Middle School Experiential Learning STEM

Students at Antietam Academy Middle School would participate in an experiential learning activity once a week. Experiential learning activities would fall into four categories: community service, community explorations, STEM, and relationship building. The experiential learning activity would begin with a whole school Restorative Practice circle and from there teams would be assembled to work on one of the four activities. STEM-based challenges would include: an egg drop, tower build, rocket build, pumpkin catapult, candy tower, spider web, roller coaster build, marble run build, bridge build, and a fairytale themed stem which would coordinate with ELA.

Students at Antietam Academy Middle School (grade 6-8) have been enrolled here due to behavioral, academic, and emotional hurdles presented by traditional methods of learning. Eighty-nine percent of our students are below grade-level in reading. Ninety-three percent of those students below grade-level reading are two or more grades below. In an effort to provide relationship building opportunities, relevance to learning and rigor for the Antietam Academy Middle School students, we would like to expose our students to more experiential learning opportunities. Our learning would have several different aspects to it, each one able to stand alone: community service, community exploration, STEM and relationship building.

Math and English skills are used to complete the STEM challenges and so relevance, understanding, and application for students grows stronger. Students who participate in STEM activities benefit by increasing their ability to creatively solve problems. When designing and building students must think ahead to hypothesis what will happen and then create a solution for problems that may arise. In STEM activities students must appropriately communicate with other group members which is a skill that students at Antietam Academy Middle School need to develop. Communication skills are also increased when presenting and defending the group’s solution to the problem to others.

Raymond Johnston – Hancock Middle Senior High School

Award: $988.67
Project: Advanced Research Seminar Capstone Project

Students in the Advanced Research Seminar class choose a capstone project applying the principles of STEM to their unique scientific interests. Two years ago, students engineered a solar-powered cell phone charging station, located in the school cafeteria. Last year, a self-monitoring solar powered plant stand was built. This year students are engineering a solar powered vehicle. Inspired by past projects, next year’s group has already begun discussions on what they can accomplish. These projects require tools, not traditional to the high school science laboratory. The tools purchased with these funds will enable future science students to accomplish great things.

The nature of the project will be based on students’ interests. In the process, they will build prototypes, collect data, and refine the design of the project. In the end, they will gain experience with the practices of STEM, creating a project they and Hancock High School will be proud of.

Amber Karkan – Fountaindale Elementary School

Award: $1,000
Project: Poetry in Motion Dance Residency

Poetry in Motion is an interdisciplinary residency project with a primary focus of integrating dance, poetry, spoken word, and writing. Scholarship dancers from Hagerstown Community College’s Dance Company will visit Fountaindale Elementary School on three separate occasions and lead workshops for the entire 5th grade that encourage students to explore and interpret the central message of various poetry through movement. This arts integration approach will also enhance students’ poetry writing skills, in addition to their ability to analyze. They will be able to build poetry kinesthetically in order to then write their own poetry from their movements. This arts integration project will allow students to physicalize written word furthering their ability to build meaning of and truly value this important literary genre.

Within the Poetry in Motion residency students will be able to: Read, analyze, and interpret the central message of various poems, create original dance works representative of their understanding of selected poetry, perform poetry/dance pieces and read poetry written compositions as authors at Fountaindale’s school-wide exhibition of learning, increase end-of-year grade-level performance on MAPS testing in the area of CCSSR2, meet school-wide SLO end-of-year expectations, collaborate closely with HCC dancers and other Fountaindale students, build community connections with a local college, Receive real-world exposure to college students and dance as a future subject of study, create and foster a mentorship and future community connections between Fountaindale students and HCC students, learn, analyze, and implement new strategies for creating movement material, and build a greater awareness and appreciation for the connection between reading, writing and the arts.

 Jennifer Gormer – Antietam Academy

Award: $986.85
Project: Trout in the Classroom

Trout in the Classroom {TIC} is an interdisciplinary program where students raise trout from eggs, then release them into local waterways as guided by the Department of Natural Resources. Students measure and maintain water quality, learn about their local ecosystems, and study a local stream. At Antietam Academy, many students have not had an opportunity to learn firsthand about fish and the local environment. This project will give them hands-on experiences to frame activities across the content areas. TIC is currently active in 86 schools across Maryland, but no schools in Washington County currently participate.

The goal of the Trout in the Classroom program is to teach students to value natural resources, and to provide a platform to learn about the local ecosystem and watershed, the value of trout as an indicator of environmental quality, and to encourage stewardship of the environment. This is directly tied to many of the Next Generation Science Standards, which emphasize cycling of matter and ecosystems {HS-LS2 and HS-ESS2} and the impacts that humans have on the earth {HS-ESS3}. This project will assist with the Science and Engineering Practices defined by the NGSS, and with all four of the county transfer goals that have been identified for science. (Select and evaluate reliable sources of information to address real world issues, use critical thinking, inquiry and modeling  to analyze ideas and phenomena to solve problems, design and conduct an authentic scientific investigation in order to collect and analyze data, communicate the results of an investigation using claim, evidence, and reasoning.) The trout can also be used to show genetic variation and as an example of mitosis.

Similar correlation to curricular transfer goals exists with English Language Arts (ELA). Project based research about the trout life cycle and environment are logical connections. Partnering with local Trout Unlimited members and their resources and publications will provide both analysis of and participation in advocacy. In addition to the opportunities for narrative, expository, and argumentative writing assignments, extension opportunities exist to use primary source texts such as Isaak Walton’s writings about fishing, Bliss Perry’s classic (and with text and audio in public domain) treatise Fishing With a Worm, Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, and numerous scientific and environmental writings about the Antietam watershed and impact on the greater Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The interplay of local and distant advocacy for reduction of sediment (see National Parks papers) through riparian plantings as well as control of agricultural  and rural runoff-all important  considerations for healthy trout waters-will provide real-world opportunities for research and argument, essential ELA skills.

Newly obtained technology will also be utilized in this endeavor. Data will be collected using probes that connect to the iPads, and apps on the iPads will allow for graphical representation and analysis of the data. A Twitter can be created to allow students to tweet about the progress of the project so that other schools and community members can follow along.

John Jones – Washington County Technical High School

Award: $750
Project: Caterpillar Project

This year’s project is unique in that it was created and designed exclusively by a few key students. They call it the Caterpillar Project. Their goal is to bring to light the stress placed on teens, both male and female, by publications that display the “perfect” examples of beautiful celebrities even though the images are largely manipulated in Photoshop. The teens feel society places two choices on young people. They must either live up to the false standards as portrayed in the magazines, or live with the fact that they are lesser people.

The students plan on scheduling photo sessions with teen models of various body types with the goal of demonstrating that there is no one body style that is more attractive than an other, and that all body styles have beauty of their own uniqueness. In fact they have already designed and built a 6 foot butterfly wing to use with one of the models to demonstrate from a caterpillar a beautiful butterfly is born.

The final goal is to hold a public showing of their efforts during a scheduled open house to be held at Tech High later in the spring. The students want to display their framed images teamed up with descriptive narratives (in compliance with Common Core standards) of incorporating discipline literacy to explain their work, their projected goals, and the difficulties they experienced while producing the images. Furthermore, those students who have more interest in the video training segment of our curriculum will document the procedure with the goal of playing the video at the public event.

We also plan on notifying the press of the project, hope to have a display possibly at Valley Mall, and will submit the project to national photography magazines like Click Magazine. The final goal is to document the entire project in a hardback book of our design and most likely published through MyPublisher.com.

Marissa Kenney – Northern Middle School

Award: $663.85
Project: Going Green!

The vision for Northern Middle School is that technology is in the hands of students who are using it to create original, and innovative work. Creating digital productions relies on critical thinking and problem solving to convey an idea through story.

Setting up a Green Screen studio will enable teachers from ALL subject areas to create multi-media productions. Video and images are combined with voice-over narration to present facts and explain complex issues in a relatively short amount of time. More importantly, digital video is proven to engage students by allowing them to combine video, images, music, narration and special effects within a single project.

Green screen video, when used across the curriculum in different subject areas, has a number of proven benefits to teachers and students alike. The use of digital storytelling in the classroom can reinforce more traditional teaching techniques and has the benefit of engaging all types of learners including visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. Middle school students relate well to video and the very nature of the medium allows you to use this technology to offer added stimulus to more traditional classroom activities. Using video within the classroom can assist in providing a greater understanding and conceptual clarity. The processes involved in developing digital video projects help students develop a faster engagement with a topic and often a deeper understanding of ideas than traditional written texts alone can provide. Working on a digital video storytelling project engages students in a range of processes from original conception through to the final production which encourages and develops higher-order thinking skills. The stages and processes involved in developing the project often involve problem solving and collaboration, while also assisting students to think logically and sequentially. Digital Storytelling also promotes analytical thinking skills, encourages students to select information in a critical manner. These skills can then be transferred to other aspects of their learning. From the initial writing through to the final production, students are driven to develop written, verbal and expressive communication skills. The fact that their writing will become a video adds momentum to the activity and encourages the student to consider methods with which the story may be communicated beyond the  written word. The use of multiple media encourages students to express themselves in ways that traditional learning techniques often cannot. The ability to animate a story using video, photos, images, music, voice and special effects allows students to develop creative thinking skills. As the writer, producer and star of their production, students develop a greater sense of ownership and this, in turn, helps develop a greater sense of autonomy and independence. Digital video and digital video editing are also very effective for assessment, self assessment and assessment for learning. This technology allows you to easily keep a record of student skills that would otherwise be quite difficult, such as the emotional, oral and interaction skills of a student.

Heather Tuya – Hancock Middle Senior High School

Award: $1,000
Project: STEM Focused Makerspace in the Library Media Center

The purpose of this project is to provide students with materials and inspiration for  hands-on problem-solving and creative experimentation, our school is developing a makerspace in the Library Media Center. The project is one of several initiatives led by our STEM Professional Learning Community to promote problem-based learning throughout the school.

The makerspace will have a variety of materials, from basics such as cardboard and rubber bands to kits for coding and robotics. All students will have the opportunity to use the makerspace during lunch, and teachers may sign up to bring their classes or send students during Common Core Enrichment periods or for class projects.

Students who use the makerspace will exercise their creativity and critical thinking, learn engineering skills, and experience the application and synthesis of ideas that is critical to understanding and fundamental to success in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. In a series of webinars provided this spring by the Maryland State Department of Education, Digital Harbor Foundation Interim Director Shawn Grimes emphasized the value of makerspaces in preparing students to solve problems in which there is no one correct solution and in teaching perseverance in the face of failure.

Tonja Meadows & Gary Willow – Boonsboro Middle School

Award: $999
Project: Intro to Aerospace

In the 2016-2107 school year students at Boonsboro Middle School will have the option to choose electives. We are offering new middle school courses and one of those courses is titled Introduction to Aerospace. Aerospace is an introductory course which discusses the historical development of flight, while engaging students in interesting hands-on aviation and space­ related STEM activities. In order to assist with the hand on approach we are asking for financial assistance to purchase a school drone.

Our mission at Boonsboro Middle School is to Connect, Inspire and Achieve. The activities in our Aerospace course allow students to study topics using technology in a way that has not been allowed in the past. We will expect students to have the opportunity to fly the drone and study the aerodynamic components that allow it to fly. We will use this technology and compare to earlier methods of flying. Later on in the application we list ways the drone will be used in other classroom content.


Joshua Edwards – Clear Spring High School

Award: $4,318
Project: Enhanced DLP

The  Digital Learning Plan put a device  in the  hands of almost every WCPS student. This “enhanced DLP” will give students and staff limitless connectivity to our VGA projectors. Our students are amazing and they should be given every opportunity to share their success with their peers and staff members. The “enhanced DLP” will allow every student access (with teacher approval) to the VGA projector to showcase their learning with their class. The “enhanced DLP” will also give teachers connectivity from their MacBook Air from any area within their classroom; allowing for greater classroom management and student engagement/interacti on.

With the assistance of CSHS iTeam, we will install and configure an AppleTV in every classroom space within our school. CSHS’s iTeam will develop training and support for teachers and students on the functionality and use of AppleTV within their classroom settings.

Once installed, AppleTV (with HDMI to VGA converters) will allow teachers and students to instantly stream content from a students iPad and/or from a teachers MacBook Air. Teachers will no longer be “chained” to one location with their computer/laptop connected to a projector. This “enhanced DLP” will directly compliment the student iPads and teacher MacBook Air with instant connectivity and increased  mobility.

Once implemented, the “enhanced DLP” will give 500 students and 42 staff members and administration the ability to connect instantly with the pre-existing projectors. This plan will also allow for future connectivity to monitors/displays once VGA projectors are no longer cost effective for classroom use.

FASFA Frenzy $500 Scholarship

Katelynn Kelly, North Hagerstown High School
Holle Sutphin, South Hagerstown High School
Zackary Toth, North Hagerstown High School

See photos of our 2016 award winners!

See the 2016 award winner outcomes with pictures & videos!