2016 Mini-Grant Outcomes

Staci Calder – Smithsburg High School

Award: $800
Project: Digital Piano for Choir

The 2016 Mini-grant awarded to Smithsburg High School for Digital Piano for Choir has been a great success and will continue to be a frequently used tool for years to come. The $800 award was used to purchase an electronic keyboard with Bluetooth and MIDI capabilities for use in building the Choral Program at Smithsburg High School. The full amount was spent locally at the Music & Arts Company, where the school representative worked with us to be able to buy the requested Digital Piano within the budget. The keyboard was ordered in the spring and arrived in mid-summer. It was ready for use at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year and has been used just about every school day!

When the mini-grant was written, there were only thirteen students participating in the Smithsburg High School Choir. At the time of writing this report, there are thirty-six students! Based on the numbers projected for next year, we anticipate continued growth. The Choir is preparing now for the WCPS Assessments (March 17, 2017) and having MIDI on the Digital Piano has aided the students in preparation for adjudication. In addition to serving the Choir, the Digital Piano has also been used at times for the Jazz Ensemble (nineteen students) and the Concert Band (sixty-seven students).

Having the Digital Piano has greatly aided in the daily Choir rehearsals. We are still learning what the capabilities are, as we continue to utilize our one-to-one iPads. Beyond that, I know the award made an emotional impact on the students, as the returning Choir members still occasionally talk with pride about the day we found out we won!  Thank you for supporting the Arts at Smithsburg High School! As the program continues to grow and incorporate more students, the Digital Piano will continue to be a helpful resource.

Student using the piano purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Student using the piano purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Students using the piano purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Students using the piano purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Amanda Schwarz – Springfield Middle School

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

Dot and Dash Join Genius Hour was implemented at Springfield Middle School during the 2016-2017 school year. The grant award was $560 and I used all of that amount to purchase two Dot and Dash robot sets. Christine Hurley and I use the robots in multiple ways. I use them during my Genius Hour curriculum on Fridays in science class. Students are allowed to work on a completely independent science project every Friday from January until May. Approximately 10-15 students are learning how to program Dot and Dash for Genius Hour. I also use them for the 5 students who attend STEM Club every other Thursday after school. Christine also uses them during her 4.5 enrichment coding class. Twenty students use Dot and Dash during this time. Finally, Christine hosts students in the library during lunch where they can learn and explore with the robots. Approximately 15 students use the robots during this time. Therefore, they are available for all 830 students to use, and we have 40-60 students who use them on a regular basis.

Dot and Dash have been a wonderful addition to Genius Hour. They are a great way for students to code and learn how to use different types of robotics. One of the Genius Hour groups is learning how to use block coding to guide Dash through an obstacle course around the library. Another group is teaching it to play the piano it came with. The app it comes with breaks down the coding into simple, easy-to-follow steps so students can learn complex concepts without getting too frustrated. I have enjoyed seeing how well students have been responding to Dot and Dash. They are excited to learn how to use them and build their coding skills at the same time. By the end of May, I expect to see wonderful projects with well-developed code.

Student using the equipment purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Student using the equipment purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Student using the equipment purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Student using the equipment purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Video using project: Dot and Dash 2016 Dance to “Hooked on a Feeling

Video using project: Dot and Dash 2016 Dance to “Happy

Melanie Desmond – Marshall Street Center & the Job Development Program

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

The entire student body of 85 students used the BrainPop, Jr for Differentiated Learning products during the 2016/17 school year.  All of the teachers at the school are able to incorporate the project into their classroom.  The entire grant of $1000 was used to purchase the product along with $148 that the school provided to cover the remaining cost.

Teachers use BrainPop, Jr in planning lessons and delivery of lessons for students.  This website explains complex concepts related to science and other academic topics in a simplified manner.  Each video is followed by an interactive quiz for the students to complete to assess their understanding of the topics.  With the 1:1 iPad initiative the students can be signed into the site and the assessment information can be collected for future planning.

Student using the equipment purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Student using the equipment purchased with the 2016 grant funds.

Melissa Dickinson – Western Heights Middle School

Award: $500
Project: WHMS Poetry Slam

All of the following 7th grade ELA teachers at WHMS were involved in the grant implementation: Melissa Dickinson (grant recipient), Marilea Barnum and Sara Sandeen.  The grant had an impact on the following number of students:

  • 260 7th graders participated in the initial professional slam poetry performance modeling on April 3rd, 2017
  • 100 7th grade students participated in workshop sessions run by Ms. Danley
  • 58 7th graders performed in the grade-wide poetry slam competition (all 7th graders attend the performance) on May 10, 2017
  • All 760 WHMS students vote on the final grand champion

The purpose of the Western Heights Middle School Poetry Slam project was to engage students more deeply in learning through participation in the performing arts through poetry.  As a part of this process, we brought international poetry grand-slam champion Gayle Danley to work with our students via performance and a day-long series of workshops that included all seventh grade students.   The entire grade attended the kickoff assembly where Ms. Danley modeled her interactive slam poetry; following that performance, 100 students participated directly in turns, via lottery system, in 70 min workshops that allowed them to benefit from her experience and charismatic instruction.  As a follow-up, students continued the process with a 2-week mini-unit where students created additional poems, finally selecting one for focused revision and performance.  To do this, students studied slam performances from other professional poets online, and critiqued their writing, tone, and style.  They used Adobe Voice to turn their poetry into mini-films reflecting their skills at using voice, image, and background music to practice creating appropriate tone and mood in an audience.  Students presented their work to peers daily, with some selecting to go in front of the whole group several times; each performance received “positives and constructives” from the audience; this process ended in a final performance from all students in front of their respective classes.  This year, Ms. Danley returned on April 30th to give workshops to those students who wanted focused instruction and professional feedback on their work; these workshops were held on the stage so student could practice for the slam in an authentic environment.

We had several goals for this project.  First, we wanted to expose students to a new mode of self-expression that was reliant on their own experiences; many of our students come from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds, and struggle with the ability to express their experiences in a constructive manner.   Because about half of the grade-level students come to us reading well below the expected level, many of them also have the attitude that they “can’t do writing”, and thus give up; having a mode of expression that less structurally rigid, such as slam poetry, gives students the opportunity to write and not feel frustrated by the traditional essay format that has made them feel like failures in the past.  Far from giving students an “out”, this type of writing forces students to focus on using specific, dynamic word choices, making meaning using metaphor and other figurative language, and creating structural impact using purposeful line breaks and stanza choices.   Third, slam poetry fosters a sense of community through shared experience and meaningful communication.  Finally, the performance aspect requires students to take their message and use their voice and bodies to convey the true tone and meaning to the audience, using eye contact and physical presence; each student does this in class, and anyone who would like to volunteer to take part in the day-long slam is encouraged to do so.  These students are celebrated in class, and given extra feedback sessions, which classmates take seriously.

The impact of this event was measured in the students’ final works and performances, as well as their own reflections on the event.  In the past, students have had extremely moving reactions to the workshops and slam, stating that they were grateful to be shown that they didn’t need to be ashamed of their feelings or backgrounds, and that they could be proud of who they are without looking for permission from others.  Students were graded using rubrics that are based on the Common Core standards; these reflected an increase in their ability to use descriptive language to create tone, mood and meaning, as well as an increase in their analytical power when reviewing their own work and that of others.  However, the true impact of this program on the participants is not able to be measured on paper.  We see it in the resulting confidence in class, and in the willingness of students to try new things and re-commit themselves to the writing process.  This process, because it is meaningful in a real-life way, make students excited about writing, some of them for the first time in their lives.  Because the entire school is involved in the final voting process, the whole community celebrates the participants, and is involved in the process.

Amberly Karacz – Antietam Academy

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

Update coming soon!

Raymond Johnston – Hancock Middle Senior High School

Award: $988.67
Project: Advanced Research Seminar Capstone Project

The Hancock High School Integrated Research Seminar class decided to continue work on a solar powered vehicle initially developed last year.  The goals they set were to flip the vehicle from 2 front 1 rear wheel to 2 front 1 rear wheel, improve speed, and reduce weight.  The 3 wheel design required the development of a 2 wheel steering system.  A disk brake system was also integrated into the rear wheel.  The single speed system was replaced with a 7 speed gear cassette and thumb shifter allowing for multiple speed vs torque ratios.  Weight was significantly reduced by reducing vehicle size and amount of steel included in the design.  This project gave students the opportunity to prototype and refine multiple mechanical systems as well as become familiar with photovoltaic systems.

Amber Karkan – Fountaindale Elementary School

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

Update coming soon!

Jennifer Gormer – Antietam Academy

Award: $986.85
Project: Trout in the Classroom

Trout in the Classroom at Antietam Academy was a successful experience for students at Antietam Academy.  Approximately 90 students were able to interact with the project in some way, from caring for the tank, to watching the eggs hatch into fry, to participating in the release of the small trout into the Antietam Creek.  Along the way, the students learned about the local creek ecosystem, the physiological needs of the fish, water quality and the way that human activities impact the ecosystem and the water quality of the Antietam creek.  At many times throughout the year, the trout were used as an example relating to the topics being discussed in biology classes.

All of the funds ($987) provided by the mini-grant were used to purchase of the equipment used to maintain a 55-gallon aquarium at the proper temperature and water quality levels necessary for the trout to survive.  Students used a water quality test kit to check the chemical balance of the tank several times a week.  When the students tested the water of the actual Antietam creek, they learned that our tank matched the creek closely.  The money to provide transportation to the creek and back for the release field trip came from the school’s budget.

The Trout in the Classroom project was very successful and I plan on continuing the project next year.  After observing the project, the Science Content Specialist for Secondary Schools is interested in implementing the program in other classrooms throughout WCPS.

Thank you for the opportunity to bring this unique program to my students. This learning experience would not have been possible for them without the WCPS Foundation Mini-grant.

Trout eggs as part of the project

Trout eggs as part of the project

Growing trout as part of the project

Growing trout as part of the project

Catching trout to release as part of the project.

Catching trout to release as part of the project.

Releasing trout at Antietam Creek as part of the project.

Releasing trout at Antietam Creek as part of the project.


John Jones – Washington County Technical High School

Award: $750
Project: The Butterfly Project (Application for grant submitted as Caterpillar Project)

I wanted to thank you for the assistance the foundation gave us so that we could pursue a project that’s relevant to today’s teens, and to present my students a project that required conceptualization, writing, photography, math, printing and the matting of prints, and presentation. Plus the students produced a related video as well. That’s pretty much every skill learned in my class compressed into one project.

The students explain their efforts in photographing the Butterfly Project, a grant supported class project which addresses the conflict young people feel about their own body types. Funded by the WCPS Education Foundation.

Click here to see pictures & read narratives from each artist: 2016 Mini Grant Recap – John Jones

Marissa Kenney – Northern Middle School

Award: $663.85
Project: Going Green!

Update coming soon!

Heather Tuya – Hancock Middle Senior High School

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

This project has been utilized school wide, impacting approximately 262 students.  All of the following Hancock Middle/Senior High School teachers were involved in the grant implementation:

  • Heather Tuya, Library Media Specialist and STEM PLC member
  • Carl Wise, High School Science Teacher and STEM PLC chair
  • Sara Crosten, Middle School Science Teacher and STEM PLC member

Joining the “Makerspace” movement that has swept schools and libraries across the country, our school’s STEM PLC used its $1,000 grant from the WCPS Education Foundation to purchase kits and supplies that encourage students to use their imaginations to solve problems and build original creations. These supplies, ranging from robotics and electronics sets to craft supplies such as a glue gun, craft sticks and duct tape, are available in the library media center for students to use during enrichment, lunch and after-school times. Students are excited to use the materials and often request to use them during times such as while waiting for other groups to finish PARCC testing and during reward activities for Students in Good Standing. In the future, we plan to expand and promote use of the makerspace by introducing a monthly challenge or project and working with teachers to coordinate opportunities for classes to use the makerspace.

Hancock Middle-High 7th Grade students explore KNEX supplies from the makerspace

Hancock Middle-High 7th Grade students explore KNEX supplies from the makerspace

Tonja Meadows & Gary Willow – Boonsboro Middle School

Award: $999
Project: Intro to Aerospace

Update coming soon!


Joshua Edwards – Clear Spring High School

Award: $4,318
Project: Enhanced DLP

CSHS was very blessed to be the first recipient of a MAXI-Grant which generously placed AppleTVs in every classroom within our school. In addition we were also able to place AppleTVs in our media center, weight room, auditorium, conference room and other non-classroom areas where students/staff/community members gather and utilize this wonderful technology.

Within my own classroom AppleTV has allowed many opportunities that are showcased in the following movie.

Click the picture to see the video from Mr. Edwards regarding the DLP Project – 2016 Maxi Grant Winner.

Thanks to the MAXI-Grant all of the information showcased in the video are able to be shown to my students, but the real benefit is that it has allowed the students to share their progress and success with their peers in “real-time”. CSHS has a wonderful staff that has embraced this technology and utilized it to help harness information for their specific classes.

Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity for our students and staff!