Grant Award Amount: In general, project budgets should be between $2,000 and $5,000.
Who May Apply: Individual teachers, teams of teachers, principals and other educators (e.g., guidance counselors, media specialists) on behalf of their school within Alachua County Public Schools.
Applications must address one of the following priority areas: Career/Technical Education, Literacy, Low-Performing Students, Teaching Quality/Improving Classroom Instruction and/or High School Graduation Rates.
Impact Summaries 22-23
Catalyst for Change grants awarded in 2022-23 school year[7 STEM grants at $19,353.56 and 10 traditional grants at $40,314.38 for a total 17 grants at $59,667.94]
The Education Foundation of Alachua County Catalyst for Change grants to reduce education disparities.
The following information is a summary of the mid-year grant reports provided by teachers.
1. Seahorse Key Experience
Emily Taylor, Lawton Chiles Elementary Check Presentation
○ This project has Implemented project-based STEM programs through a field trip experience to Cedar Key. In addition to giving students a first hand experience exploring adaptations which allow fish to function in their environment. Finally, students will construct a model of a protected shoreline that will effectively combat wave action and protect the marsh ecosystem. 91% of the students had never been to Cedar Key, and a majority had never seen the ocean. Ms. Taylor said, “This is absolutely the best day of my 20+ years of teaching!”
2. Sparking FUN with Robots in Advanced Placement Computer. Science Programming
Jessica Campbell, Buchholz High
○ This grant purchased programmable robots to engage students and improve recruitment and retention of student demographics that are traditionally underrepresented in computer science programs. This goal was also met, as female and students of color enrollments have more than doubled in the class. The grant also funded a field trip for students to a local elementary school, so that they can teach the skills they have learned, and spark interest in computer science in elementary school students.
3. Sustainability and Science Technology Engineering & Math (STEM)
RaeAnna Kramer, Norton Elementary School
○ Four teachers work with 70 students who study engineering through the evaluation of environmental problems related to the different branches of science being studied. They have completed 4 engineering design STEM projects using funds from the grant and two nature of science investigation projects allowing students to use observation and measuring skills. Students took a science of nature pretest and the average was 64%. After receiving funds and purchasing materials, they completed a unit test. That unit average was 68.7. Students will complete investigations related to those problems identified. The goal is for students to score 70% or higher on their science unit tests.
4. Code and Go: Robotic Basics for Primary Students
Allison Harris, Irby Elementary School
○ This project allows all Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade students at Irby Elementary the opportunity to learn basic directional coding and programming skills using class sets of Sphero Indi Car Robots and Bee Bots. Through these new technology tools, students will use critical thinking skills to program their robots through different mazes and obstacles they have designed and engineered. Helping them develop communication, leadership, initiative, and creativity skills.
The pre-assessment data indicated that less than 1% of the students surveyed could correctly define the words coding and debugging, and 23% of the student’s surveyed had prior experience programming robots. This data shows how teaching robotics and coding to this particular student population would be introducing new skills and knowledge that has not been accessible to them before. At the end of the year, students will participate in a post-assessment where they will be asked to define the words coding and debugging.
5. Full STEAM Ahead with Edison Robots
Debbie Rudtke, Metcalfe Elementary School * Title I School
○ Through the Science Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math
(STEAM) Lab, Mrs. Rudtke incorporates curriculum standards into hands-on problem-based learning activities. The activities allow students to develop creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication skills. STEAM activities are designed to mimic real-world problems and students will have the opportunity to learn how to code, invent, and solve problems with robots.
The Edison Robot purchased with this grant’s funding is very helpful in a K-5 STEAM setting because it is an expandable system that kindergarten students can start with at a beginner level and then progress through increasingly more difficult programming languages as their skills increase throughout their elementary career.
*Metcalfe Elementary is a high-needs Title 1 school with 100% of students economically disadvantaged and qualified for free and reduced lunch . For the 2021-2022 school year, only 25% of students demonstrated proficiency in English Language Arts, 28% in math, and 21% in science according to FSA data earning the school a “D” from the Florida Department of Education. The STEAM Lab program began at Metcalfe Elementary in the 2021-2022 school year. In the first year with STEAM, every class did a STEAM lab once a week for 45 minutes. For the 2022-2023 school year, Metcalfe Elementary is a new STEAM Magnet school.
6. A+ Aquaponics
Kristen Schendowich, Lake Forest Elementary School Title I School $4,704
○ This project provides funding for The Aquaponics food growing and Teaching STEM system,and seed packages allowing 160 students and their 8 teachers the opportunity to work with the system throughout the school year. Students will be able to experience the entire life cycle of plants and fish first hand. This correlates with more than 20 benchmarks on the Statewide Science Assessment in the Life Science category. Providing these students with the knowledge and skills to identify pollination, fertilization (seed production), seed dispersal, and germination as adaptations in plants that allow them to survive, and trace energy through a food chain. In the last two school years, only 21% of Lake Forest 5th grade students have shown proficiency on the science assessment. This is the perfect STEM project for these students to make real-life connections to the benchmarks as they work to increase the number of students who are on grade level in science.
7. Encouraging Engineering Participation
Marc Moody, Buchholz High School
○ 57 students (so far) participated in the National Science Olympiad tournament by having build events where students will be able to design, develop, and build a structure to accomplish certain tasks.
8. High Schoolers Saving Lives
LaMonica Davis, Eastside High School. $750
○ This grant helped cover the cost of Basic Life Support,CPR certification assessment fees for 20 Eastside High School students in the Medical Skills Program so that they will be given an advantage in seeking post-secondary employment in the medical field. Completing such certifications also helps students become eligible for Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program in the Gold Seal category. 53.8% of this school’s students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, and 53.4% of the student population is African American.
9. Accelerated Readers at Fort Clarke Middle School
Bessie Criscione, Fort Clarke Middle School, $5,255
○ Fort Clarke Middle School utilizes a reading program called iReady to increase proficiency in literacy skills for low-performing students. During the 2020-2021 school year, a very limited number of students had access to iReady. For the 2021-2022 school year, with the support of our Education Foundation, we increased access by purchasing laptop systems that were strategically placed in Intensive Reading classrooms. Although we had growth during the 2021-2022 school year (37% of our bottom quartile students
made adequate learning gains compared to 31% the year prior), the goal for this year with the help of this project is that 52% of our bottom quartile students will make appropriate learning gains in English Language Arts. We are confident that the regular access to laptops and learning walks, professional development will directly impact this rigorous goal.
10. Littlewood Book Club
Charlotte Grace, Littlewood Elementary School
○ Early literacy is a key focus for the school district. TThis project is a continuation of last year’s Littlewood Book Club project. his year Ms. Grace will be working with 50 students to help improve their reading levels including students not proficient and on grade level. This project addresses the School’s Improvement Plan goal of lessening the English Language Arts achievement gap from 42% to 39%. The most recent data from the Florida Department of Education shows that Littlewood has 58.3% minority students and 79.4% economically disadvantaged students. By reducing the achievement gap and increasing reading efficacy, the book club contributes to this goal by encouraging a love for learning.
11. PreCollegiate Spring College Tour
Debra Fields, Buchholz High School
○ This grant application exposes 66 students in grades 9 – 12th to new college and university opportunities. The PreCollegiate Club focuses on preparing students, who are predominantly African-American , for high school graduation and college entry. At Buchholz High School, the achievement gap for English Language Arts is 49% points and the achievement gap in MATH is 56% for
African-Americans compared to their peers from other demographics. These students will visit the following colleges: Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, University of Miami, Florida Memorial University, Bethune Cookman, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. 57 of the 66 students are on free lunch and reduced subsidized lunch plans, an indicator of the level of income in the family. Only 10% of these students have parents who have been to college.
12. Overcoming Challenges with a Growth Mindset
Dana Rudzitis, Alachua Elementary School – Title I School
○ Teachers were finding that when encountering difficult tasks, students would not try to solve the problems in new ways, they would simply give up. This grant utilizes the Mindsetworks Company’s research based school programs to introduce third-grade students to a growth mindset during their media time, to help them persevere through challenges. Third grade students check out books and participate in lessons read aloud by the media specialist each week covering growth mindset. Brainology is an online animated course including 3-hours of online activities for all fourth and fifth grade students. Brainology has been approved by the Alachua County Schools technology department. Students will complete these online activities during morning meetings from 7:45-8:15, which began in November. Another focus of the project is parent engagement. In November, Alachua Elementary also hosted a parent night where 28 families attended . Parents were introduced to a growth mindset language, fluency and ways to make reading fun. In January, students completed a Mindset Assessment Profile to which students took home to share with caregivers. Students’ negative behaviors along with a lack of student engagement are both contributing factors to Alachua Elementary receiving a school grade of a “D” for the 21-22 school year.
13. The Impact of Real-World Experiences on Student Achievement
Felicia HanleyMadison Hamblen, Deena Bray
Shell Elementary School – Title I School
○ Project Description: This grant will provide the 58 students in 4th grade at Chester Shell Elementary the opportunity to go on a field trip to St. Augustine to increase student interest and gather information related to the grade level social studies standards. 33 out of 58 of Shell’s 4th grader students have not visited St. Augustine. Students will visit key landmarks such as Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Mose while exploring the historical streets of St. Augustine. By participating in this field trip to St. Augustine, students will learn about colonial Florida history through immersive, interactive tours. This experience is paired with classroom instruction to deepen students’ understanding of Florida History, which shows up on standardized testing. Improvements will be measured through a variety of methods including entrance and exit surveys and a cumulative research project exploring the similarities and differences between lives of the early Florida settlers and life in the modern world.The 2022 Florida Standardized Achievement test in English Language Arts Data shows that 72% of students at Shell did not meet grade level score expectations.
14. Pledging to Advance Academic Capacity Together (P.A.A.C.T.) Shilah Carol, Carla Frais, Bevon James, Binta Moncur.
Littlewood Elementary School
○ The Pledging to Advance Academic Capacity Together (P.A.A.C.T.) Program at Littlewood Elementary School is an academic improvement initiative for African American students, teaching students how to set goals, implement strategies for success inside and outside of the classroom, and take on leadership roles. The ultimate goals of the program are to increase African-American student performance on standardized tests (decreasing the achievement gap) and to foster a greater connection to the school community. The 4 teachers facilitating the project will pair 30 students with mentors, who are current Littlewood teachers as well as University of Florida students. The mentors have weekly check-ins with their students on Tuesdays. These check-ins consist of establishing and executing academic SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based) goals, developing character through high interest book study, and designing and implementing a community project at Littlewood. The program is having a positive impact on our students academically and their behavior.
15. Experimental Study Proposal of the Effect of Augmented Reality. Experiences within a Social Studies Curriculum
Eric John Baez, Professional Magnets at Loften High School
○ Early studies have shown augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have great promise in education. This project creates best management practices of Virtual Reality in the pedagogy framework in two Title I school’s social studies departments at Loften and Eastside High Schools. The teachers and media specialists collaborating in this study will be facilitating the experience for the students through a guided lesson plan created by Alachua County School Board Social Studies and Computer Science Instructor, Eric Baez. The goal is to create a best management practice for further scalability and to observe if these Virtual Reality experiences help to create student engagement in the classroom content materials and in turn results in raised standardized test scores in students of similar demographics comparing data from 2018 -2022.
16. Industry Certification for Change
Dawn S. Bekaert, Gainesville High School
○ This is an expansion of the 2021-22 Catalyst for Change grant project. Last school year, 108 students were taught the food safety certification. 51 certifications were earned in two industry tests. 22 students passed both industry certifications making them eligible for the Florida Gold Seal Bright Futures Scholarship. Students passing these certifications make it possible for future students to take these exams at no cost. The goal of the project for this year is to have 75% of Ms. Bekaert’s students test at least once (112 of 150) with the goal of 75% pass rate of those students (84 students). Additionally, 100% of students who pass the first test go on to take the 2nd test with a 75% pass rate on the 2nd exam (63 students). The funds for this project will provide each student with a study manual, which wasn’t done the year prior.
Last year 14 of the 16 students who obtained certifications got jobs immediately out of high school in their chosen field.
17. Expanding Outdoor Education Opportunities
Maggie Paxson, Gainesville High School
○ This application is an extension on a successful project about inspiring future scientists through authentic, outdoor learning opportunities. Last year, this project put authentic science learning tools in the hands of almost 400 students , many of whom were low-level learners in Gainesville High School’s standard marine program. This year’s project will further tools and refills on successful testing kits and protocols, and to help fund the creation of a long-lasting native teaching garden that would provide academic, economic, and mental health benefits to the campus at large. A well-maintained and easily-supervised site on campus could encourage teachers not using natural spaces for science learning activities to begin doing so. Additionally, this space would remediate an area of land recently deforested by maintenance crews. The planting of native food sources will help encourage beneficial wildlife such as diverse bird species to visit campus, and will further enrich existing nature journaling and ecological activities performed by multiple groups of students on campus annually. Finally, the remainder of this grant’s funding will be used to bring a new group of standard-level marine students to Cedar Key to engage in authentic marine management strategies.