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.

Grant Training: We will be hosting a grant training with the ACPS Grants and Special Projects Department on Wednesday, August 30, 2023 at 4 pm via the Zoom App. Teachers can sign up for this training here:

The application should be completed by using this Google Form. The application is due to The Education Foundation on or before September 15th, 2023.

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.