To meet the state’s next generation science standards, SPUSD has been testing curriculum from the innovative non-profit Project Lead The Way with the help of funding from SPEF. The district will now be rolling out PLTW’s Launch modules to every elementary school teacher in the district thanks to a $39,572 grant from SPEF. In addition to covering the cost of teacher training and support, the grant will allow the district to purchase curriculum units for K through 5 that introduce students to foundational concepts in physics, biology, earth science, energy and robotics.
South Pasadena’s public schools will be able to introduce or expand three vital academic and behavioral programs, thanks to $100,000 in grants from the South Pasadena Educational Foundation.
SPEF’s Major Grants committee informed school administrators this week that it had agreed to fund requests to expand the Project Lead the Way/Engineering Pathway and the elementary school Mindfulness program, and to launch anti-bias workshops at South Pasadena High School. “SPUSD greatly values our partnership with SPEF, including its generous funding of annual major grants, which enable us to be visionaries who are able to take action through ambitious, student-focused, educational programs,” said Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “During the current cycle of funding, major grants will be supporting social-emotional programs and lessons, specialized anti-bias training for teachers and students, and curricular advancements in highly sought after subjects such as science and engineering.”
Here are more details about each of the grants.
PLTW Engineering puts students into the role of engineers, adopting a problem-solving mindset and translating their ideas into reality. Its courses pose real-world challenges for students, helping them to work collaboratively and think creatively.
SPEF has been a key backer of the PLTW curriculum, helping to establish a series of popular STEM/engineering courses at the middle school. That effort will soon bear fruit as well in the high school; it plans to begin offering its first PLTW engineering course, which SPEF also funded, in the 2019-20 school year, coinciding with the opening of the new engineering lab.
The new $42,460 grant from SPEF will fully fund a second course in high school, titled “Principles of Engineering.” Starting in 2020-21, the course will lead students through a broad range of engineering topics, including structural strength and automation, then have them apply it to the challenge of designing a self-powered car.
The Mindfulness program grows out of a seed SPEF planted at Marengo Elementary School a few years ago. Teachers there had obtained a direct grant from SPEF to fund an eight-week mindfulness initiative, which had a special instructor come in twice a week to lead 15- to 20-minute sessions on such mindfulness activities as focusing on one’s breathing, on sounds and on thoughts. The point was to give students tools that help them reduce anxiety, improve focus and heighten empathy by helping them to better identify, talk about and cope with their emotions.
The effort was so well received and effective, the district sought to expand it. And now with a $45,540 grant from SPEF, the district expects to bring the mindfulness curriculum right away to 45 classrooms across all elementary schools, and to 54 classrooms in 2019-20. It’s a timely effort, considering the surge in children being diagnosed with anxiety.
The third grant targets concerns about how the heightened political divisions, declining civility and other fault lines in our society are affecting students. The district sought SPEF’s help to bring a training program to teachers and students that could help improve their ability to listen and respond to viewpoints that conflict with their own.
Using a $12,000 grant from SPEF, South Pasadena High School plans to send up to 100 staff members and up to 50 students to full-day anti-bias workshops run by the Anti-Defamation League. The goal is to train students to use their leadership skills and influence over their peers to encourage respect and civility in their schools and their community. Students will also be trained to lead workshops and discussions with their peers about issues that are affecting their lives, and to promote a culture that values the differences among us.
PLTW Science Curriculum K-5
The SPEF board is now accepting applications for major grants, which fund ambitious new course materials, technology and upgrades that the district wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Unlike the teacher direct grant proposals, pitches for major grants will come from district leaders and school principals, who are currently considering what programs they would like to fund with this money.
In 2017-18, SPEF was proud to announce the awarding of over $62,000 in major-grants funding to two programs at South Pasadena High School. The funded projects are:
Project Lead The Way STEM/Engineering:
Schools across California have been tasked with implementing the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) over the course of the next few years. The goal of the CA NGSS is to prepare California students to be future citizens and future scientists. Achieving this vision for all California students requires that they build towards science mastery through repeated opportunities for meaningful, engaging, and successful learning experiences. These standards also have a heavy emphasis on engineering practices and engineering design.
Students at the middle school currently participate in the Project Lead the Way STEM/Engineering Pathway courses. PLTW Engineering empowers students to step into the role of an engineer, adopt a problem-solving mindset, and make the leap from dreamers to doers. The program’s courses engage students in compelling, real-world challenges that help them become better collaborators and thinkers. Students take from the courses in-demand knowledge and skills they will use in high school and for the rest of their lives, on any career path they take. There is a high level of interest in these courses.
To capitalize on the PLTW STEM/Engineering middle school interest level and to meet the NGSS engineering practices, the SPEF Major Grant’s Committee awarded $30,903 to build an engineering pathway at South Pasadena High School. This pathway will include two PLTW Engineering courses described below:
Introduction to Engineering Design
Students dig deep into the engineering design process, applying math, science and engineering standards to such hands-on projects as designing a new toy or improving an existing product.
Principles of Engineering
Students explore a broad range of engineering topics, including mechanisms, the strength of structure and materials, and automation, and then they apply what they’ve learned to take on challenges such as designing a self-powered car.
World Language Computers on Wheels:
The SPHS World Language Department provides classes in Spanish, Mandarin, and French to over 65% of students enrolled at the high school. These classes can fulfill graduation requirements and are necessary to meet the UC A-G requirement.
As with English Language Arts, students enrolled in SPHS World Languages require experiences in reading, writing, speaking and listening as part of their curriculum. While World Language teachers design their courses to provide all aspects of language use and acquisition, regular access to computers helps to offer additional valuable experiences.
Students specifically benefit from being able to practice listening to and speaking a language with a native accent using online programs with speech recognition. Such programs enhance language acquisition and are rapidly becoming a standard component of World Language textbooks and curriculum. Routine classroom use of such programs also prepares students for AP language testing, which involves the use of both computers and headsets.
To meet this critical need, the SPEF Major Grant’s Committee awarded $31, 281 for two Computers-on-Wheels, with 70 MacBook Air computers and headsets, for shared use in all nine SPHS World Language classrooms.
Gone are the old days of just looking at boring pictures in a book – that is so 1980’s! What better way to learn about the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Barrier Reef or the Taj Mahal than actually going there? Google Expeditions takes our tech-savvy students of the 21st century beyond mere video clips to an immersive curricular experience. The teacher acts as a guide and leads explorers using 360-degree and interactive 3D images while students wear special virtual reality goggles, allowing the students to be actively engaged in their learning rather than passively reading from a textbook or following a PowerPoint presentation.
For the past two years, Google Expeditions has been used in classrooms across the country to extend learning and help students experience the world in new ways. They can take over 700 virtual field trips all over the world, gain exposure to new career paths and learn about social impact initiatives happening around the globe. Science teachers can bring cells to life in Inside A Cell, while counselors can help students visit colleges or go on career expeditions by walking in the footsteps of those that do the job. Students can also be a part of history by walking the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail or be among those fighting for a woman’s right to vote in the Women’s Suffrage in the United States expedition.
Immersion virtual reality is the next frontier in education, and thanks to the generous donations made during the 2018 Parti Gras Paddle, SPEF was able to purchase virtual reality goggles for the students of South Pasadena!
Major Grants: Awards 2016-2017
In 2016-17, SPEF steered nearly $100,000 in major-grants funding to programs at all five of the district’s schools. Here are the funded projects:
Project Lead The Way Science Modules
The Middle School FarmBot
Supported by a $32,000 grant from SPEF, South Pasadena Middle School teachers Rebecca Bertolina and Richard Archer will lead their culinary science and engineering classes on a joint project to design, build and maintain a FarmBot Greenhouse. FarmBot is a computer-controlled farming venture consisting of a linear robot farming machine installed atop a small garden, open-source software, and documentation including a farming data repository. The robot performs nearly the entire gardening process prior to harvesting, including planting the seeds, watering each plant precisely on a set schedule, monitoring conditions, and eradicating weeds.
The High School Auditorium Soundboard
The audio in the SPHS auditorium runs through a 15-year-old analog soundboard that has suffered several critical failures — the occasional channel drop-out and even full losses of power. Worse, the board has been out of production for eight years, making it hard to find replacement parts. In addition, it doesn’t have enough inputs to handle all the microphones needed for a full musical performance. Thanks to a grant of about $26,000 from SPEF, the high school will be purchasing a new digital Midas Pro 6 Live soundboard that is fully automated and controllable from anywhere in the building.