Jeffco schools funds second round of innovations

19 projects earned funding in second year of grant program

Posted 3/12/19

First grade students at Fremont Elementary in Arvada are now incorporating learning on touch-screen Chromebooks into their daily routine. The initiative bridges the gap of technology between the …

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Jeffco schools funds second round of innovations

19 projects earned funding in second year of grant program

Posted

First grade students at Fremont Elementary in Arvada are now incorporating learning on touch-screen Chromebooks into their daily routine. The initiative bridges the gap of technology between the schools’ kindergarten students, who are using touch-screen iPads, and the second- through fifth-grade students, who are using non-touch Chromebooks.

This was one of 19 projects to earn funding from the Jeffco Innovation Acceleration Fund 2.0.

“We don’t believe here a Fremont that every kid should be on a device all the time,” said Principal David Alex. “Putting them on a computer right away I think would be detrimental to their growth. That’s the philosophy of a lot of our families a lot of our community members and a lot of out teachers.”

Instead, Fremont uses technology to demonstrate concepts they have learned in the classroom.

A priority at Fremont has been to do away with mixed-age classrooms, Alex said. That took money though, money taken from its technology budget. With sixth grade moving out of the elementary school building, Alex was able to redistribute current Chromebook carts to grades two through five. Funds from a designated account were used to buy the kindergarten iPads.

“But first grade simply had nothing,” Alex said. “I tried backfilling with donations from schools that had older devices, but a lot were broken. Teachers would run from working with a small group to troubleshooting a device for a kid and playing wack-a-mole troubleshooting devices instead of really concentrating on learning.”

But the innovation grant changed that. In addition, the schools Parent Teacher Association matched the grant allowing for the purchase of 24 devices for the two first-grade classrooms.

Last year, in January, the Board of Education for Jeffco schools approved $1 million for a new innovation grant program. The idea was proposed because the Jeffco Generations vision launched in October 2017 by Superintendent Jason Glass encourages entrepreneurial efforts as a way to “keep the main thing, the main thing,” — learning. The fund offers an incentive for staff to look for innovative ways to improve learning, conditions for learning, and readiness for learning for Jeffco students and encourages the organizational value of “entrepreneurial spirit.”

All employees had the opportunity to apply for the grants and were encouraged to partner with other organizations, such as postsecondary institutions, nonprofit organizations, local businesses and community-based agencies to strengthen ideas and offer authentic learning experiences.

Last year 10 projects were funded.

This year, some of the funded innovations help to elevate projects of last year.

One of those is the grant that Hutchinson Elementary in Lakewood received for an Imagination Playground program.

Imagination Playground is an interactive way for students to build a playground using small pieces to design a model of the playground and then use larger, life-size pieces to actually engineer and test their design. The equipment can be reused over and over again and teachers and staff can scaffold designs for grade level appropriateness.

“I wanted to align it with our Jeffco Generations and do something where the kids feel like they’re doing something fun but it’s still purposeful,” explained Patricia Little, fourth-grade teacher and Hutchinson.

The program also aligns with increases the school’s STEM program — a goal to align with the Green Mountain High academies.

With the grant, Hutchinson will purchase enough Imagination Playground sets to accommodate all 240 students in the school.

Other innovative projects receiving funding from the district this year include focused on training for paraprofessionals; re-engaging Jeffco dropouts; performing arts; project-based learning initiatives; hands-on learning for students with disabilities; authentic learning experiences; STEM; reading; and 3-D printing.

Project proposals for the Jeffco Innovations Acceleration Fund 3.0 will be accepted starting in October.

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