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Grants enrich education for elementary students

Jul 11, 2019
Courtesy of: Sonja Schmanska From left, St. George School third-graders Erik Milton, Olivia Turner, Bradley Curtis, Josiah McPhail, and Maxwell MacCaffray take a puffin cruise.

St. George — The Georges River Education Foundation awarded nine grants for the 2018-2019 school year, for a total of more than $10,000. Teachers at St. George School used the money to purchase books, art supplies and outdoor gear. Kids also created their own books, took field trips and invited visiting experts into their classrooms.

The kindergartners in Rebecca Albright's class embarked on a year-long expedition focusing on trees. Throughout this expedition, students learned about the life cycle of trees, the parts of a tree, how trees grow, and why trees are necessary to our world. As a final project, they created a book, "ABCs of Trees," to document the experience. The book is on display at Jackson Memorial Library, 71 Main St.

Ruth Thompson’s first grade participated in a project about birds. Students researched birds and created expert drawings. They got an up-close look at four different species of owl that Chewonki Wildlife Foundation brought into their classroom. Students visited the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray to observe many of the birds they had researched.

In grade two, Alison Babb used the GREF grant to get high-quality texts into kids’ hands, replacing the texts she had inherited when she moved into her classroom, which were falling apart, outdated, and lacked diversity. The grant allowed her to purchase texts rich in content and character, engaging for her students, and representative of many different perspectives.

In the other second-grade class, Meghan Smith also provided books for her students. The goal of her project was to put books directly into the hands of students and their families so students could practice reading every night. Smith created 18 take-home book bags featuring a wide variety of books and activities.

Third-graders in Meghan Elwell's class studied the life of an Atlantic puffin. They read research texts, heard from experts and wrote a book about the life of an Atlantic puffin. Students went on a puffin cruise as part of their culminating project. They also designed a T-shirt that they sold in order to raise money for Project Puffin.

Jaime McCaffray's fourth-grade crew studied animal adaptations and defense mechanisms. As a class, they created a Maine Animal Field Guide that contained facts about Maine animals, a scientific drawing, and a poem for each animal.  Each student received a copy of the book to take home.

Christine Miller’s fifth-graders had the opportunity to embark on a year-long unit of study focusing on stories about human rights and those who fought for social change. Students were challenged to demonstrate character habits, such as integrity, respect, compassion and empathy, to read complex text, create portraits of famous human rights advocates, and to research and write with evidence. The culmination of this project was the creation of a published magazine: Stories of Human Rights and Those Who Fought for Social Change.

The eighth-graders participated in a six-week unit on stor-telling in conjunction with their public speaking unit. Sonja Schmanska’s and Joshua McPhail’s students worked with experts from the Telling Room in Portland to analyze what makes a good story and then to perform their own stories in front of a live audience.

St. George School kindergartners, from left, Miles Olmeda and Taylor Oldham, learn all about trees. (Courtesy of: Sonja Schmanska)
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