Louisa County Public Schools officials announced this year’s 34 innovation grant winners on March 17 during a whirlwind tour of the six school buildings.
The grants were proposed by teams of teachers at each school, reviewed by a panel, and selected based on their support of the five C’s the Virginia Department of Education promotes: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and citizenship. Projects were awarded up to $1,000.
Kendall Dovel collaborated with April Whipp and Ryan Frankie on a grant that will provide fifth grade science and math classes at Moss-Nuckols Elementary School with ball-shaped robots called Spheros.
These spherical robots can be programmed by the students to complete tasks, and Dovel’s team plans to use them to synergize math and science.
“These coding robots will engage students while they investigate topics like measurement, force and motion, polygons, computation, outer space, and more,” Dovel said. “There’s so much potential of how we can connect math and science together.”
Jamey Thompson and Chelsea Nelson collaborated on a similar grant for their fourth grade classes at Moss-Nuckols. They also plan to incorporate coding robots into lessons, especially those revolving around multiplication.
The teachers behind the projects with Sphero robots believe that learning how to code can help prepare them for the future – especially in a world going increasingly digital.
“We as teachers know that a lot of the jobs our students are going to have are not even invented yet,” Thompson said. “Knowing how to code and the science behind it opens their minds and opens so many doors for what they could possibly do as their career when they get older.”
Doreen Kaiser from Louisa County Middle School collaborated with Dana Bono, Lou Hurst, and Brent Jones on a project entitled “Bobcat Barristas.” This grant will help them fund a new coffee cart business run by students with special needs.
“My students are going to fill orders,” Kaiser said. “They’re reading, following directions, managing money, counting and communicating. I have students who need to practice working on social cues and that kind of turn-taking. It’s a really great way to integrate all of those components into a business.”
The money awarded from the innovation grant will cover the startup costs of purchasing two coffee urns, coffee, cups, creamer, sugar, stirrers, and the materials to build a coffee cup carrier.
Once a week, middle school faculty and staff will be given the opportunity to put in orders for hot coffee with creamer and sugar. The baristas will fill the order, prepare the coffee, and deliver the orders to teachers and staff.
Kaiser also plans to purchase uniforms for the baristas including gloves, hairnets, and aprons, as well as a dormitory washing machine and dryer to keep the uniforms clean.
“It’ll be all the different facets of running a business, from making the coffee to housekeeping,” Kaiser said.
The profits the baristas earn will go back to the students and the business itself. First, Kaiser said she would like to see the students earn enough to buy baseball hats to complete their uniforms, which would be theirs to keep. Any profits after that would be used to re-invest in the business and cover some of the costs of field trips for the students.
This project is designed to help students practice valuable life skills such as communication, numeracy, and following directions, but it also empowers them to see themselves as valuable assets to the community.
“I want them to have a feeling of ownership and a feeling of belonging in the LCMS community,” Kaiser said. “Then, I want them to realize they have a voice, the ability to communicate, and that they are able to start something and follow through with it.”