Cara Gilligan, eighth grade science teacher from Randolph Middle School (RMS), and Kristen Miller, second grade teacher from Center Grove Elementary School, are the recipients of the Randolph Education Foundation (REF) 2016 Next Practices Grants (NPG). These grants will provide eighth and second graders the opportunity to learn through innovative, hands-on experiences inside and outside of the classroom.
Gilligan’s proposal, “Trout in the Classroom,” received $1,210 to offer more than 400 eighth graders in RMS the opportunity to learn about the importance of cold water conservation, through a science-based program focused in the process of raising Brook Trout, the official state fish of New Jersey, from eggs to fingerling size for release.
“Trout in the Classroom” is a joint program offered through the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited, that provides cross-curricular learning opportunities encompassing areas such as science, math, language arts, and technology.
“As students witness and study the growth of the trout, they will work to identify a clean, safe cold-water source in Randolph Township to release the trout in the spring,” said Gilligan. “This year-long project incorporates many areas of learning and will develop student, team and teacher relationships as all involved work towards a common goal.”
The second proposal, “Little Bits,” submitted by Miller, was awarded $1,139 to provide 80 second graders in Center Grove Elementary School the opportunity to participate in real world problem solving experiences through the use of Little Bits Electronic Kits during Genius hour and STEM sessions.
The use of “Little Bits” in the classroom will not only help students to improve skills in subject matter areas such as math, reading, writing and technology, but will also facilitate the development of non-cognitive skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving.
“I believe that the skills that students will learn from exploring with Little Bits will enable them to develop skills for careers that they may have in the future,” said Miller. “These careers may not even exist, but we need to expose young children to experiences that will open their minds to these possibilities and inventions.”
Francesca Lavin, Grant chair and REF board member said, “REF is very pleased to fund ideas that use nature and technology in such creative and innovative ways. Teachers who are inspired to bring these ideas into fruition will certainly prepare our students for the world they live in.”
Created in 2013, the REF’s NPG program seeks to fund up to $10,000 each year in fresh ideas proposed by teachers and staff members who want to explore nontraditional, innovative ways to teach and learn.