Celebrating the teachers who received 2019-2020 Jeanie Ritchie Grants for 26 innovative projects

by Linda Hubbard on November 21, 2019

A celebration of the teachers who received Jeanie Ritchie Grants for the 2019-2020 school year was held last night. Both Superintendent Erik Burmeister and Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation founder Jeanie Ritchie were in attendance.

This year’s grants totaled $39,000 and are earmarked for 26 innovative projects led by teachers and staff at four Menlo Park City School District schools: Encinal Elementary, Laurel Elementary, Oak Knoll Elementary and Hillview Middle School. The grants – ranging from $122 to $6,250 – provide funding for teachers to integrate innovative curriculum, projects, and experiences in the classroom.

“MPAEF’s Jeanie Ritchie Grants are a source of great pride because they encompass so much of what our unique school district is all about,” said Erik Burmeister, MPCSD Superintendent. “The grants – made possible by gifts to the One Community Campaign – are teacher-driven, learner-centered, and bring thoughtful innovation to the classroom. Through the granted projects, our teachers are provided needed resources to prototype and test new approaches to reach students where they are and engage them in learning.”

District teachers have been applying for these grants for over 35 years. Each year, teachers with unique teaching concepts prepare a comprehensive grant and present their idea to the Jeanie Ritchie Grant committee who evaluate the grant to see if it meets the program’s three key qualities – innovation, creativity and enrichment. Below is a list of the awarded programs for the 2019-2020 school year.

A Mindful Classroom: Encinal teacher Rachel Naishtut will be teaching her students a variety of mindfulness techniques – mindful listening, mindful breathing, mindful movement and practicing gratitude.

Access for All: This project is a school-wide program at Laurel Elementary designed to enhance learning for all students through the installation and use of an auditory enhancement system.

Active-Academics: Physical Education teachers across school sites will engage 4th – 8th grade students to determine if it is possible to collect individual student activity data and correlate that to academic performance.

Apple Valley: Encinal 2nd grade students will experience the interactive “Apple Valley” curriculum where they will go to school as though they lived 150 years ago in a one room school house in rural California: practice recitation of poetry, use chalk and slates, bring lunches in boxes and sacks, do chores at school as well as at home.

Bringing Learning to Life with Ongoing Engineering: Oak Knoll 1st grade teacher Laura Zielinski will utilize new kids in her curriculum to enhance engineering, science, and design thinking so that it is accessible to all children.

California Indians and Missions: This grant centers around an authentic, rich, creative collaboration between the Laurel 4th & 5th grade team (teachers & students) and two local Native American educators to develop social studies curriculum, with an emphasis on building empathy for the Native American experience through project-based learning.

Call and Response: This grant gives an opportunity for elementary through middle school students to hear professional musicians perform and discuss what makes jazz a unique American artform.

Celebrating with Mochi: Laurel teacher Rachel Bergeron’s project for her 4th graders involves learning about mochitsuki (the pounding of rice to make mochi), as well as traditional Taiko drumming.

Dinosaurs Rock Assembly: Encinal 3rd graders will participate in an assembly program where there will be life-size dinosaur fossils and other prehistoric related items that are 10,000 to over 500 million years old.

Engineering in Action: This project at Hillview Middle School involves combining engineering and art in an outdoor interactive exhibit for students – an interactive board built from PVC pipes attached on a steel wall with magnets.

Equivalent Fraction Extravaganza: This project will provide Encinal 4th grade students the ability to use hands-on manipulatives/visual representations – Cuisenaire Rods – to build a solid understanding of equivalent fractions, one of the most challenging grade level math standards.

Kid Magicians: Teacher Tony Yob’s project for Oak Knoll 3rd graders involves teaching simple magic/card tricks to improve critical thinking, problem solving, performance and public speaking skills.

Know Your Zone: Hillview PE teacher Rus Peterson’s grant will introduce heart rate “Zone” monitors to inform our efforts to achieve moderate to vigorous physical activity  in their curriculum.

Math Manipulatives: This project lead by Oak Knoll teacher Sara Bartlett will impact all K-5 students at the school to deepen mathematical understandings in a time tested, research supported way – through hands-on tools, visual aids and manipulatives.

Math Mazes: A project that will span across all three elementary school sites, this grant will print large 10 foot by 10 foot reusable math maze posters that will be used by families during STEAM nights and by classrooms during the school year to foster collaboration, critical thinking, and deductive reasoning skills in a low stress environment.

Melba Beals: Teacher Valerie Cypert at Hillview Middle School focused her project for all 7th grade student on Melba Beals – one of the students from The Little Rock Nine.

Microloans: Teacher Michelle Tom’s 5th grade class at Oak Knoll Elementary will participate in a unit on poverty and hunger. As part of the unit, students will learn about factors contributing to poverty, develop and research solutions, and then apply for, and use microloans to start their own businesses.

Mock Caldecott: This grant at Oak Knoll Elementary brings together 1st and 3rd graders through books which are recipients of the Caldecott medal. Students learn to think critically about text elements, engage in meaningful partner talk around exemplary art in picture books and how it enhances stories.

Music to My Ears: A 2nd year continuing grant, this project’s goal is to finish creating the Lower Laurel Elementary Music Wall so that students can thump PVC pipes, tap wooden bowls, drum on plastic buckets, and glide across a bumpy wooden mat to their heart’s content.

Native Plant Garden: This project at Oak Knoll will involve the creation and ongoing care for a native plant garden.

Ongoing Classroom STEAM Workshops: The goals of this Oak Knoll project lead by teacher Joyce Chan are to provide ongoing opportunities for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) experiences in a classroom environment.

Outdoor Classroom: Natural STEAM: The goal of this grant at Encinal Elementary is to provide supplies that help get students outside (not just for recess) in a focused, productive way, connecting students with nature, while completing STEAM challenges, learning math, reading, writing, and science.

Start the Growing: Sandra Horowitz’s project for Laurel 5th grade students will purchase a sturdy, lockable, walk-in greenhouse for the campus so that students can learn about how new plants can be started from seeds, cuttings, roots, or bulbs.

Teaching Phonics with Engagement and Fun: Teacher Sydney Merk will utilize the training she received on the Phonics Units of Study (PUOS), where her 1st glass class at Encinal will learn many literacy skills including: Phonological Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Word Solving, Phonics (syllables, vowels and vowel teams, blends, digraphs, etc.) and Snap Words (High Frequency Words).

The Music and Movement of Argentina: Laurel 1st and 2nd grade students will learn language and culture through music, movement, lyrics and vocabulary through the hands-on, feet-on experience of learning a partner dance and the Argentine tango.

Thinking About Thinking: Laurel 4th grade students will be guided step-by-step by the teacher in a dissection of a sheep’s brain, pausing to notice different structures and to make diagrams and notes.


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