Cunha Intermediate School teacher Kurt Murray will be teaching students to code using new technology from Bird Brain Technologies. The Hummingbird Robotics Kit he uses is a creative tool that allows students to design and program a robot, and thanks to a $1,000 innovation grant from the Cabrillo Education Foundation, the school will be able to buy two kits.
“The CEF fills a really important niche in our community,” said Murray. “We are really grateful for them.”
Murray is one of 13 teachers in the district to receive a grant this year. The foundation gave 12 $1,000 grants and one $500 grant to local teachers. The program, initiated in 2016, aims to fund projects that enrich student learning experiences and support the district's missions of student development.
“We want to support teachers in their efforts to excite and engage their students in innovative and creative projects,” said Stephanie Izzarelli, Cabrillo Education Foundation board director. “We see that teachers have ideas to bring to their students, but sometimes there are budgetary restraints and they can’t bring certain projects. Our goal is to help them bring those projects to the students and get the students excited and find different ways of learning.”
This year's grants went to school supplies, calculators and new programs at the schools, among other things.
“We initiated the program in an effort to provide funds directly to teachers who had ideas and ways to support their students that weren’t able to be funded by the district,” said Corrine Bucher, foundation executive director.
Teachers, administrators and staff apply at the beginning of the school year and the applications and ideas are assessed by the board. This year the foundation received 13 applications and was able to fund all of them.
“One thing we look for is something sustainable that can be used again,” said Izzarelli. “We want to reach a large population of students, so something that can carry through different school years will impact more students than just this year.”
Izzarelli explained that this year Sonia Myers, a teacher at Cunha Intermediate School, received a grant to fund a greenhouse as part of the “Green Career Awareness” elective program. Students will grow and harvest their own food. Program administrators hope this project will impact generations of students.
“We also like to see something that is connected to the social-economic divide that we have so that we can reach students at all different levels,” said Izzarelli. “Some students that might not necessarily have access to some of the learning and education outside of school can access it in the classroom.”
Last year, during remote learning at schools, the foundation wanted to help more teachers, so it offered 20 $500 grants. The grants were used to help fund tools and materials for teachers doing remote learning.
“We wanted to touch as many teachers as possible so we changed our program to focus on supporting the teachers in that environment, but now we’re back to our regular innovation grant program,” said Bucher.
The funds for the innovation grants come out of the Cabrillo Education Foundation endowment.
“The goal is to get the money into the hands of the teachers who have innovative, creative ideas about ways to support their students,” said Bucher.