Kane Schools Foundation for Students is pleased to announce two winners of its 2012 Academic Excellence Support Grant competition. 

The purpose of the grant is to encourage new ideas and practices to strengthen teaching and learning in our schools, supporting teachers who have ideas for enriching the curriculum and/or providing students with additional learning experiences. 

The first recipient is “The Fully Integrated Common Core Project,” submitted by KES second grade teacher Brandon Jensen. For this project, $4,871 in funding will be used to purchase six units of fully integrated Common Core books. 

The new Common Core Standards were released in 2011, after a state-led effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics. 

The standards have been informed by the best available evidence and the highest state standards across the country and globe; and were designed by a diverse group of teachers, experts, parents, and school administrators. States can choose whether or not to adopt them- the Utah Department of Education adopted them.

One of the goals of the Common Core is to increase the integration of core subjects and to teach critical thinking skills. In this context, integration means that while students are reading about math or science, they will also be improving their literacy skills. The Common Core focuses more on how and why,  rather than what; on critical thinking and analysis, rather than rote memorization; on ideas and knowledge, rather than facts. In most cases, it is expected to be more rigorous than current standards. 

The goal of Jensen’s project is to increase the level of fluent readers in second grade to 90%. He plans to accomplish this through the Common Core by exposing students to various types of literature in a fully integrated curriculum for the 2012-2013 year and beyond. 

Many students struggle to build a love of reading because they don’t enjoy what they are told to read. This integrated approach will allow students to read a wide variety of topics in all the core subjects, increasing their reading fluency, narrative text comprehension and vocabulary. 

The project will also be useful for the school district as a whole, by allowing a comparison of student progress between classrooms, using the fully integrated core curriculum books from a single source with classrooms using materials from a variety of sources. 

In a special school assembly held on April 26, Jensen and his students were surprised by an award patrol, comprised of Kane Schools Foundation for Students Board members bearing balloons and a big check. 

The second grant to be funded is “Beyond Guitars: Expanding Students’ Musical and Cultural Horizons through Traditional String Instruments,” submitted by Valley High School Music Teacher Robert Lacey. 

The purpose of the project is to provide students enrolled in the guitar class an opportunity to learn a variety of traditional string instruments, expanding their understanding of music technique, styles, culture and history. For this grant, $4920 in funding will be used to purchase three banjos, mandolins, fiddles, ukuleles, one upright bass and an instrument rack. 

Lacey has dedicated himself to providing a comprehensive music education to his students and is always seeking ways to bring more students to the study of music. He seeks to teach students how to think about music. 

For the past year, he has been piloting this program using several older school and his own musical instruments and will be expanding it with the grant funds. This will enable him to model the instrument techniques, enable students to work together, and enable students to bring instruments home to practice; allowing for a much deeper study than the pilot program has allowed. 

Kane Schools Foundation Board members and Valley High School students and staff were treated to a performance of Lacey’s VHS Chamber Orchestra on Monday, May 7. It was at this time the Foundation surprised Lacey with balloons and a big check, announcing the funding of his music education project, to the cheers of the entire school. 

The Kane Schools Foundation for Students strongly supports the enrichment, at the classroom level, of the instructional process to benefit students and looks to expand and enhance students’ learning experiences and opportunities. We seek funding to help the district and our teachers achieve these ends. 

To help, or for information, please contact Tracy at 435-644-2555 ext. 9. The Foundation accepts contributions of cash, property, bequests, memorial contributions, in kind donations and planned giving arrangements. We greatly appreciate any and all support.