The Randolph Education Foundation (REF) has awarded four Next Practices Grants this year to: Diana Rodriguez and Linda Andrews of Ironia School; Natalie Ernstes of Shongum School; Dominique Musacchio, Amanda Connelly and their fourth grade class of Fernbrook Elementary School; and Diana Wisniewski of Randolph Middle School. The grants seek to positively impact hundreds of students in the community for years to come.

Ms. Rodriquez and Ms. Andrews’ were granted $3,000.00 for their proposal, “Robots for All”. In their grant proposal, the teachers stated, “At this point in time, there are not enough American students to fill the job opportunities in the STEM fields. Research shows that introducing elementary students to STEM may spark interests that will translate to these children pursuing an education and jobs in STEM fields later on.” The program will increase opportunities for all students to learn programming and coding through the use of robots in the Ironia Makerspace.

Ms. Ernstes was awarded $435.00 to purchase SmartBoard software to “engage the visual, aural and kinesthetic learner….through a diversified process” using a variety of modalities including “animation, timelines, paintings, movement, games and recorded narration.” Ms. Ernstes also aims to cross over concepts in music to different subjects such as art and history through the interactive software.

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Fernbrook School’s Fourth Grade Class, led by co-teachers Ms. Musacchio and Ms. Connelly, was awarded $2,500.00 to support collaborative learning and healthy habits, based upon the Seven Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey, with their grant proposal, “Implementing the Seven Habits through Flexible Seating.” The class surveyed the student body about their school habits and then analyzed the data and proposed solutions. The class proposed that adding flexible seating to classrooms would help students “develop social skills, help them collaborate better, peer tutor one another and work together.” The fourth graders proposed that flexible seating would help create an environment where students can “Sharpen the Saw”, be more focused, “Synergize” and work together.

Ms. Wisniewski, Enrichment teacher at Randolph Middle School, received a $4,000.00 grant for “Protocycler and STEM Building” which provides funding for materials that would allow students to engage in advanced engineering projects. Funds will be used to purchase a Protocycler which recycles plastic bottles and turns them into filament for use in a 3-D printer; a 3-D printer; and other supplies for the design and creation of prosthetics and vehicles. Wisniewski looks forward to giving students opportunities to take part in the “hands-on, inventive and investigative process” and “construct better and more advanced engineering projects.”

“The Randolph Education Foundation is pleased to be able to continue to fund programs and projects that get students engaged in school and excited about learning,” said Francesca Lavin, Grant Chair and REF Board Member . “We appreciate the efforts of all the teachers who have gone the extra mile and submitted grant proposals and for the administrators who encourage and support them in their efforts.”   

Created in 2013, the REF’s Next Practices Grant 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. All the proposals undergo a thorough blind evaluation process by a Selection Committee appointed by the REF, which includes representatives from the six school communities and a cross-section of the Randolph Township business community. The Selection Committee rates each proposal based on the following criteria: 1) support to district mission and district/school goals; 2) curriculum enhancement; 3) creativity/innovation; 4) feasibility to be replicated; 5) clear budget; 6) evaluation process; and 7) alignment with the REF’s mission.

"The Next Practices Grants are a great opportunity for our faculty and staff to explore new and creative ideas," said Jennifer Fano, Interim District Superintendent. "Thank you to the REF for providing this opportunity and for being such good partner in enhancing the educational experience for all the children in our District.”

Some of the past initiatives funded by the REF include: “Trout In The Classroom,” at Randolph Middle School which provides hands-on learning about the ecosystem and cold water conservation through raising trout in the classroom; “Little Bits,” program at Center Grove Elementary School which encourages problem solving through the use of Little Bits Electronic Kits; sensory equipment for the district’s Language and Learning Disabled classroom; and the Randolph High School “From the Ground Up” greenhouse.

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The mission of the Randolph Education Foundation is to harness the power of our community to create opportunities that inspire teachers to innovate and enable students to thrive. Randolph Education Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable trust that provides alternative funding to support education and innovation in Randolph Township Schools. Launched in 2010, the REF relies on donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations. These donations are directly applied to vital educational programming for Randolph children.