Hopkins Education Foundation funds innovative ideas to support student wellness

The Hopkins Education Foundation (HEF) fall grants were awarded this week, providing $44,159 for 13 grants; six of which are focused on student health and wellness.
November 29, 2017

The Hopkins Education Foundation (HEF) has awarded $44,159 this fall for 13 grants that support innovative ideas to enhance student health and wellbeing. At Hopkins Public Schools, student success is measured by much more than a letter grade. Hopkins believes that actively teaching students how to be well leads to a strong and successful community and active, engaged learners. Health and wellness is for everyone and extends far beyond the classroom, yet has a direct impact on academics.

HEF is awarding six wellness grants this fall to kick off a districtwide initiative, in partnership with District leadership. These include a host of hands-on components for students, as well as teacher training. Research clearly shows that social and emotional wellbeing is directly correlated to student learning.

“By engaging the whole student, we increase his or her ability to concentrate, to meet rigorous challenges, to develop resilience, and to achieve lifelong success," said Hopkins Superintendent Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed. "Our collective goal is to provide our students with the tools to thrive, now and long after they have left Hopkins.” 

Hopkins fall grant recipients

Trauma Sensitive Self-Regulation Room - $4,535 – Alice Smith  Michelle Stanford, Leah Rusakov

Alice Smith Elementary School is one of Hopkins ‘trauma sensitive’ schools, focused on mitigating barriers to student learning, such as high rates of stress and adversity from homelessness, poverty, neglect, abuse, immigration, and more. A team, including special education staff and a therapist, has been evaluating the success of various interventions to help students in crisis feel safe, and to teach them to identify and regulate their often overwhelming emotions, which can lead to behavioral outbursts. HEF will now fund a specific Self-Regulation Room designed for sensory breaks. The room will be filled with unique therapeutic and innovative tools, based on the team’s recommendations, which will assist students in learning to self-calm. Through this guided intervention, students will learn the skills they need to remain in their classroom, focus on learning, and reduce behavioral incidents, creating a win-win situation for all students. 

Classroom Supports for Self-Regulation  $4,372 – Harley Hopkins Family Center  Sarah Chovan, Kathy Willett, Lori Lorenz

Preschoolers are active and enthusiastic, and preschool is an exciting place full of new friends and new experiences. It can sometimes be overwhelming for these young children, and a large part of being fully ready for Kindergarten is learning to self-calm and focus, to learn to stay positively engaged with a teacher and classmates. Weighted sensory lap pads, breathing balls, and fidget toys are just a few examples of simple yet effective tools that Harley Hopkins will purchase with this grant. These tools will profoundly increase staff’s ability to guide students to de-stress and de-escalate, with the goal of staying in their familiar learning environment and quickly rejoining on-going activities. 

Give Me a Break  $2,393 – Glen Lake Elementary – Sher Unruh-Friesen

When students learn how to regulate their bodies and calm themselves, they are happier, ready to learn and empowered for the rest of their lives. HEF is partnering with Glen Lake to expand the school’s current offerings to purposefully and proactively address sensory dysregulation for any student who needs a quiet space or sensory input such as a weighted vest, to focus or calm themselves. This new ‘sensory space’, part of the existing motor room, is a valuable break for students as they learn to understand their own needs and the best ways to self-regulate. The goal is for students to leave the motor room happy, calm, focused and ready to learn, and to spend more quality time in their regular classroom. 

Student Wellness = Student Success  $5,700 – Districtwide – Linda Gardner, Becky Allen

Hopkins Public Schools believes that actively teaching students how to be well leads to a strong successful community, and active, engaged learners. Wellness is for everyone, and HEF is partnering with District leadership to establish a cohesive wellness program, solidifying and expanding what is already being done throughout our schools. This program includes training in ‘Mind Up’, Yoga Calm, Mindfulness, and trauma sensitive instruction for teachers and staff to use in their classrooms. We know that social and emotional wellbeing has a direct impact on student learning. By helping the whole student to thrive, we increase their ability to concentrate, to meet challenges, to develop resilience, and to enjoy life-long success. 

Hopkins High School Student Campaign - $5,000 – Community Education – Holly Magdanz, Katie Williams, Doug Bullinger

Hopkins One Voice and Hopkins High School are partnering in a student engagement campaign, centered around identifying and seeking help for emotional and mental health concerns. HEF, along with Community Ed, will co-fund the assistance of Community Blueprint, a local social marketing company that develops successful campaigns around policy, prevention, and behavior change initiatives. Community Blueprint will work with a Student Advisory Board, a representative group of HHS’s student population, to create messaging around destigmatizing the challenges that today’s teens face.  A key goal of the campaign is to address HOW to get help, as well as equipping students with increased awareness of their peers’ struggles. In the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, conducted every three years, students have self-reported an increase in long-term (six months or more) emotional, behavioral, or mental health problem; these are also risk factors for substance use. Taking the initiative and listening to what our students are telling us, is the best way to be proactive to our students’ concerns. 

Growing Gardens, Fueling Minds!  $9,510 – District-Wide  Barbara Mechura, Erica Iverson, Rachel Valesano

Everyone needs to eat! Healthy choices, however, are not always readily available. Four mobile tower gardens (fast growing pyramids of 28 plants) will be rotated through all elementary school cafeterias to engage sixth-grade students in nutrition, hands-on food prep and healthy eating. In two ‘growing seasons’ at each school, basil will be harvested to flavor a homemade marinara sauce and cilantro will be added to a tropical salad of melon, pineapple and mango. Vitamins and minerals, measuring, and following recipes are just a few of the useful subjects covered in this green learning experience.

Edquity: Preparing for College with Finances in Mind – $1,600  Hopkins High School  Erik Thompson, Jennifer Heimlich

Students struggle to understand the impact of loans, aid, and scholarships on their financial future, and can make college decisions based solely on their fear of debt. They may decide not to attend at all. Edquity is a software program for juniors and seniors in the AVID program - often the first of their family to go to college - to curate a list of feasible colleges based on GPA, ACT/SAT scores, and financial factors. Edquity helps the HHS school counselors guide students through the application process because it shows what each school’s cost will be, as well as the student’s financial responsibility AFTER graduation, allowing for true comparisons. A student may discover that their favorite college or university, which they dismissed as unaffordable, is actually the best financial fit.   

Ukuleles Offer New Musical Opportunities  $1,990  Eisenhower/XinXing Academy  Jonathan Feulner

Simply saying the word ‘ukulele’ elicits a smile; playing them is more than enticing for fifth- and sixth-graders. Jonathan Feulner, music teacher at Eisenhower/XinXing Academy, is an experienced ukulele teacher and knows the allure of the small instrument. HEF is funding 30 instruments, expanding the school’s instrument library enough for 160 more students to learn chords, rhythm patterns, and the role of harmony. The ukulele’s small size and low string tension encourage confidence and success, and will also tie into students’ classroom poetry unit as they set their own writing to music. The ukulele is also a great stepping stone to the guitar, offered at Hopkins High School. Watch for spirited ukulele performances at the Spring Arts Festival in May 2018!

Outdoor Playscape & Environmental Learning  $3,500 – Gatewood Stepping Stones and Ready 4 K  Coreen Hagen, Cathryn Nelson-Wagner, Emily Holmgren

HEF will fund expansion of Gatewood’s enriching outdoor classroom space specifically for its youngest pre-kindergarten students, based on definitive research defining the importance of purposeful outdoor learning. Students will practice gross motor skills on a log balance beam and curved wooden balance boards and create wonderful loud music with outdoor xylophones and drums. The discipline of taking care of an outdoor garden with child-size tools, and the daily cleanup of the playscape, will help instill responsibility, teamwork, and pride of ownership. The enthusiasm inherent to being outside will boost student excitement for all learning. 

Project Based Learning Opportunities for Students with Unique Learning Needs – $500  Transition Plus  Tom Kvale

Transition Plus services special needs students that have graduated from high school but qualify for continued special education services under federal law, and are actively engaged in a variety of project based learning (PBL) activities. This HEF grant will purchase reusable hand tools such as hammers and screw drivers, hand drills, squares, tape measures and paint brushes, along with supplies of screws, nails and wood to actively engage students in hands-on development of practical skills. Success will be measured in both tangible project completion, as well as in positive team cooperation and an increase in soft skills commensurate with the students’ unique learning needs. 

Mobile Makerspaces  $3,988 – Gatewood Elementary – Amy Kodet, Dawn Lindblom

HEF has seen great success with our grants for Makerspaces at North Junior High school, and it’s time to take the excitement to the elementary level. Two Mobile Makerspace carts at Gatewood have the potential to reach every student as they provide both high-tech and low-tech experiences ranging from robotics and coding to sewing, cardboard challenges, and recycled projects. Students will experience the scientific method by becoming immersed in evidence-based exploration, trial and error, persistence through failure, open communication and skepticism. The ideas and materials provided in Mobile Makerspaces complement and enhance Hopkins’ Engineering in Elementary science curriculum. 

Air-Propelled Racing Car  $571 – Tanglen Elementary - Keenan Jones

Tanglen sixth-grade teacher Keenan Jones has issued a challenge to his students: who can design, engineer, and build the fastest air-propelled car by race day deadline? Physics, speed, energy consumption, teamwork, and problem solving are all vital components to this exciting competitive contest. As Jones notes, “society is changing at a rapid rate and students need skills that transfer across all disciplines and subjects.” This project will involve STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) as well as language arts and reading curricula. 

Lego Wall – $500 – Glen Lake Elementary  Jeff Radel

Legos are wonderful tactile 3D tools that tap into creativity and imagination; just picture a huge 6’ x 6’ Lego base plate attached to the wall in the Glen Lake Media Center, and you can think of endless educational possibilities. Small groups of students will use buckets of Lego bricks for purposeful mathematical challenges, for designing and building, for marble runs, for artistic creations, and for engaging before and after school fun. Glen Lake may even join the schools across the country that participate in engineering challenges via Twitter. 

Fall 2017 HEF grants

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