In an effort to promote innovation and creative teaching in Hamilton County Schools, local insurer Unum provided $1,000 grants to some of the district’s teachers. Projects were based on everything from technology and energy efficiency to creative writing and healthy living. Below are a couple of examples.
Most teachers at Howard School of Academics and Technology didn’t know about the greenhouse at the Market Street school.
Tucked back into a corner of the huge campus, near the vocational wing, sits the small building made of spring green plastic walls. It’s not much from the outside. But inside, little pots dotted with color, a hand-hewn wooden planter and some hanging poinsettias show signs of life in a space that quickly is becoming the cornerstone of Dennis Endicott’s teaching.
Mr. Endicott teaches a life-skills class at Howard, and through regular work in the once-abandoned greenhouse, his group of six students is learning skills such as teamwork, money management and consumerism.
“They really have to learn to work together. There are a lot of personalities (in the class),” Mr. Endicott said. “We went to Home Depot and tried to figure out what was our biggest bang for the buck.”
The poinsettias are Montrell Hickman’s favorite plant in the greenhouse, by far. The festive bright red plant is eye-catching, he says as he gives a visitor a guided tour of the space.
“Once we got in there and cleaned up, it came alive,” he said. “It’s fun, we can work out there together. If one doesn’t work, we all don’t work.”
Now that the students have patched holes in the greenhouse and cleaned the place after a decade of abandonment, they’re waiting until spring when they can plant more flowers and vegetables.
The plan is to sell the fruits of their labor to teachers and students and use the profits to keep the program going. They also would like to plant a small garden in a courtyard area on the perimeter of the school.
Along with reading, writing and math, first-graders at Big Ridge Elementary School are trying their hands at storyboarding, scriptwriting and video editing.
Armed with three mini high-definition flip-screen camcorders, students are producing short clips on science and language lessons.
“We did one on ‘What is matter?’ They had to write three sentences, draw a picture, and then a high school volunteer video taped them reading it. Then we did still video of their drawings,” said first-grade teacher Carrie Bishop.
Ms. Bishop said she also is having her students read stories and some of their own writing samples on camera.
“They’re very engaged and excited about it,” she said. “I think it’s really energized their writing.”
In addition to getting her young students used to technology, the immediate feedback the videos provide is helping teach other valuable lessons, Ms. Bishop said.
“They get to see the benefit of having a plan and how that creates a better product,” she said. “I think even first graders can benefit from that.”
Follow Kelli Gauthier on Twitter at twitter.com/gauthierkelli.