As winners of this year’s Faculty Innovation Grant, fourth grade teacher Ina Patel and music teacher Frank Van Atta will each receive $6,000 for classroom use and an additional $4,000 as a personal award.
Patel will use her funds to create an official Design Lab for her students to explore science and math creatively.
In her proposal, Patel explains that the lab will be equipped with a variety of tools and resources that lend themselves to design-thinking and inquiry-based learning.
“Every teacher will utilize the room to expand or build lessons using the tools that will live in this space,” she writes in her proposal. “The shelves and walls will be filled with any tool that will spark a child’s imagination to life—Legos, Lego boards, white boards, laptops, littleBits, Makey Makeys, 3-D printer, conductive thread, wooden blocks, pipe cleaners, glue, model clay, popsicles, recycled material and so much more.”
For his part, Van Atta will purchase subscriptions to GarageBand and Notion, leading music applications on the iPad, to provide enhanced performance opportunities in the classroom. He will also install an updated sound system in the Katzin Music Studio, allowing a more immersive experience, and a more complex and detailed study of unique styles of music.
“Overall, the Faculty Innovation Grant would revolutionize how music is taught at Brimmer and May,” Van Atta writes in his proposal. “In addition to creating a state-of-the-art music classroom, it would make technology an integral element of the curriculum and serve to enhance student comprehension in all learning styles. This approach to technology would be quite unique to Brimmer and May and would contribute greatly to our global focus as a school.”
Van Atta also adds that the space is “going to be something that can set Brimmer apart from other schools.” The sound system has been ordered, and it should be installed in the next week or two.
Raymani Walker ’17, a Green Line section leader, echoes this enthusiasm. “The sound studio will provide students a great opportunity to hone their creative skills,” he says.
The Faculty Innovation Award, funded by two current parents, was established in 2012. The award is “intended as both a personal acknowledgement of dedicated planning time for curriculum development and an opportunity to obtain additional classroom resources or opportunities to be made available for teachers,” according to the School’s website.
Director of Development Elizabeth Smith, who coordinates the proposal process, says that to maintain fairness, winners are selected by a neutral outside panel involved in the education field.
“We are so fortunate to have a family in our community that cares so much about education and supporting innovative teaching at Brimmer and May,” Smith says, noting that in the board of trustees-approved “Strategic Priorities for 2013 and Beyond,” the first priority is developing and implementing educational practices for the future.
The Faculty Innovation Grants have allowed teachers across divisions to come up with ideas that would not be funded in the operating budget, and implement them in creative ways. Past awards have funded a lower school STEAM Lab, a mobile maker lab, and a makerspace in the Corkin Visual Arts Center.