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Grass Valley’s Maker Program is an LRNG Innovators Challenge Grant Winner!

Previously Published by Educator Innovator

Note by: Paula Mitchell

In May of 2017, we were thrilled to learn that Grass Valley Elementary’s Wonder Workshop in conjunction with MakerEd had been awarded one of only ten LRNG Innovators Challenge grants given out nationwide. This grant helped fund the materials and supplies for our 2017-2018 Maker program which included classroom making projects, individual student maker projects, after school maker workshops, family making nights, and our soon to be released Library Maker Take-Home Kits.  We focused on bringing students’ passions to life by linking home and school interests.

As this grant comes to an end, look for more posts that examine and share the work we did during the past year.

Read on to find out more about the LRNG Innovators Challenge Grants and Connected Learning.


LRNG Innovators began in 2014 and launched its third challenge in the beginning of 2017, inviting educators to imagine engaging ways to help young people explore their interests, thereby igniting a passion that can lead to college, to a career, or having a positive impact in the community. We sought proposals for programs, curricula, or projects that actively help youth discover interests connecting the spheres of their lives, both in and out of school, and provide potential future opportunities.

Connected Learning research demonstrates that all young people benefit from opportunities to follow their interests with the support of peers and mentors and that give them the time and space to create work that is meaningful to them. With support from the National Writing Project, John Legend’s Show Me Campaign, theJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Collective Shift (lrng.org), the LRNG Innovators challenge supports teams of educators in designing, testing, and sharing solutions that build the future of creative and connected learning today.

Linked Learning with Maker-Centered Education
Oakland, CA
Grass Valley Elementary Educators will expand project-based learning and Maker Education throughout school and the community, including the school library space and students’ families. As a small public school in Oakland, California, embarking on a culture shift, these educators are moving away from whole-class, lockstep instruction, and toward small-group, personalized learning with differentiated instruction based on students’ interests and needs. In the expanded MakerSpace, the school community will be invited to come tinker, explore their interests, and make, in collaboration with expanded project-based learning opportunities throughout the school. The school library will extend access and equity by making available take-home Maker Kits that include books and hands-on activities that students can make on their own or with their families.

Project Based Learning with a Maker Mindset: Grass Valley Receives a Light Awards Grant

Previously published by the Light Awards Program

PRESS RELEASE: SAN FRANCISCO, CA – May 5, 2016

Grants enable 13 teams of California educators to engage in professional development programs that invigorate personal commitments to teaching

The Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation announced today that 13 teams of California teachers are recipients of the 2016 Leveraging Innovation by Growing and Honoring Teachers (LIGHT) Awards. Launched in 2014, the LIGHT Awards recognize creative, innovative, and passionate teachers looking to pursue high quality professional learning. The awarded teams each receive up to $30,000 over two years for projects which are tailored to the needs of their schools and communities. The grant program is designed to encourage more engaged and rewarding teaching as well as to foster community among its awardees.

Intrepid believes that teachers are in a unique position to know what types of training and projects will be most relevant and will lead to sustainable change within their classrooms, schools, and beyond. With help from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Intrepid’s LIGHT Awards Program was designed to encourage teachers to grow as leaders and innovators. Following an open application process which produced more quality applications than could be funded, teams were selected based on a number of factors, including innovative project ideas, dedication to teaching, and a passion for professional growth.

Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation Founder Karen Leshner shared, “I am delighted to welcome the 2016 cohort of LIGHT Awards teams to our community. With the addition of these new recipients, the LIGHT Awards program is impacting a total of 133 teachers working on 27 exciting projects in the greater Bay Area.”

Members of the 2016 LIGHT Awards teams teach at the following 15 schools:

  • Alpha José Hernández Middle School, San Jose, CA
  • Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy, East Palo Alto, CA
  • Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8, San Francisco, CA
  • Ellis Elementary School, Sunnyvale, CA
  • Grass Valley Elementary School, Oakland, CA
  • Hillsdale High School, San Mateo, CA
  • John McCandless STEM Charter School, Stockton, CA
  • June Jordan School for Equity, San Francisco, CA
  • Lafayette Elementary School, San Francisco, CA
  • Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA
  • Madison Park Business & Art Academy, Oakland, CA
  • Merrill F. West High School, Tracy, CA
  • Mission High School, San Francisco, CA
  • Oakland International High School, Oakland, CA
  • Vargas Elementary School, Sunnyvale, CA

Examples of the awardees’ projects include:

  • Developing a school-wide, vertically integrated curriculum and project based learning units around the concept of flight
  • Developing a teaching garden as an outdoor science classroom
  • Building staff capacity in the dual immersion model of bilingual education
  • Developing skills and a framework for experienced high school math teachers to mentor new teachers
  • Bringing mindfulness based practices into teaching, curriculum and school culture

Read summaries of all 13 awarded projects here.

To accomplish the 13 awarded projects, the teachers will participate in trainings and workshops, attend conferences, work with experts and coaches, codify and share their own experiences, and establish professional learning communities.
Dr. Lucinda Taylor, Principal at Madison Park Business and Art Academy in Oakland shared, “I am confident that our team will learn a great deal over these two years that the members will be able to bring back and share with the rest of our staff in support of improved student outcomes.”

GVPower#1
Our team of mighty Makers celebrates at the Light Awards Convening in August.  (pictured from l-r: Paula Mitchell, Monique Parrish, Diana Culmer, Roxanne Martinez)

[Grass Valley’s] team of four elementary school teachers will pilot a Project Based Learning (PBL)/Maker-Centered program. To start, they will attend a PBL conference and workshop to learn the basics of creating excellent maker-based projects. Then, they will embark on courses of training to create integrated cross-curricular lessons that involve protocols, tools, and applications that are useful for evaluating and deepening their own and their students’ learning. Ultimately, they will train additional educators at their site in the PBL/Maker mindset. The team’s focus and expertise is on both general education and special needs classes. For students with special needs, the opportunity to participate in projects that highlight different ways of thinking increases engagement, confidence, and sense of belonging in the school community as a whole.