Tight and set budgets do not totally predict what activities educators are enabled to offer their students. Mini grant monies were presented to employees of the School District of Amery last fall, providing some extra opportunities for staff and students alike.

During May’s “Spotlight on Education” at the Board of Education meeting, five groups shared what the grant money allowed them to do for students. Janice Jensen and Teresa Haines said the money enabled them to attend the Keys to Success Conference last September. During this time, they attended a break out session conducted by Nancy Shirley Lawton from Points of Stillness in Hudson. Lawson stressed the importance of a balanced sensory system in order for children to be able to learn and focus. Lawson said children would exhibit fewer behaviors when their bodies are getting the input it needs throughout the day. She recommended two programs that day, Me Moves and Calming Rhythms. Jensen and Haines said they have used both programs and found them to be calming for students. The Calming Rhythms CD is used daily during rest time. Me Moves has been used at various times of the day to help calm and focus children.

Alex Lilienthal and Trish Meyers gave a presentation on an outdoor classroom being constructed at Lien Elementary that grant money has enabled to be built. The outdoor classroom will be utilized by all elementary grades as an extension of the classroom and curriculum. They said the space would be furnished with natural materials to support active learners with sensory needs. It will support hands-on learning, STEAM activities, nature appreciation and integration, and a calming environment. This area can be for literacy, math, science, and social studies as an extension of the classroom. Any standard that is practiced in the classroom, can be practiced in the outdoor classroom such as, planning and conducting investigations, relationships of people and groups, and social interactions.

Two students and some of the fourth grade instructors; Lindsay Bruder, Andy Wolf, Steph Amans and Amy Groth shared a photo presentation form their time spent with residents of area nursing homes, the Community Center, and Riverbend. Their grant money was used to buy supplies to make blankets and other art projects with people at the facilities. They expressed the students had a great time frequently visiting the places and enjoyed the time spent with people there. The fourth grade presenters said, “Our visits and interactions with the residents are priceless. Amery students do so well with them. We have appreciated adding a little joy into each one of their lives one visit at a time. We thank you for the opportunity to give them special gifts this year too.”

Ariel Humpal and Danielle Macholl, instructors at Amery Middle School said their Innovative Mini Grant was spent on the Amery Middle School Science Olympiad. They shared, “The many events of Science Olympiad are based on National Science Standards so Science Olympiad is an excellent strategy for school districts to meet science standards in a very engaging student oriented manner. Science Olympiad is ready for the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and offers excellent resources for schools to meet the challenges of these new standards.” The Olympiad team of 10 traveled to Boyceville and joined other students participating in over 20 events in the areas of Life, Personal and Social Science; Earth and Space Science; Physical Science and Chemistry; Technology and Engineering and Inquiry and Nature of Science.

Julie Montgomery-Reiss, School Counselor/Student Success Coordinator shared a presentation entitled Cultivating Belonging; Reducing LGBTQ student vulnerability by creating safe space. She said the mini grant provided monies to purchase a couch and sitting chair set from Slumberland; sturdy, comfortable places for students to be during confidential counseling conversations and small group GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) meetings. GSA was established in September. It is a student lead club that meets weekly for 35 minutes. At times it has an attendance up to 21 students. Their determined priorities include advocacy work, social / emotional support and community and cultural belonging. The newly formed club has had a number of accomplishments such as training 21 Amery staff in Safe Space 101, they have studied the Amery transgender policy, fundraised $250 for Trevor Project, created anti-bullying lessons for Amery Middle School and created a LGBTQ history timeline. Montgomery-Reiss shared some statements from students pertaining to how the grant money has helped them. One student said, “Having comfortable furniture made me feel much more secure in Mrs. Montgomery-Riess’ office. It helped provide a comfortable environment where my fellow students and I could speak openly with each other.”

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