Mini-Grants Make a Difference!
This fall to date, the SAISD Foundation has supported 120 Mini-Grants to San Antonio ISD teachers. From class book sets for elementary classrooms to lab kits for middle school science, these projects help teachers incorporate unique learning experiences for their classes.
Ms. Gonzalez from Storm Elementary shared how her Mini-Grant has made a difference in her students’ engagement in their math curriculum. “Students’ attention is better retained when their whole body is engaged. So these larger-than-life manipulatives help them work collaboratively.” With her funds, she acquired a mat activity set that helps her students visually understand their content and physically engage with how the problems can be worked out.
Applications are still open for teachers to apply for a Mini-Grant for up to $500 in funding, but only one grant per teacher will be awarded. Teachers are encouraged to apply online throughout the fall semester. Gonzalez says, “My biggest advice to teachers is to just do it! I thought the process was a long essay application; it wasn’t. You just shop, and tell them what you need and what you teach. And things will happen!”
Hydroponics Grows District-wide
SAISD Foundation and the SAISD Science Department are working together to expand the hydroponic grow walls in classrooms throughout the district. The first training of the year was held on Monday, October 16th for both new and returning teachers participating in the program. This fall, 45 new hydroponic grow walls will be issued across 36 campuses. This initiative is made possible with funding from Methodist Healthcare Ministries as a key element of SAISD and the SAISD Foundation’s goals to expand comprehensive garden-based education. These programs are designed to enhance learning as well as reduce food insecurity and increase healthy food choices.
The learning opportunities with grow walls are extensive. Through hydroponics, students learn about how precise environments have to be set up to ensure their plants grow. By combining chemistry, biology and math concepts, students can practice lessons in a hands-on way. This widens the opportunity for students to learn while staying engaged. Teachers have also shared students’ social-emotional skill development through the act of nurturing seeds, bringing them to life and caring for the plants.
Christopher Sierra, an elementary teacher at Bonham Academy shares, “Our environmental science pillar is designed to build awareness and enthusiasm for making our planet better. The hydroponic wall was a perfect opportunity to regain some of the hands-on experience that we lost so much of during the pandemic.” Since students use a variety of skills to utilize their grow wall, they have a better understanding of how each subject ties to one another. “Our students solved engineering problems while assembling the wall and managing the pumps, lights, and water flow. We learned about water quality and chemistry, checking pH and nutrient levels. In the spring our expertise turned into entrepreneurship as we held a community plant sale. The excitement and curiosity our students felt while tending to the hydroponic wall brought life to our learning and our classroom.”
College Ambassador Program Highlight
The SAISD Foundation launched a new College Student Ambassador Program this school year. The program aims to create a sense of belonging for incoming SAISD college students and increase college persistence rates through on-campus connections with current SAISD college students. In the inaugural year, we began the program with three campuses: St. Mary’s University, Texas State University and The University of Texas at Austin.
Current students at those colleges were encouraged to apply and were selected from an application and interview process. The College Student Ambassador receives a $500 stipend per semester, mentorship from fellow SAISD alumni who graduated from the same college, networking opportunities and valuable leadership and communication skills.
Our College Alumni Ambassadors plan and host monthly activities on or around their campuses like a picnic at the South Mall, game night in the Texas Union at UT, and attending the St. Mary's Night at the Spurs game. Ambassador Valerie reported “Our first event was a game night. We had all types of board and card games and it was meant to serve as a huge ice breaker where we get to talk and get to know each other in a setting that is more comfortable but still engaging. The board games simply served as a catalyst for conversation.”
We look forward to evaluating the effectiveness of this program toward our ultimate goal that 80% of students involved in our postsecondary programs persist in college.
Be a Buddy! Volunteer with Book Buddies
Our brand-new Book Buddies Bus has visited five schools since our launch on September 20. During their visit, a third-grade teacher from Madison Elementary commented “This is awesome! Very inviting, an actual library on wheels!! Love it!”
Through the Book Buddies Bus, our goal is to provide six books for each student to take home and a shipment of books just arrived at our Port San Antonio warehouse. What does that mean? We need your help! We need 500 more volunteers this school year to sort, clean, load, and distribute books to students in SAISD schools. At our Saturday morning sessions, we are now breaking volunteers into two groups. While some volunteers help us sort and clean books by grade level, others are loading the bus for the upcoming school visit. We are having a lot of fun!
Volunteers are also needed to help us on the bus during school visits. Volunteers will meet the Book Buddies Bus at the designated campus, meet children at the bus, help them make their book selections and re-stock in between classroom visits. All you need to bring is your love of reading! You can view and sign up for the Book Buddies volunteer opportunities by visiting https://pointapp.org/orgs/1434 “Thank you for putting a smile on their faces with amazing books!” Schenck Elementary third-grade teacher.
SAISD Leads in COSA Youth Commission Grants
During the 2022-23 school year, San Antonio ISD‘s Student Advisory Committee set mental health as its key agenda item for the year. The group is comprised of 44 middle school and high school students from across San Antonio ISD who worked throughout the year to determine strategies that would include student voice and support student mental health. We have seen teachers and administrators echo these sentiments through their grant requests to the SAISD Foundation for social-emotional support including sensory rooms and stress-reduction tools.
Similarly, the City of San Antonio’s Youth Commission determined their desire to support these kinds of initiatives on school campuses. This spring, they opened
up a grant process for schools across San Antonio to apply. This fall, they awarded $22,000 in mini-grants across nine SAISD schools through the SAISD Foundation, the most awarded for a San Antonio school district. We are grateful that the City of San Antonio, Health and Human Services Department empowered the Youth Commission to be able to make these important investments. Projects include additional contracted therapy dogs on campus, zen rooms, and sensory mental health rooms. In partnering with organizations like the City of San Antonio, we are able to bring more resources to our classrooms and to our students.
Community rightsizing meetings continue this week and through November 2. If you have not had the opportunity to review the questions that have been submitted from the community or are interested in submitting your own, visit the online portal.
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