This is part of a series examining how grants from the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation help students thrive.
Flowery Elementary School students suddenly find themselves traveling to Athens, riding a gondola in Venice, cruising through Utah’s Zion National Park.
They’re using the school’s new virtual reality headset, thanks in large part to a $1,000 grant Sara Hubbard-Lake, the school’s library media specialist, received for 2022-2023 through the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s Donors Choose program.
“Our students are bright and curious,” Hubbard-Lake wrote when she applied for the grant. “They are little mathematicians and scientists, artists and writers. Many of our students live their lives within a radius of a few blocks. They may visit family in another city or take a trip into town, but they don’t have much opportunity to explore beyond the city limits of our small town.
She added, “Virtual reality has some amazing educational platforms that allow students to take a trip around the world, through space or even back in time.”
Headphones are currently available for fourth and fifth graders, but parents of younger students who would like the opportunity to use a headset can contact Hubbard-Lake.
Fifth grader Tallulah Carroll says she was the first student to use one of the headphones.
“I was very excited to do it; I always wanted to do VR,” she said. “I’ve been learning the steps in a volleyball game — I like punching the air. I even danced with a robot!”
Luke Smith-Luciano, a fourth grader, enjoys the different games he plays.
“I like Titans in Space,” he said. “You’re on a spaceship and you’re trying to control it. There’s also an underwater game where you learn about different types of underwater creatures. In the space game, you learn how to control a spaceship and learn about space. Games are fun and help you learn.”
Meanwhile, Flowery students are enjoying another of Hubbard-Lake’s latest Classroom Grant projects in the school library.
Libraries aren’t known to be the liveliest places in the world, but Flowery students often rush to the school library door during recess, eager to see what’s going on inside.
That’s because during the holidays, the library transforms into the Incredible No-Shhh Library, offering a variety of games and other activities that encourage conversation.
“Offering mindfulness tools for morning meditation, sensory toys for a calming corner, giant games to play at recess, sets for our ongoing chess games, stationary vendors for a Travel and Read station and supplies for an art corner and craft, this library will become a creative learning center where students can engage their minds and bodies,” Hubbard-Lake wrote when she applied for the grant.
She appreciates the quiet and peaceful sanctuary that traditional libraries provide and appreciates that they provide an ideal place for students to learn and immerse themselves in a good book. Hubbard-Lake notes that many schools are moving away from the idea that libraries should be quiet, seated places to learn, however.
“School libraries are evolving into living, vibrant centers of knowledge that engage the whole child,” she wrote. “This library will continue to provide a quiet escape for our voracious readers, but I hope it can evolve into a place that can impact a student’s day in a positive and meaningful way both inside and outside the library.
“Studies show that mindfulness can reduce anxiety and movement can make children more alert. When their bodies are calm and their minds are focused, students simply learn better.”
The Incredible No-Shhh Library, which is available to all Flowery students, was made possible in part through a $1,000 classroom grant Hubbard-Lake received during the 2021-22 academic year from the educational foundation. Teachers and school staff are allowed to apply for a grant of up to $1,000 per year.
“With the supplies provided by this grant, the library will be a supportive place that engages the whole child through games, attention and sensory toys, arts and crafts supplies and more,” said Gail Chadwin, the foundation’s director of development.
Students can visit the Incredible No-Shhh Library only during recess, while the library’s chill-out corner is available throughout the school day for any student who needs space to relax outside of the classroom.
Hubbard-Lake says students love the library’s options, which include not only a quiet reading area, but also the Listening Room, Sign Language Club, Adventures in Bookland, Playtime and a yoga space. .
Emery Gybsers, a fifth grader, likes to play games during recess.
“I like the game you play to get smart … chess, checkers, those types of games,” Emery said. “I like them because I like to think about my moves and what I’m going to play. I feel like I can’t really play outside because it’s really loud.
Luke likes to come to the library at recess to use a VR headset and play Jenga in a quiet environment.
“It’s quieter there,” he said. “You don’t have people screaming.”
Chadwin credits Hubbard-Lake’s creativity and resourcefulness.
“I’ve noticed that she is one of several teachers who always has a project posted on Donors Choose, which collectively brings a wide variety of resources to the Flowery library. I really admire the way she thinks outside the box to bring engaging opportunities to her students.”
To learn more about the Donors Choose program, where donors can support the classroom app that speaks to them, visit svgreatschools.org.
Contact the reporter, Dan Johnson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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