One of the best parts of the OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education is hearing all the amazing ways our schools are going above and beyond to meet the needs of every child. This year, it is particularly inspiring to read so many stories about education communities providing innovative communication and curriculum approaches, while positively impacting students’ lives through these uncertain times.
Reaching all children is no easy feat, especially as educators navigate the new world of distance learning. It requires creative ideas, resources (i.e., time and money), and many times, extra help from the community. We aim to do our part to support those efforts and one example is our annual Community Builder award.
The Community Builder award provides funding for schools to complete a project that enriches the school, students and faculty. Each year, we look for projects that inspire creativity and foster community. The projects also need to reach a broad segment of the school to ensure the funding has maximum impact.
We held a two-month-long nomination period for the awards, and the nominations rolled in! From that group of nominees, we have selected 10 finalists to be voted on by you, our online community. The winning school, selected by community votes, will receive a $5,000 prize, while four other schools selected by the OnPoint Prize Selection Committee will receive $2,000.
The voting period runs through May 7. We encourage you to read about the schools below and cast your vote for the project you think will make the most of $5,000. Then, look for our announcement of the winner on May 12. That day, we will also announce the 10 finalists for the OnPoint Prize Educator of the Year and Circle of Excellence.
Here are the exciting projects you get to choose from:
Atkinson Elementary’s Gardening and Cultural Cooking Project
Portland Public Schools
Atkinson Elementary’s Gardening and Cultural Cooking Project will provide K-5th grade classes with two garden work parties each year in the school’s community garden. Students will plant, harvest, clean and chop vegetables for use in the school’s cafeteria as part of a special dish each grade will cook together. This project fosters community building through collective garden work and making and eating food together. Gardening and cooking help develop creativity by stimulating the five senses, and scientific studies show that stress levels reduce when people are in nature.
Charlemagne French Immersion Elementary School’s Amity Intern Program
Every year, the Amity Intern Program at Charlemagne welcomes teaching interns from French-speaking countries around the world. These young adults have inspired students by sharing their culture, language, and multicultural perspective across the school. Interns help manage the class, deliver whole group instruction, and run small groups to support French language development, math skills, science lessons, and art projects.
Clear Creek Middle School’s The Tomorrow Bus
Gresham-Barlow School District
The Tomorrow Bus is a mobile STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) classroom that encourages K-8th grade students to create, collaborate, and innovate using hands-on learning materials. The bus will visit every K-8th grade school in the Gresham-Barlow School District several times during the school year. At each visit, technology coaches will use curriculum kits to introduce students to engaging grade-appropriate STEAM concepts. Being inside the Tomorrow Bus fosters community and inspires students to work together, try, fail, try again, and learn in new ways.
Grout Elementary’s Grounds Improvement Project
Portland Public Schools
The Grout Grounds Improvement Project will repair the Grout Elementary track and field in SE Portland. In 2019, more than 35 students were injured due to compacted soil, uneven and bare surfaces of the Grout track and field. The Grout Grounds Improvement Project will work to reduce these injuries and benefit the students of Grout Elementary, where approximately half are considered low income and 51% qualify for no-charge lunches. The field improvements will also benefit after-school programs administered by SUN school and YMCA childcare, promoting increased usage during evenings and weekends by Southeast Portland neighbors and helping to reduce vandalism on school property, including Kenilworth Park across the street.
Jennings Lodge Elementary’s Sensory Walk/Wall
Oregon City School District
Jennings Lodge Elementary has created a Sensory Walk/Wall, which takes children through a series of movements designed to regulate their energy and inspire calm and creativity. The school would like to grow this project as sensory paths are proven strategies to regulate all students, including those with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and sensory processing issues. Providing kids with the opportunity to move in a creative way and letting their mind wander provides a “reset” that allows the students to take control of their bodies, refocus on classroom learning and, enable them to succeed socially and academically.
Meadows Elementary’s Library Diversity/Update Project
Centennial School District
The library books at Meadows Elementary School are not just physically old; their content is old too. Students find that their literacy choices are no longer culturally-relevant and are looking to restock with new books that connect to all students. The Library Diversity Update Project hopes to inspire life-long learning and the pursuit of knowledge within everyone who visits their library.
Mill Plain Elementary’s Book Vending Machine
Evergreen School District
Mill Plain Elementary would like to install a book vending machine to inspire a life-long love of reading for its students. The vending machine will provide students with a “forever book” to keep at home, giving them pride in building their own at-home library. Keeping books at home helps reinforce healthy reading habits, builds storytelling abilities, and brings a sense of comfort to a child who may be living with trauma. Through this project, the school hopes to increase literacy scores, improve confidence in the classroom, and foster excitement about reading to build a school-wide community of readers.
Rosemary Anderson High School’s Distance Learning
Private Alternative High School
Rosemary Anderson High School, like the rest of the schools in Oregon and Washington, is closed for the rest of the school year, and distance learning is a requirement for students to meet the educational standards necessary to graduate. However, many students at Rosemary Anderson experience generational poverty and do not have access to the technology needed to engage in distance learning. This project would purchase technology and connectivity resources helping families actively participate in distance learning. The end goal is to increase student engagement, which has been proven to improve student outcomes and build a better community.
Sandy High School’s Pioneer Digital Media Sports Broadcasting
Oregon Trail School District
Sandy High School’s Digital Media Career Technical Education department, along with Pioneer Digital Media Club, offers live multi-camera broadcasts with closed captioning of sports, news and events from the Sandy High School campus. The school’s broadcasts not only develop students for careers in creative digital media, they also build connections to the Sandy community by providing valuable information to local residents and providing a connection to Sandy for those who have moved away.
Sifton Elementary’s After School Club
Evergreen School District
The Sifton After School Club is a free program for families designed to provide extra academic support and extracurricular activities such as basketball, Zumba, karate, yoga, soccer, art, and cooking for students. After School Club respects the importance of sports and arts for students and the facilitators understand that many obstacles prevent families from accessing these activities. The program helps students make academic gains and build meaningful relationships with peers and teachers at their school. 45 students are currently enrolled in the program, and the funds will help the school expand the program to up to 65 in the coming year.
We’ve been holding the OnPoint Prize since 2009, and the stories inspire us more and more every year, particularly as the education community is experiencing such an unprecedented time right now. This year, the program will donate up to $100,000 to outstanding schools and educators who are making a difference in our community.
It is more important than ever before that we honor our education community, so please join us by casting a vote!