Media release

Grants spark learning across RI

Elementary school teachers across the state will share nearly $135,000 in grants to encourage innovation in their classrooms through the Carter Spark Grants program at the Rhode Island Foundation.

Launched by philanthropists Letitia and the late John Carter in 2013, the program offers full-time third-grade and fourth-grade teachers in any traditional public school or public charter school in Rhode Island grants of up to $1,000 for activities that engage students through unique experiences and creative learning methods in order to stimulate their interest in academics.

“Once again, the Carter family is promoting change through leadership. Thanks to their foresight, teachers all over Rhode Island have an exceptional opportunity to be innovative,”

- Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation

Eligible expenses include field trips, equipment and other resources that otherwise would not be available in the classroom. Spark Grants are for one-time expenses and cannot provide ongoing funding to sustain projects.

Teachers at Agnes B. Hennessey Elementary in East Providence, Fishing Cove Elementary School in North Kingstown and Melville Elementary School in Portsmouth are among nearly 150 teachers statewide who received grants.

At Hennessey, third-grade teacher Emily Rendine was awarded $998 to promote Next Generation Science Standards by improving the school’s garden beds and creating a composting and water conservation program.

“Our school garden offers hands-on, experiential learning opportunities in a wide array of disciplines, including the natural and social sciences, math, language arts, social emotional learning, visual arts and nutrition. We will turn our simple garden beds into a world of science exploration,”

- Emily Rendine

The funding will enable Rendine to buy equipment, including a rain barrel, hose and a compost barrel, as well as subscriptions to the Scholastic News for every student.

“The grant will support teaching and learning in a way our traditional curriculum cannot. The subscription will allow students to dive deeper into informational text, specifically science content that students may not be exposed to in our typical science kits,” she said.

Fishing Cove third-grade teacher Robert Lucas received $606 to buy model rocket kits that students will build and launch on the school’s STEAM Day. The activity will teach concepts such as gravity, trajectory, thrust, the principles of flight, aerodynamics and Newton's Third Law of Motion.

“The opportunity to build and launch a model rocket is an exciting way to spark an invested interest in science. Incorporating model rocketry into our student's academic career will develop their problem-solving skills and ultimately motivate students in future STEAM activities,”

- Robert Lucas

About 45 third- and fourth-grade students are expected to participate in the program. The school plans to stage STEAM Days three times this school year.

“STEAM careers have steadily increased, however during the past two decades, college students graduating with these subjects have steadily decreased. As educators, we need to keep kids not only interested in STEAM, but also help them become excited enough to envision it as a career path,” he said.

Melville teacher Marc Gonsalves received $950 to bring students to Sail to Prevail, which is a sailing program specifically designed for students with disabilities like those in his class.

“Students will be able to steer the boats, tack, and actively engage in their own learning of how to sail. As a result, they will feel capable and confident after spending a few hours sailing,”

- Marc Gonsalves

The field trip will be part of a project about leadership. Before the field trip, students will work in small groups to identify the traits that leaders have. After the field trip, Gonsalves will ask students whether their concept of leadership has changed.

“Students with significant disabilities face a multitude of challenges throughout their educational journey. This will encourage my students to have the self-confidence to see themselves as leaders in our school,” he said.

Schools in Barrington, Bristol, Burrillville, Charlestown, Cranston, Cumberland, Foster, Lincoln, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Scituate, Smithfield, Warren, Warwick, and Woonsocket also received grants.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $38 million and awarded $43 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2017. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.