Toms River Regional Schools is proud to announce that it is the recipient of a $100,000 competitive grant from the New Jersey Department of Education, its second in two years. The "Make Art a Part (MAP) Learning Project" is a summer program that will run from June 26 to July 27. MAP will support the district Title I-assisted basic skills curriculum and be offered to eligible 1st-through-5th graders at Pine Beach Elementary School. Administrators and teachers from several district schools helped write the grant and are now developing lesson plans. The funds received will cover staff training, materials, and technology, and for students, transportation, field experiences, and meals.
The MAP initiative supports this year’s district goals approved by the Board of Education to find alternative sources of funding and to provide additional programs for students. According to district Superintendent David Healy, “Summer programs like this are an opportunity for the district to explore and innovate research-based learning practices for children who would not likely have had such an opportunity. Instructional models with proven outcomes can be expanded into our classrooms with minimal financial risk.”
The Board has placed a big emphasis on innovation as a means of staying educationally current, challenging students, and making the most of budget dollars. Board President Ben Giovine noted, “Over the past three years, our staff has created new lessons, spaces, and extracurricular activities that make the arts a foundation to encourage creative solutions to real world problems.”
MAP incorporates strategies that infuse an arts mindset into other subject areas to improve student learning and engagement. District staff have demonstrated mastery over the past several years in using skills and knowledge from arts disciplines to teach other concepts, through activities under the umbrella of STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Art, and Math), the development of makerspaces, and the design of new High School Career Academies to debut in the fall of 2017. For MAP, the district will partner with town, regional, and statewide organizations to provide hands on learning experiences using dance, music, drawing, design, and prototyping to master math and English language arts standards.
The previous summer’s intermediate level Makercamp became a model for state STEAM programs, and that program’s educators have been asked to present at a number of statewide conferences on using a maker mindset to teach problem solving. The district anticipates that MAP will not only provide students with a unique opportunity to improve their skills within a fun summer camp setting, but the data will also inform state practices for years to come. The long-term benefit to the district will be acquiring new resources and strategies that the program staff will share with colleagues over the next school year. The Board of Education and Superintendent David Healy have made increasing staff capacity and promoting student self discovery a priority, and support the innovations that grants allow schools to explore.
Anyone with professional experience in the arts interested in becoming a volunteer mentor may contact project coordinator and Pine Beach Elementary Supervisor Catherine Mellon at firstname.lastname@example.org.