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IPEI Awards Two Connecting Classrooms Grants

The Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) has awarded two new Connecting Classrooms Grants—for projects involving three elementary schools, impacting more than 1,000 Ithaca City School District students.
Connecting Classrooms Grants fund large-scale projects that enhance student engagement and support learning consistent with school and district goals. The grants support collaborative partnerships between teachers and staff within a school, across grade levels and/or between schools.
The first 2017-18 grant, “Reimagining Recess!” is a collaboration between Fall Creek and Northeast Elementary Schools and Just Play Project and Pop-Up Adventure Play. The project seeks to create supportive and innovative environments for students during school recess to enhance student learning.
“By improving play opportunities, we believe students will increase the variety of play behaviors, interact in greater pro-social behaviors, and work creatively and collaboratively with peers—which all have been shown to positively affect academic learning,” said Fall Creek Principal Caitlin Bram and Northeast Principal Lily Talcott in the grant application.
The grant will enable the schools to: provide ongoing and embedded professional development training for school leaders, teachers and educational support professionals—rooted in the theories and practices of “playwork”; provide engaging and creative “loose-parts” play materials during recess; and ensure all students have an opportunity for learning and development through self-directed play during school. It will be the first public elementary school loose-parts play model on the east coast and in the Ithaca City School District.
The second Connecting Classrooms Grant, “Spanish Language Learning,” will expand Spanish curriculum to all South Hill Elementary students. Building on a pilot program run last year with first- and fourth-graders, all South Hill students will now have the opportunity to receive weekly conversational Spanish lessons through songs, books, games and other activities. The Spanish lessons will be facilitated by school teaching staff as well as secondary students studying Spanish at Lehman Alternative Community School and Ithaca High School. Secondary students will visit South Hill regularly as well as communicate via Skype. Participating South Hill students will also have the opportunity to visit the secondary schools.
“Our project has the potential to greatly impact student engagement and achievement not only here at our school, but at LACS and IHS as well,” said South Hill Principal Perry Gorgen in the grant application. “It is exciting to see and idea that ties together new language learning, exposure to new cultures and experiences, civic engagement, mentorship and student leadership.”
The grant will also enable South Hill to better connect with Spanish-speaking families, collegiate language programs, and other elementary schools, including bilingual schools in the United States and in other countries.
“IPEI is proud to sponsor innovative ideas impacting student experiences across the district,” said IPEI Executive Director Steven Manley. “These projects could shape the way language and recess are approached across the district, and we are already working with school and district leaders to share the learning that these projects will create"
The next deadlines for 2017-18 Connecting Classrooms Grants proposals are January 17 and March 28, at midnight.
IPEI is a not-for-profit organization that connects the Ithaca City School District and the community through collaboration, engagement, gifts and grants. For more information, see or contact 256-IPEI (4734) or

Belle Sherman
Beverly J Martin
Cayuga Heights
Fall Creek
South Hill
Boynton Middle
DeWitt Middle
Ithaca HS
Lehman Alternative


Ithaca City School District
Dr. Luvelle Brown, Superintendent
400 Lake Street
Ithaca, NY 14850
(607) 274-2101