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The first year of Project Innovation – the ICSD’s project-based summer school program – was a great success!
The six-week, fully inclusive Project Innovation brought together about 100 students of varied abilities and grade levels at Belle Sherman Elementary. Groups of kindergarten through second graders, third- through fifth-grade students and sixth- through eighth-grade students each tackled a different case study while working on literacy, math and other essential skills.
The oldest group of students worked to organize a festival for their peers in Stewart Park that included a bounce house, dunk tank, henna tattoos, face painting, a DJ and other activities. Students raised funds, obtained insurance and contacted vendors in order to make “Fest Fest” happen. They applied for and received a $1,500 grant from Ithaca College, with the help of an IC mentor who reviewed their application and suggested improvements.
One group of third- through fifth-grade students explored how to make Belle Sherman’s habitat more inviting for birds. After researching and observing the school’s surroundings, students built birdhouses that will be delivered to all ICSD elementary schools. The other group researched the benefits of physical activity for children and how it affects academic performance, writing letters to make a case for recess and building games for students to use indoors. Students planned, budgeted for, and built the games, including beanbag toss and tic-tac-toe. Schools throughout ICSD will receive the games to use during the school year.
One of the three K-2 groups explored the tools different professionals use in their work. They invited professionals including a doctor, animal experts, paleontologists and a robotics engineer to speak to them about their jobs. Each student then selected a career, created a tool bag and dressed up for a museum display attended by their peers.
The second group explored mindfulness practices and how to regulate their emotions. They held a wellness fair for all Project Innovation students that included a mandala station, yoga and glittery mindfulness jars.
The third group explored friendship and how to include one another in school and show kindness to others. They made friendship bread and ice cream and invited the Cornell Team and Leadership Center to facilitate team-building activities. Their culminating project was a Buddy Bench as a gift to Belle Sherman. Whenever a student feels sad or lonely on the playground, they sit on the bench as a signal to others that they need a buddy.
Project Innovation Principal Kristin Herman said she hopes the program will expand next year.
“Having the focus of project-based learning really gelled our group together, and I think all the kids were super happy,” she said. “It was amazing to me how quickly students made friends with other students. Coming from completely different schools, they didn’t know each other at all and they gelled so well together. At the end, kids were making play dates and making sure they were going to get together.”
Herman commended the dedicated teachers, educational support professionals, nurses, custodial staff and transportation employees who worked hard to serve and include all students and plan meaningful lessons for Project Innovation participants.