Science Workshops

Echoes of Nature, an educational organization, brought a “field trip” to three grades (second, third, and fourth) in the spring of 2010.  Ms. Krueger, one of the fourth grade teachers, learned about this program and collaborated with a Somerset parent to request a grant from the Foundation to bring this extraordinary educational experience to Somerset.  One of the Foundation’s goals is to promote academic excellence, and this program clearly supported that goal.

Ms. Kreuger and her colleagues in the other grades chose workshops that would enrich the science curriculum already in place at Somerset.  Echoes of Nature provided students with hands-on learning experiences in their classrooms through the use of live animals (very small, and in some cases microscopic), fascinating demonstrations, and facts about the environment and animal life. The second grade studied insects and arachnids. The third grade studied food webs and photosynthesis. The fourth grade studied animal and plant life found in the Chesapeake Bay area. All workshops also encouraged an appreciation for the natural world around us, in all forms.

Academic Achievement Initiatives

The Foundation funds a number of academic after-school clubs every year, which are supervised by Somerset administrators and taught by Somerset teachers. These clubs are an opportunity for students who need a little extra help to get that help, free of charge.  The Foundation launched this program in 2006 with three clubs — Homework, Math, and Reading Fluency — and it has expanded since then. Five different clubs convened over SY 2010-11, covering various aspects of math and reading for all grade levels, and providing assistance with homework.  Teachers identify which students would benefit from this additional instruction according to criteria that vary with each club.   Altogether, these clubs support over eighty students each year, helping them achieve academic success.

This Initiative also includes funds for professional development and for new teacher-initiated grants.  Importantly, the Foundation pays for a late-afternoon school bus so that children are not excluded from the program due to a lack of transportation home.

Background:  In 2004-2005, the Somerset Foundation and the PTA, through their joint Strategic Action Committee (SAC), conducted a needs assessment to better understand the goals of the school community.  Through articles in the school newsletter, a community PTA meeting, and discussions with the principal, faculty and staff, the SAC found that one of the primary interests of the community was to promote students’ academic growth and achievement.  After researching best practices at other elementary schools, the Foundation and the administration developed the plan for the first clubs in the fall of 2005.  A generous grant from the PTA  signified the wide support for this plan.  The Math and Homework clubs first convened in January 2006, and the Reading Fluency club first met in the spring of 2006.

Current Clubs:  In School Year 2010-11, the clubs offered included:

Homework Club:  Offered two days each week, for students in grades 2-5.

Reading Fluency Club:  Offered once per week, for students in grades K-2.

Reading Comprehension Club:  Offered once per week, for students in grades 3-5 .

K-1 Math Cub: Offered once per week, for students in grades K and 1.

Basic (Math) Facts:  Offered once per week, for students in grades 2-5 .

These clubs have sessions that range from 12 weeks to 30 weeks, beginning in late fall.

Teacher Comments:

I have been a part of Homework Club for many years.  I am convinced that this is one of the most valuable after-school programs yet.  We are quite fortunate to be able to offer this service to our students. — Diane Anderson, 2nd Grade Teacher

Homework Club allows students to have one-on-one guidance and support while working, as well as a reiteration of their class’ goals and expectations for learning. — Rachel Jacobs, 1st Grade Teacher

I received really excellent feedback from one of my students that attends the [reading] club yesterday!  We were working on writing a summary in guided groups, and he had a much more solid response.  When I praised him on it, he beamed and said, “The reading club really helped me learn strategies.”  — Kathy Brun, 3rd Grade Teacher

I have enjoyed teaching the Kindergarten and First Grade Math Club for the last 3 1/2 years.  We use a variety of hands-on math activities and games to review strategies to help master the math topics. This is a great way to further support children in a small group to provide more individualized instruction to reinforce skills and concepts taught in their classrooms. — Lisa Katchman, Kindergarten Teacher

Promethean Boards

In 2009, thanks in great part to a generous donation from the PTA, the Foundation bought seven new Promethean Boards for the school. These are large-screen interactive whiteboards that connect to the teacher’s computer, and represent the most current classroom technology.  Three went to the fourth grade, three to the fifth, and one to the additional first grade class that would be entering in the fall of 2009. According to one of the first grade teachers, the Promethean board helps her students stay more focused and attentive, promotes participation, gives the teachers instant feedback, and prepares the students for the world of technology they live in.

Kindergarten Math Books

The Foundation gave a small grant to the Kindergarten team in 2008 to underwrite math enrichment books.  The collection of math books they requested aligned with the different units of instruction within the MCPS curriculum.  Many of the books were in fact required for the curriculum but were not yet in the school’s resource library for teachers.