New Haven, CT (September 23, 2020) – In response to new challenges and opportunities presented by COVID-19 and the shifts to distance and hybrid learning, RISE Network educators have secured more than $30k in supplementary resources to support initiatives that promote student engagement and effective instruction this school year. These efforts were made possible through the RISE Educator Innovation Fund in partnership with Dalio Philanthropies and DonorsChoose.
The RISE Educator Innovation Fund was originally created in response to unmet needs experienced by educators throughout the year, as educators consistently have new ideas for their classrooms but may not have access to resources to bring those ideas to fruition. Each year the Innovation Fund encourages educators from the 10 RISE Network high schools across the state to pursue creative ideas to support students’ success in and beyond high school. During the 20-21 school year, educators have used the Innovation Fund in ways that creatively address the unique challenges students and educators are facing during the pandemic.
“The Innovation Fund invites educators to pursue their new and innovative ideas, and this year, we are seeing an uptick in educator engagement and creativity in response to distance and hybrid learning,” said Emily Pallin, Executive Director of the RISE Network. “COVID-19 is forcing all of us to reimagine what education can and should look like, and we’re inspired to see how educators are leading the way and rising to the occasion by thinking outside of the box to meet their students’ needs.”
Throughout the state, RISE educators have posted projects that give students rich and engaging educational experiences in lieu of being in the classroom. In Naugatuck, educators are supporting students with individualized art kits that allow students to have their own supplies; at Platt High School in Meriden, one teacher-led project is ensuring students’ senior experiences remain intact by securing specialized camera lenses for students to take their own professional-grade senior portraits; and at Middletown High School educators are making the college planning process informative and fun by offering virtual reality goggles that provide immersive virtual college tour experiences.
In New Haven, teachers at Career High School are using the Innovation Fund to continue engaging students in courses that don’t easily translate to distance learning like hands-on anatomy and physiology courses.
For the past 31 years, Career High School has participated in the Anatomy Teaching Program with the Yale School of Medicine. Through this annual partnership, students enrolled in Career’s health sciences program have the opportunity to travel to the Yale Anatomy Lab twice a month to learn anatomy through real-time demonstrations of cadaver dissections.
In response to limitations presented by the pandemic, Dr. Wendy Decter, an anatomy teacher at Career, identified an alternative for her health sciences students. The Anatomy Coloring Book, a graduate-level study and instructional aid that is commonly used by nursing and medical students, will give students another method to study anatomy while providing a hands-on experience and creating a lasting product to take to college. The book uses a color-code system to support students in learning anatomical terminology and creating visual connections between medical terms and the parts of the human body. Through submitting a project to the RISE Educator Innovation Fund, Dr. Decter was able to secure the $1,215 needed to buy a set of 40 books for her students in less than a week, ensuring that the supplies were ready for her students to start remote learning earlier this month.
“In this difficult time of pandemic and remote learning, we cannot access our usual programs with community partners. Since my students could not travel to the Yale anatomy lab, I wanted to give them something that was not computer-based and would be fun for them,” Dr. Decter, said.
So far this school year, educators across the RISE Network have submitted 105 projects to DonorsChoose, a non-profit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects. Of those projects, 63 have been fully funded. All donations submitted to eligible RISE educator projects are matched through the RISE Educator Innovation Fund.
“It’s an inspiration to watch our teachers utilize the Innovation Fund to get additional resources to our students. Over the years, we’ve all witnessed our coworkers plan and implement creative projects designed to give our students rich and unforgettable opportunities that would otherwise not be possible,” said Rose Murphy, a RISE Educator Advisory Council Member and teacher at Hill Regional Career High School. “This year, our teachers continue to meet the many challenges of distance learning with determination and creativity. Educators like Dr. Decter are taking advantage of the Innovation Fund to ensure that no matter the obstacle, our students have what they need to excel.”
Since the Innovation Fund first launched in 2016, more than 430 educators have secured funding totaling $960,000 for more than 1,350 projects.