Music teacher Jan Osburn, who added Eldorado K-8 to her school roster this year, wanted to bring the ukuleles she’s used with her Flatirons Elementary students to her new school.
So she applied for a new music grant through Impact on Education, Boulder Valley’s education foundation, to buy 17 ukuleles and create a ukulele songwriting cafe at Eldorado in Superior, starting with second graders and adding grades each year.
“Ukuleles are the perfect size and in the perfect range,” she said. “They work so well.”
Once the students learn songs, she said, she’s planning a songwriting unit that will culminate with a cafe with food and student performances. Next, she wants to take the students’ show to a senior center.
Teachers at 23 Boulder Valley schools are getting extra money to pay for their ideas for innovative classroom projects, while another 14 schools are receiving money specifically for music projects.
Impact on Education recently awarded about $30,000 in grants for 31 classroom projects as part of its long-running Classroom Innovation Grants program. Projects include an expedition to the Indian Peaks Wilderness to collect snowpack data at Horizons K-8, coding with drones to improve reading scores at Casey Middle School and spoken word poetry workshops at Arapahoe Ridge High School.
The grants, which go up to $600 for an individual teacher’s project and up to $1,200 for a collaborative project, are funded by community and business donors. A community showcase of all the projects is planned in the spring.
New this year, Impact partnered with Pathways to Jazz, which donated $10,000 to support music education. All together, Impact awarded music grants totaling $10,647.
“It’s pretty common to hear about music programs that need to raise outside funding,” said Impact on Education Executive Director Allison Billings. “This is often an equity issue because the ability to raise funds varies tremendously across our schools.”
Four elementary schools in Lafayette received grants to buy music stands for fifth-graders. Not all families can afford to purchase folding music stands, the music teachers said, leaving them to try to bridge the gap with their limited budgets. Buying a set for each school for students in need will give students equal access to music reading and notation, they said.
At University Hill Elementary in Boulder, the music teacher received a grant to buy a cello, a viola and two violins so family income won’t limit a student’s choice to participate in either band or orchestra.
Supporting an afterschool a cappella jazz ensemble is the goal of a grant awarded to Kate Klotz at Louisville’s Monarch High School. She plans to use the money to build a music library, bring in guest clinicians and fund a school tour to perform for elementary and middle school students.
“These grants allow us to bring ideas to life that we don’t have funding for in our regular classroom budgets,” she said.
Monarch High junior Riley Carpenter is part of the a cappella jazz choir, which students started last school year.
“Finding an a cappella choir group where everyone is committed to producing quality music has been a great experience for me, providing a unique outlet outside of school through which I can simply express myself with the art of music,” he said.
He said having clinicians visit the group will help them with the more technical aspects of singing jazz music.
“Understanding the concepts behind the very distinctive style of music is very important for us to better reproduce jazz music, giving it the high quality needed to give all due respect to the original piece,” he said.
For the classroom grants, Louisville Middle School teachers Kelton Kragor and Christine Hannum are using the money for a project analyzing Canadian indigenous people. They plan to buy the book “A Stranger at Home: A True Story” and other materials for the sixth-grade class. The book gives firsthand account of an Inuit girl taken to a residential boarding school.
“We want students to demonstrate the ability to interpret how the loss of culture has impacted and continues to impact indigenous people throughout the Western Hemisphere,” Kragor said. “It is important that they build a cultural foundation that they can carry with them throughout middle school and beyond.”
At Lafayette’s Ryan Elementary, teachers Khang Xiong and Miriam Wright will use grant money to give second language learners an opportunity to write and publish bilingual books. Xiong, who is Hmong, said she came up with the idea while working on her doctorate and researching language loss for her people.
“A lot of research shows second language learners tend to forget their first language, and they’re not connected with their culture and their family,” she said. “English is so dominant in schools. It would be so nice if kids could see themselves in their classrooms and the schools.”
She said students will write the books with the help of family and school staff members. Then the books will be printed, with one copy for the school and one for the student.
“What I really hope is for for kids to have a conversation with their family about valuing the language so they will be more interested in their language and heritage,” she said.