NAESP and Wahl Foundation Award $40,000 to Schools for Innovative Projects

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11 schools win “UNthink My School” grants to solve school problems and spur innovation.

Students and staff at Rocky Ridge Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama, are busy selecting STEM- oriented materials, including tools for teaching kids how to code, as they embark on a new learning journey afforded by a $20,000 UNthink My School grant.

The Wahl Foundation, in collaboration with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), launched UNthink My School as a way to reward elementary and middle schools that approached a challenge with a creative solution. The grant was created as a way to reinforce themes in Erik Wahl’s book, UNThink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius. One $20,000 grant and ten $2,000 grants were awarded to 11 U.S. schools.

Rocky Ridge Elementary School will use the money to help implement a curriculum called Project Lead the Way, a STEM (science, technology, engineering art and math) program. “Monies from this grant would provide students at Rocky Ridge Elementary an outlet to unleash their creativity and expose them to new ideas for their future that will broaden their imaginations through engagement in the design process and discovery,” wrote the school’s assistant principal, Kara Chism, in the application. The school’s progress can be followed on its blog.

Rocky Ridge is a Title I school in an economically disadvantaged area. The grant addresses 21st century challenges that Hoover—and nearly every other community—will face. “Our job as educators is to prepare the students for future employment. The majority of jobs our current students will have do not even exist today. We must prepare our students to be problem-solvers that can devise creative solutions and new ideas,” Chism wrote, adding that the grant will, “awaken our children’s curiosity, capture the obstacles that limit their futures and give every child the opportunity to unleash the art of critical thinking.”

“The Wahl Foundation is honored to partner with Rocky Ridge as they engage their students in lifelong learning. Reading the hundreds of grant applications we received, we were filled with gratitude and hope for the future of education,” said the Wahl Foundation Executive Director Tasha Wahl.

“Principals are proudly committed to providing a well-rounded and complete education that enables each and every child to reach his or her fullest potential in every way—socially, emotionally, physically, and academically,” said NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly. “We are proud that NAESP’s partnership with the Wahl Foundation has helped spark and fund some innovative ideas that will not only help schools, but the communities they serve,” she added.

The schools receiving a $2,000 grant are:

  • Al Iman School, Raleigh, NC, for a trauma program
  • East Point Elementary, El Paso, TX, for a “Golden Rule” civility and morale program
  • Hidden Oaks Elementary School, Lake Worth, FL, for a hands-on lab
  • Hillman Elementary School, Hillman, MI, to enhance a TV production studio
  • Lincoln Elementary School, Huntington, IN, for an after-school arts program
  • McMillan Elementary, Mexico, MO, for a summer book program
  • Milan Middle School, Milan, MI, for a sensory garden
  • Pocomoke Elementary School, Pocomoke City, MD, for a global learning lab
  • St. Monica Catholic School, Dallas, TX, for STEM learning programs
  • White Deer Elementary, New Columbia, PA, to enhance the resource room

ABOUT THE WAHL FOUNDATION
Erik and Tasha Wahl created the Wahl Foundation because they are passionate about integrating the arts in education. They believe that incorporating artistic concepts and creative expression into the learning process can be transformative for classroom and school environments. The Wahl Foundation is dedicated to enabling positive change. We gravitate toward other projects that serve education, the underserved, the arts and other innovative projects that fall beyond those areas.

ABOUT NAESP
Established in 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) leads in the advocacy and support for elementary and middle school principals in the United States and internationally. NAESP supports principals as the primary catalysts for creating lasting foundations for learning through policy development, advocacy, professional development programs, and resources for effective instructional leadership. NAESP advances the profession on behalf of all principals, providing specialized support and mentoring for early career principals. Key focus areas include pre-K-3 education, school safety, technology and digital learning, and capacity-building educator evaluation. To learn more about NAESP, please visit http://www.naesp.org.

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