In addition to many individual donors, the Foundation for Educational Excellence partners with various local organizations to obtain the necessary funding to provide grants for the innovative and out-of-the-box projects submitted by teachers each year. As a result, hundreds of students across the district are exposed to learning experiences that might not have been possible otherwise. One of those generous organizations is the Friends of Callawassie Island. This group has continually given to the Foundation to support its mission year after year. During the 2021 grant cycle, the Friends of Callawassie Island assisted with the overall funding for 3 grants including:
- Bobcat Café at Bluffton High School
- Full STEAM Ahead at Mossy Oaks Elementary School
- Alphabet Affirmations at Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center
The Bobcat Café established at Bluffton High School created a cooking program to provide special education students the opportunity to increase their independence as well as their self esteem while learning valuable skills. Through this project, students’ eyes were opened to possible career opportunities, and they were able to learn about serving others.
At Mossy Oaks Elementary in Beaufort, Lynda Jernigan, the school’s Librarian, was able to implement a project entitled “Full STEAM Ahead” thanks to funding from the Foundation and Friends of Callawassie Island. The funds went towards growing the library’s STEAM collection with the purchase of various teacher resource books as well as newly published chapter books.
Along with Mrs. Freeman, STEAM Lab Teacher, Mrs. Jernigan presented the resources to the staff to demonstrate how they could be utilized in the classroom. Teachers are now able to check out the teacher resource books, along with the accompanying trade books, to provide integrated STEAM lessons in their classroom.
According to Mrs. Jernigan, The Amazing Scientists and the Zoey and Sassafras chapter books have been the most popular among the students. The chapter books all feature characters who have a love of science and engineering. Targeted towards more advanced readers, the books have allowed the students to make connections with these characters and see themselves as future scientists or engineers.
“Alphabet Affirmations” was able to impact even the youngest students at Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center in the PreK and Kindergarten classes. Through this program, students were given the opportunity to identify the first letter of their names and associate a personal affirmation by viewing cards that were printed and displayed around the class.
"Affirmation Alphabet” was created using photographs of children, a letter of the alphabet and an assigned positive trait or affirmation for each letter. The alphabet was then printed on posters and displayed around the classroom and hallways. A smaller alphabet was printed for each classroom to use throughout the year. And even smaller cards were printed and strategically placed around the mirrors in the bathroom and classrooms.
Extended learning allowed students to also identify letters of their last name and the affirmation associated with those letters. In addition, they created a self-portrait drawing expressing the affirmation associated with the first letter of their first name and displayed their creations in the hallway.
The funds went towards the purchase of a poster maker and die-cut machine. These tools have given all teachers in the school the ability to create customizable visual learning tools to enhance learning for all subjects and lessons in the future.
“The students were eager to learn new vocabulary and different ways of complimenting their peers using their new vocabulary,” shared DeAnna Daniels, Art teacher at HHI Early Childhood Center. “The teachers are also very excited about the new technology available to them. They have already begun to find ways it will enhance their teaching.”
The project was successful in introducing new vocabulary and boosting self-esteem among the students. Overall, 95% of students were able to identify their affirmation associated with their name by the end of the year. Students enjoyed creating their self-portraits and sharing them with others. Many students learned more than just their own affirmation through sharing their artwork with their peers.
Ms. Daniels admits that self-esteem is difficult to assess, but she felt that the smiles and pride on the students’ faces when sharing their artwork and new vocabulary was “priceless.” She looks forward to implementing this project for many years to come with her students.
The Foundation is grateful for the generosity of the Friends of Callawassie Island. Their funding contributed to projects that were far reaching across the county from Hilton Head Island to Beaufort and from the youngest in the district up to high school. The impact these projects have made on these students is indescribable and the Foundation is confident that the lessons learned will have lifelong benefits to these students as well as our community.