BEF awards nearly $30,000 through the Student Success Grants Program to support the following projects in Belchertown Public Schools:

Outdoor Classroom
Project Lead: Louise Levy
School: Multiple

Expansion of the Belchertown School Gardens over the past several years has led to increased interest in garden-based learning opportunities. This grant supports creation of an outdoor classroom with a defined space for instruction that allows students to focus while outside. It funds seven benches which convert into tables, accommodating students with and without mobility challenges. This outdoor classroom will have a positive impact on the learning experiences of more than 1,000 students and 60 faculty and staff members as garden-based lessons are integrated into school curriculums.

Calming and Sensory Spaces
Project Lead: Lori Osborne
Collaborator: Kimberly Sarnacki
School: Cold Spring School

The diagnosis of children with autism, learning challenges, and anxiety in our schools continues to rise. Using a researched-based approach to addressing these issues through calming rooms and sensory pathways, this grant funds opportunities for all students to improve focus, develop or re-activate senses, socialize, improve motor development and more. By addressing diverse learning and movement needs, the calming and sensory spaces will help students develop long-term skills needed for coping and self-regulation.
Video of sensory pathway in action at Cold Spring School!

Sensory Pathways
Project Lead: Eileen Farrington
Collaborator: Robert Kuhn
School: Swift River Elementary School

Swift River Elementary (SRE) School personnel are seeing increasing numbers of students with a variety of neurological and emotional disorders as well as anxiety and school avoidance. This grant supports purchase and installation of sensory pathway aligned with SRE’s commitment to meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs for all students. Participating in movement activities along the pathway is known to reduce school-related anxiety and allow children who experience sensory overload the opportunity to regain their self-control and overall sense of calmness so they can re-enter the classroom ready to learn.

New Reading Nooks
Project Lead: Laura Anderman
Collaborator: Heather Walker
School: Chestnut Hill Community School

Fostering a life-long love of reading is a universal goal of English Language Arts teachers. For some children, school is a stressful and anxiety-ridden place, which makes for a difficult environment in which to read. This grant will be used to provide comfortable reading nooks for upper-elementary students. Students will be able to use the reading nooks for independent reading, creative writing, and literature circles. This project is anticipated to have a positive impact on classroom relationships, respect and responsibility, responsible decision making, students’ level of focus on their chosen literature, and students’ reading enjoyment.

Flexible Seating for a 21st Century Classroom
Project Lead: Marley Hart
School: Chestnut Hill Community School

This grants supports the purchase of multiple seating options for students at Chestnut Hill Community School, in a pilot project that will investigate the impact of flexible seating on preparing students for the demands of the 21st century. Creative changes to classrooms support students’ academic achievement and social emotional learning goals by creating shared spaces in which children learn to make responsible decisions, communicate clearly, cooperate with others, manage emotions, and set goals. The purposeful movement and different seating options available to all learners in flexible classrooms are known to support a wide range of student needs, including sensory, social-emotional, and executive functioning, all of which impact classroom learning.

Refrigerated Merchandiser
Project Lead: Kelly Slattery
Collaborator: Kathleen Hodgen
School: Jabish Brook Middle School

Participation in the Jabish Brook Middle School meal program is relatively low, despite having a high population of students eligible for free and reduced-cost meals. Additionally, students experience long lines resulting from a small serving area in the cafeteria, which limits the time they have to eat lunch. This grant funds a refrigerated merchandiser allowing the school to offer grab-and-go items prepared by lunch staff, making it quicker and easier for students to access food during the lunch period. More food selections and improved access to food is anticipated to have a positive impact on both the academic performance and general welfare of students.

Guidance Office Overhaul
Project Lead: Jennifer Parker
Collaborator: Donna DeCaro
School: Jabish Brook Middle School

This grant will transform the current guidance office into a Student Support Center, creating a space that is warm and welcoming to students. It is estimated that nearly 75% of the student population seek some form of support from the guidance office throughout the year for academic, social-emotional and other issues. The new space will include tables and chairs to enhance collaboration, alternative seating options, soft lighting and other items that make for an inviting space.

Hand Chime Choir
Project Lead: Amanda Johnson
Collaborator: Corrina Smith
School: Jabish Brook Middle School

This grant funds the purchase of hand chimes and creation of a new performing ensemble at Jabish Brook Middle School: the Hand Chime Choir. This group will become a regular performing member of the Music Department, giving students the opportunity to participate in a unique musical ensemble. Learning this instrument will improve students’ music reading abilities and rhythmic understanding as well as support social-emotional growth. As part of this ensemble, students learn how important each individual is to the success of the whole. The impact of this purchase will last for decades as the Hand Chime Choir becomes a new tradition at Jabish Brook Middle School.

New Volleyball System
Project Lead: Melissa Gramuglia
School: Jabish Brook Middle School

Funds from this grant will be used to purchase a new volleyball system at Jabish Brook Middle School with the primary goal of creating a middle school volleyball team and program. The availability of this new volleyball system will also provide extra opportunities outside the classroom for students to be active, interact with one another, and build and maintain positive relationships with their peers, teachers, parents/caregivers, and community during planned open gym sessions throughout the school year. Research suggests that these athletic activities contribute positively to students’ physical, mental, emotional, social, and academic development.

Exploration Stations
Project Lead: Meghan Eldridge
Collaborator: William Wheeler
School: Jabish Brook Middle School

This past academic year, a small number of hands-on Exploration Stations developed by seventh grade science teachers at Jabish Brook Middle School had a demonstrably positive impact on student learning. This grant funds development of additional Exploration Stations that will provide differentiated, active-learning educational opportunities for students. Exploration Stations create an autonomous learning environment that encourages students to be active participants in the learning process, developing critical thinking skills through questioning, application, and analysis as they reach higher academic understanding.

Kick-start of BHS STEM Lab
Project Lead: Kyle Landrio
Collaborator(s): Clay Hennessy, Manuela LeBlanc
School: Belchertown High School

A grant award to the Belchertown High School STEM Lab/Makerspace will provide the remaining hardware, software, and materials necessary for official launch. Activities in the STEM Lab/Makerspace will combine science, technology, engineering, and math with creative arts through team-building experiences. Work in the lab will integrate curriculum from diverse areas such as art and design, business, math, engineering, and computer science. Students will learn problem solving skills as they design, build, evaluate, and adjust their project plans thereby developing skills more important in today’s job market than ever before.

Social-emotional Learning Space
Project Lead: Catherine Jenkins
Collaborator: Maia Lustbader
School: Belchertown High School

The funds from this grant will support improvements to the physical space of the ORIOLES Program classroom, including the purchase of sensory/therapeutic tools to maximize learning potential and support each student’s social-emotional learning needs. To encourage empowerment, developing community, and increasing overall motivation and ownership within the program, the ORIOLES students will be actively involved in the process of creating this updated learning environment.