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Gripp Grants In Action

Here are some updates on recent Gripp Grants.


Romona Mud Cafe

Students at Romona Elementary School and the D39 Early Childhood program now have an all-season outdoor classroom where they can let their imaginations run free. The wooden structure includes a ‘mud kitchen’, ‘dining area’, and ‘work table’ and is called the Romona Mud Cafe. The space allows students a year-round, nature-rich environment to learn through play-based, imaginative, and collaborative experiences. In addition, it can be used for curriculum-based lessons and is universally accessible to the diverse community of students at Romona.


Shoebox Tasks

Students at D39 elementary schools can now be creative and independent while working on our “Shoebox Tasks.” Here, this student is working on matching and creating patterns with colors. These task boxes will allow students with low incidence disabilities to have access to instruction that is systematic, direct, and conducive for academic growth. In addition, task boxes can be used in inclusion opportunities with peers.


Sensory Paths

All four D39 elementary schools installed Sensory Paths over summer 2019.  A Sensory Path is an organized course typically placed in a school hallway that encourages a routine, predictable motor break and provides students with an additional place to take ‘brain breaks’ during the school day. Students are thrilled with the fun physical challenges that relieve brain fatigue.


Zone Watches

During the Fall 2018 Gripp Grant award cycle, Jeneane Pence, Highcrest PE teacher, was awarded a grant for 30 Zone watches to assist students with heart rate monitoring during PE activities. Students get accurate, real time feedback while still active to help them make a connection between their intensity level and heart rate. Teachers also use this information to personalize students’ fitness goals.


Qballs and JBL Flip portable speakers

In November 2018, Student Services Coordinator, Taylor Harvey and Romona/Harper Assistant Principal, Elena Ryan were awarded a grant to purchase 20 Qballs and JBL Flip portable speakers for use in all D39 elementary schools. A Qball is a ball-shaped microphone that sends a user’s voice via Bluetooth to a speaker that amplifies their words for all to hear.  It can be passed or tossed around the classroom as students answer questions, read papers, and contribute to conversations. It supports collaboration in the classroom and an inclusive and shared learning environment for all students including those with speech and hearing special needs. Watch students using Qballs.

Sphero BOLT Robots

In Fall 2018, the four D39 elementary school technology teachers Julie Garry, Lauren Wysocke, Beth Cummo and Christina Rosario were awarded funds for 32 Sphero BOLT robots. Each school was granted 8 robots to provide students with a hands-on opportunity to expand their coding skills. With three different coding canvases – Draw, Block and Text – that move from beginner to advanced coding skills, the robots can be differentiated by age group and coding ability. Students have had so much fun learning while using them. “There is always a big cheer from the students when they get to use them during class,” said Julie Garry of McKenzie, “We have also tested the durability of the Sphero Bolts in water projects, painting with them and rolling them down steps. We, as teachers, are excited that they can hold up to our challenging projects.” Watch a robot in action! And one more!

Highcrest Middle School Broadcast Live!

In November 2017, Mayaan Sloane and Samantha Sutton, Highcrest Technology Innovation Specialists, were granted the purchase of video and recording equipment to transition the weekly WHMS News into a live student written, directed and executed broadcast. The broadcast is aired every Monday morning to Highcrest and the Wilmette community. All homerooms are in charge of the broadcast once each school year. The broadcast is completely student written, run and executed. In May 2019 WCIU’s The Jam featured a live story on WHMS News. What an amazing way to showcase this program and the talented students in front of and behind the camera! Take a look.

WJHS Science Moticams

Dr. Peter Ower, WJHS 7th grade science teacher was granted funding for 24 Moticams, which are special cameras that mount on the lab microscopes already in use at WJHS.

With these cameras, students can take photos of their biology studies and share this work with their teachers and other students. This replaces the outdated practice of students hand drawing what they view in the microscopes or attempting to photograph their findings with iPadsMoticams have streamlined the workflow during biology labs, and encourage collaboration between lab groups and science classes.

Dr. Ower says this new method of examining cells is “very engaging for the students!” For greater insight into the Moticams’ success, click here.






Harper “Only You” River Rocks Path

Harper art teacher, Kathleen Robinson, was awarded a grant to create a school-wide art installation that fostered conversations about individuality and making the world a better place for all. Students read “Only You” by Linda Kranz focused on these topics. After reading the book, students brainstormed how they can make the world a better place. Then they each painted a river rock to represent their uniqueness. The rocks were then combined into a beautiful, colorful path in the school prairie garden. Reflecting on the project, Ms. Robinson said, “We made the prairie garden space a little brighter for all to enjoy.”


Romona Outdoor Learning Gazebo

Students and teachers are thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to learn in their new outdoor classroom. From preschool reading time to elementary science exploration the gazebo provides the school community with a unique extension of the main school building. It’s almost like a one room school house from year’s gone by! Romona School Principal Cindy Anderson is thrilled for students “to engage with the natural environment in an innovative and exciting way!”


Breakout EDU Boxes

Teachers and students at all elementary schools and WJHS have been wildly enthusiastic about these boxes and their potential uses.  They have been used at every grade level in multiple classes from science to music to social studies. A Harper school social worker and an LBS ran a Breakout focused on the skills they are teaching to students in their social skills group.  “This box helps target SO many skills – and works with ANY curriculum,” said Harper DST Sue Flachsbart.



Central School Mileage Club

At recess, Central School students can choose to participate in the optional Mileage Club. Students track laps walked or run and have a personal card scanned to log their distance. Many students set a goal to complete a marathon over time. According to PE teacher and program innovator, Kathleen Peth, the record so far is five marathons in one school year!