An insider’s look at the impact of an LEF Grant from 2015.
According to the most recent Gallup poll, student engagement drops sharply as students get older. Engagement is defined by their enthusiasm for and involvement in school. By the time students reach 12th grade, only about a third are engaged in school.
Gallup calls this the “School Engagement Cliff” and their research shows that the decline in engagement is often related to the fact that students may be struggling with the relevance of what they are learning.
Oftentimes educators have ideas that will improve the educational experience of their students but they don’t have the funding to bring these ideas to life. These creative ways to breakthrough are often the very thing that becomes the difference between students who are engaged in learning or disengaged and possibly struggling.
In a traditional middle school classroom, teachers focus on a particular subject and their students move from class to class throughout the day. Lakeshore Middle School Teacher, Ricky Rhodes, runs a self-contained classroom that is specially designed to accommodate learning for students with special needs. He currently provides instruction for 12 students. In Rhodes’ classroom, the students are with him all day, so it can be challenging to keep them all engaged. That was until one of his students, Desi Thompson, had a great idea to create a business within their classroom.
Being the supportive teacher that he is, Rhodes thought this was an amazing opportunity for his middle school students to learn life and employment skills. The coffee cart idea began to take shape. As Rhodes states “Education can take many forms. Some of the most impactful and beneficial learning happens when teachers are supported and encouraged to think outside the box.”
THE IDEA: Students would make shopping lists, plan out a budget and purchase supplies. Duties would also include taking orders, planning deliveries, working with specialized equipment to brew the coffee and even customer service. This classroom business would primarily fund itself but they needed funding to get this idea started.
That’s where Lakeshore Excellence Foundation comes in. Our fundraising efforts benefit large, multi-year projects but also support needs from teachers and students through our annual grant process. In 2015, LEF provided a start-up grant of $840.35 for equipment and materials needed for the special education students to organize and manage a weekly coffee cart service for the staff.
“This type of grant funded a project that enables educators to provide their students with genuine, real-world experiences,” said Rhodes. Along with these real-world experiences, his students are not only gaining the skills that they can apply to their future, they are also developing trust in their unique abilities. On the surface, the Coffee Cart may just appear to be a small school business but in actuality, it’s brewing confidence one cup at a time.
There are more great ideas like this within our school district, waiting to take shape. You can support Lakeshore Excellence Foundation through direct donations or by participating in any of our fundraising activities.