Unsung Heroes Grant Program for Innovative Teachers ($2K – 25K awards!)

ING sponsors an Unsung Heroes, a grant program for K-12 educators “utilizing new teaching methods and techniques that improve learning.” Their 2011 program is accepting applications now. 100 educators will earn $2,000 towards their projects and a few special teachers may win much more. The deadline is April 30, 2011.

Their awards to teachers in 2010 involve examples of interdisciplinary projects (merging topics across disciplinary domains like literacy and math), hands-on / project-based pedagogy in which the students are getting their hands dirty with applying concepts, such as growing gardens, building robots, working with seniors or those younger to teach and learn, and a lot of service learning projects in which their outcomes has value for the community in which the students live.

I also looked across the 2010 winners for examples of uses of technology being incorporated into the projects. Teachers are using graphing calculators, emulator software, interactive boards, and digital projects to help students explore fundamental algebraic functions; using digital audio capture to create audio snapshots of storytelling to be later written into text-based stories (by 1st graders); use of virtual fields trips to broaden students’ conceptions of culture and tolerance; creating video public service announcements on healthy living topics; several projects involved robotics and machines; more use of video and audio to document history and legacy of one’s community with multimedia products published on a wiki.

A special congratulations to our Texan educators who won awards. All the projects involved technology in some way. Michelle Yates (Coder Elementary) in Forth Worth is instigating project-based learning through pre-created tubs that allow students to explore themes. “Students will integrate technology, story telling, visual presentations and communications skills in a non-competitive fashion in an effort to create a relevant project that can be integrated into their family and community.” Kellye Parker (San Antonio School for Inquiry & Creativity) has created a project that is really valuable as she teams her 8th grade students with elders in the community in which the students help the elders learn about texting, digital photography, video film, basic computer skills and user-friendly software. There’s a lot of room for growth in this area of partnership. Finally,  Betty Johnson, Astra Zeno and Dr. Anil Kumar of Clifton Middle School (Houston)  incorporate video documentaries into their students’ exploration of ecosystems with special emphasis on solar energy science.