By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, Curriki
You probably find Curriki to be a great resource for finding high-quality curricula for your classroom or homeschool. You might even publish your own resources to share with other educators. But did you know that Curriki is also a wonderful place to connect with your peers?
The NEA Foundation does.
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and future teachers.
Its NEA Foundation Grantee Program uses Curriki to connect program participants and give them a place to share their projects with each other and the world.
What is the NEA Foundation Grantee Program?
To inspire successful strategies to prepare students for bright and rewarding futures, the NEA Foundation has awarded more than $7.1 million to fund nearly 4,500 grants to public school educators to enhance teaching and learning over the last decade.
It awards between 130 and 150 one-year grants each year for projects for Pre-K through higher education, in all subject areas. Funding comes from NEA members and organizations, foundations and corporations, and applicants are individuals or teams of educators.
“They’re the ones taking the reins, laying out the plans and executing the work,” explained Jesse Graytock, Grants Manager for The NEA Foundation. “They’re the persons who are really in the classrooms for students.” He says the grant program is “the closest we can get to getting creative lessons in the hands of students and really improving teaching and learning for the students.
“The best way to improve student learning is to empower these educators directly.”
Sharing their Progress
Once educators receive a grant, Graytock says, the NEA Foundation requires them to post lesson plans, and encourages them to be creative. “People go nuts with it and do some really cool stuff,” he says.
The next step is to create a report, which has to be posted online to share with the world.
Why is Curriki Important?
The Curriki forum provides grantees with the perfect community of sharing, says Graytock,
“We were looking for a platform that would allow folks the ability to post their lessons, and allows people looking for creative lessons to be able to easily access them,” he says. Through Curriki, grant recipients have a means of interacting with one another, so that they can exchange ideas and use each other as resources and sounding boards. They get student activity ideas from one another, and use the feedback to tweak lesson plans.
“We hope that it really encourages educators both young and old to go and share their work if they think it will benefit other educators,” says Graytock.
“One of the unique things about this group is the sheer diversity,” said Graytock. A social studies teacher in Maryland posted a lesson on national security last Sept. 11, which could be used by teachers around the United States. A Florida science teacher did a project on wind turbines, and a Nebraska teacher found it in the group, borrowed it and tweaked it to go with grade level and state standards. Then she returned to the original post and posted her changes for Nebraska educators.
As grant projects become more global, educators around the world collaborate. “Technology really allows the world to be very small for educators and learning, so if teachers wanted to talk about how students are learning in Zimbabwe, or in Kazakhstan, there are simple ways for people to access information,” he explains.
In essence, the Curriki group has become a clearinghouse for creative, collaborative education projects.
Shakespeare for Immigrant Teens
Graytock shared one of his favorite grant projects – that of a theater teacher from Annandale, VA, who used Shakespeare to teach English to teenage students who arrived in the United States speaking no English.
“They come from Korea, Japan, South and Central Asia, African and South America, students speaking nine different native tongues in one classroom,” he said. This teacher works with an English teacher throughout the year, and for their final exam, the students perform a Shakespeare play in Old English.
“I went to see their final performance a few years ago Twelfth Night,” said Graytock. “It was amazing. I teared up. In the end they came off stage and I got to discuss the project with them.” He said many of them are fluent in English now, thanks to skills picked up during an NEA grant project.
About Curriki Community
Curriki’s Community has truly helped the NEA Foundation and its grant winners collaborate to make great things happen. It’s as large as the globe and as small as a 1-to-1 connection, a vibrant online community for exceptional educators, decision-makers and influencers who are on the leading edge of innovation in education.
What can Curriki’s Community do for you? Find out for yourself at www.curriki.org/community.
Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer & Chief Marketing Officer, leads and manages all of Curriki’s content development, user experience and academic direction. Learn more at Curriki.org.