Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW Art supplies aren't usually found in a science classroom, but thanks to the LEEF grant for increasing Collins Writing through bookmaking, seventh and eighth grade science students at Glenbrook Middle School are letting their creative juices flow when it comes to learning about the world around them.
The Longmeadow Education Excellence Foundation (LEEF) awarded a $1,300 grant to science teacher Pam Novak this year, with a goal of getting students to write more often, more effectively and to gain enjoyment from the process.
The Collins Writing Program is designed to simultaneously improve students' thinking and writing skills through five types of writing assignments -- capturing ideas, responding, editing, peer editing and publishing -- and can be easily used in any content area.
Novak and her students showcased some of the different books they've created to help them along in the learning process. The students created travel journals for their field trip to the Mystic Aquarium last Friday, which Novak said were "more directive than just going on a field trip and then talking about it when we get back." The books were decorated by the students and held questions about the various exhibits they visited.
A "do-si-do book" opens from the front and the back to compare two different things. Novak displayed one about chemical changes in nature versus physical changes.
A "carousel book" opens into four separated sections, each of which can be used to cover a different topic.
The students also displayed their goal journals, in which they write down what their goals are for each section of the science curriculum.
"They give us something to aim toward," Emilee Smith said.
"They help us organize," Tamari Streeter added.
The students and Novak showed their work to Bob Bellinoit, the Central and Western Massachusetts territory manager for Arbella Insurance. The insurance company made a $5,000 donation to LEEF this year.
"We're very committed to supporting the communities we're in," Bellinoit said. "Our corporate goal is to give back."
He added that it has been a challenge making donations because of the recent economic turmoil, but continuing to do so is part of their commitment.
"Our goal is not to maintain what we do, but to grow it," Bellinoit stated.
Arbella Insurance gave nearly $1 million to various non-profits in New England last year.
Joe Aberdale, a LEEF board member, said Bellinoit's invitation to visit the school system and see a grant in action is the first of many that will be sent out to donors.
"We gratefully acknowledge Arbella Insurance for their generosity and confidence in our mission by becoming our first Gold Level sponsor," LEEF President Chris Halista said. "Sponsorships from companies such as Arbella, who share our vision of extraordinary public education, will enable LEEF to continue to grow and reward teachers with enrichment tools that inspire our children."
Novak said it hasn't been hard inspiring her students to get creative. "The kids help each other," she said. Each book takes about one class period to create.
"The question is always, are we improving learning? I think we are [with the books]," Novak stated.