As of August 2020, the Darien District 61 Educational Foundation has awarded more than $82,500 in teacher grants and direct aid to students. Read more about the variety of projects and programs our grants have supported during the past 10 years.
2020-2021 school year – Annual Grants
- $1,500 to Eisenhower Junior High to fund an arts program called “Create Together.” The objective is to “bring awareness, inspiration, collaboration and unity to school through the power of art.” The funds will be used to purchase books and art supplies. The books, featuring people of color, “are meant to inspire students to see how people who look like them have had challenges and have risen up to meet their goals and dreams.” A second part of the project is to have students design posters featuring people of color who have made a difference. Students will collaborate, research and design the posters and also decide where they will be displayed.
2019-2020 school year – Mini-Grants
Mini-grant applications are accepted each school year with three deadlines–Oct. 15, Jan. 15 and March 15–for grants of up to $500 each.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Jan. 15, 2020, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $700:
- $450 to Lace School for the purchase a variety of playground equipment suitable for each grade level to be used for teacher-directed physical education activities. “Unstructured physical activity is an opportunity for children to practice life skills such as conflict resolution, cooperation, respect for rules, taking turns, sharing, using language to communicate and for problem-solving,” teacher Michelle Greco said in her application.
- $250 for the Sixth Annual “March Madness Tournament of Books” at Lace School. The school-wide competition, loosely based on the popular NCAA tourney, starts with “brackets” totaling 16 books. Over several weeks, students in each grade will read books or listen to books being read to them and vote on their favorites. The winners are narrowed to a “Final Four,” with an eventual champion chosen based on the students’ votes. This year’s theme is “Brave and Bold,” with books featuring characters, real and imagined, who exemplify courage and bravery in their situations. At the end of the tournament, all books are added to the school’s permanent library.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Oct. 15, 2019, the Foundation awarded one grant totaling $469:
- $469 to Eisenhower Junior High to purchase Science Olympiad kits and supplies that the school’s Olympiad team will use for the 2020 competition. The team, comprising sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders, will use the supplies in several competitions, including the Ping Pong Parachute event, the Elastic Launch Glider event, and the Mousetrap Vehicle event. The Olympiad covers all major branches of science. Fifteen students competed in the 2019.
2019-2020 school year – Annual Grants
- $2,349 to Lace School for a complete programmable robotics kit. By assembling the parts and using a free programming site called Scratch, students will build robots for two special projects. One, called “Monster Zoo,” will challenge the students, working in pairs, to build a monster character as well as its environment. The second project requires the students to design a pinball game with moving parts, demonstrating Newton’s Laws of Motion.
- $2,327 to Eisenhower Junior High to purchase additional gym equipment for the school’s fitness room, including dumbbell sets and solid fitness bars, to complement equipment already available (ellipticals, treadmills, kettlebells, medicine balls, etc.). The physical ed department at EJH stresses the importance of workouts and fitness in the curriculum. Based on assessments made in the fall, students will have a benchmark fitness level and will be evaluated again in the spring to measure their progress.
2018-2019 school year – Mini-Grants
Applications are accepted each school year with three deadlines–Oct. 15, Jan. 15 and March 15–for grants of up to $500 each.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended March 15, 2019, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $530:
- $450 for a grant request titled “Creating a Mindful Education Experience through Yoga.” The grant will be used to purchase 20+ yoga mats each for Lace and Mark DeLay schools. Classrooms currently use YouTube and Go Noodle to access yoga mini-lessons during the day for breaks and for indoor recess. The mats will be used to support the use of yoga in the classroom, which has been shown to improve both mental and physical health in children ages 6-12.
- $80 for a new Anker SoundCore Bluetooth speaker to upgrade the quality of the listening experience in the music room at Mark DeLay School. All students, pre-K to second grade, will benefit from the new capabilities.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Jan. 15, 2019, the Foundation awarded three grants totaling $910:
- $385 for a grant request titled “Stop, Collaborate, Add Motion.” The grant will be used to purchase action figures, modeling clay and iPad stands allowing second-grade students at Mark DeLay School to use iPads to create short stop-animation movies. Stop-animation techniques were used in “The Lego Movie,” which was released in 2014. “The Lego Movie 2” is set to be released in 2019. “When students learn that they too can make a movie, they jump at the chance, even if it’s only 30 seconds long,” said teacher Liese Hearth. The experience helps students develop their communication, teamwork and creativity skills.
- $300 for “Wild About Animals.” The third-graders at Lace School will be learning about animal organisms, inherited traits and adaptation. The grant will bring the topics “up close and personal” with a visit from Dave DiNaso’s Traveling World of Reptiles, as part of an in-school field trip allowing students to interact with live animals.
- $225 for the fifth year of the “March Madness Tournament of Books” at Lace School. The all-school competition, loosely based on the popular NCAA tourney, starts with “brackets” totaling 16 books. Over several weeks, students in each grade will read books or listen to books being read to them and vote on their favorites. The winners are narrowed to a “Final Four,” with an eventual champion chosen based on the students’ votes. This year’s theme is “the character’s journey,” in both literature and informational picture books.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Oct. 15, 2018, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $904:
- $499 to Lace School for a grant request titled “Makey Makey Some Art with Wool and Wires: a STEM Collaboration.“ Using Makey Makey-brand invention kits, students will learn the process of wet felting, turning wool fibers into felt. They will then use the felt to create an abstract piece of art. Later, in STEM class, they will add an interactive feature to the artwork, sewing on electronic buttons and LED diodes using conductive thread, hooked up to battery power. The artwork will ultimately be connected to Chromebooks to produce a variety of sounds and effects when the buttons are pushed.
- $405 to Lace School for a rhythm-readiness program called KidStix. The program allows third-, fourth- and fifth-graders using drumsticks to participate in three different types of play-along exercises: rhythm-readiness; folk song and patriotic play-alongs; and percussion arrangements accompanying a variety of recorded musical pieces. Approximately 550 students will make use of the program.
2018-2019 school year – Annual Grants
- $3,799 to Lace School for “We do LEGO WeDo STEM in Class!” for purchase of the Lego WeDo 2.0 software and other materials. Students will work collaboratively to learn and apply new concepts in science and technology while they’re in STEM class. LEGO WeDo allows students to program motorized LEGO models to solve real-world problems such as preventing weather-related hazards, constructing earthquake-resistant buildings and designing a rover vehicle to explore Mars..
- $2,500 to Eisenhower Junior High for “Building a Love for Independent Reading by Building Classroom Libraries.” The grant will allow teachers to purchase books throughout the school year to help students have increased access to high-interest, grade-level-appropriate books in the classroom. A better selection of books and easier access to them increases opportunities for independent reading and drives academic achievement.
2017-2018 school year – Mini-Grants
Applications are accepted each school year with three deadlines–Oct. 15, Jan. 15 and March 15–for grants of up to $500 each.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended March 15, 2018, the Foundation awarded three grants totaling $1,207:
- $492 to Mark DeLay School to replace broken and worn-out sports and playground equipment for use during recess periods in the coming school year. The equipment will help promote fitness and social interaction through exercise and play. It will be used by more than 400 students in grades K-2 on two playgrounds every day.
- $465 to the Darien District 61 Wellness Committee for the purchase of three Heimlich Heroes training dolls, as well as lesson plans and other materials. Students and staff at all district schools will use the equipment to learn how to recognize and respond to choking emergencies and prevent choking deaths.
- $250 to Mark DeLay School to purchase tools and supplies for the gardening club. The children will work together to plan the garden, prepare the soil, care for the plants during the growing season and reap the harvest. The students will also collaborate with community gardening experts to learn about topics such as composting and best practices for growing plants.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Jan. 15, 2018, the Foundation awarded one grant totaling $200:
- $200 for the fourth year of the “March Madness Tournament of Books” at Lace School. The all-school competition, loosely based on the popular NCAA tourney, starts with “brackets” totaling 16 books. Over several weeks, students in each grade will read books or listen to books being read to them and vote on their favorites. The winners are narrowed to a “Final Four,” with an eventual champion chosen based on the students’ votes. This year’s theme is “compelling characters,” in both literature and informational picture books.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Oct. 15, 2017, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $640:
- $390 to Lace School for three Science Buddies Bristlebot kits, which will help introduce students in grades 3-5 to concepts in electronics and robotics. Students build simple electrical currents to bring their own robotic creations to life. They also use engineering principles to troubleshoot problems with their robots and test new designs.
- $250 to Lace School for two Breakout EDU kits. Breakout EDU is an immersive learning games platform, with games consisting of digital and physical puzzles that must be solved in a set amount of time. Players use teamwork and critical thinking skills to solve a series of challenging puzzles to unlock the box and win the game. The games cover a wide variety of content areas and test student knowledge while building the “4 C’s”: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.
2017-2018 school year – Annual Grants
- $2,814 to Mark DeLay School to expand an independent reading project, adding books in a variety of subjects and genres stocked on movable carts and bins available throughout the school, especially in bus line areas. To build a school-wide reading community, each school employee will receive a plastic sleeve to hold a copy of their favorite book. The sleeves will be posted outside their rooms and other areas so students can stop by and browse their book selections, fostering better discussion between all staff members and students.
- $2,500 to Eisenhower Junior High to establish and expand libraries in the individual English/Language Arts classrooms, making high-quality, high-interest materials available to promote independent reading. Throughout the school year, the grant will fund purchases of grade-level appropriate books in a variety of topics and genres. Selections will be chosen based on student surveys, lists from experts in the literacy field and teacher input, reflecting the diverse interests among EJH students.
2016-2017 school year – Mini-Grants
Applications are accepted throughout the school year with three deadlines–Oct. 15, Jan. 15 and March 15–for grants of up to $500 each.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended March 15, 2017, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $848.
- $498 to Mark DeLay School to expand the popular Reading Incentive Program started in September 2016. The first Friday of each month, passages from a book are read to the entire school over the PA system by a mystery guest reader. Each classroom is given a copy of the book so students can take turns borrowing it to share with family members. At the end of the month, the books are placed in the classroom library for independent reading. Funds from this grant will buy additional copies of books to be placed on bus line reading carts.
- $350 to Mark DeLay School for seven sets of Legos for use in various STEM-related classroom projects. Throughout the year, the second-grade teachers plan a number of activities involving science and math concepts. Many of those involve building, which is where the Lego sets allow the young students to put their lessons—and their creativity—to work.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Jan. 15, 2017, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $650.
- $350 to fund two lunchtime literacy-based programs in the library at Eisenhower Junior High. The grant will provide $150 to purchase books for three additional sessions of the popular “Reading with the General.” And $200 will be used to buy books for an Out to Lunch Book Club for seventh-graders. Clubs were already held for the sixth- and eighth-graders.
- $300 for a reprise of the “March Madness Tournament of Books” at Lace School. The all-school competition, loosely based on the popular NCAA tourney, starts with “brackets” totaling 16 books. Over several weeks, students in each grade will read books or listen to books being read to them and vote on their favorites. The winners are narrowed to a “Final Four,” with an eventual champion chosen based on the students’ votes. New this year: eight books are in the literature category and eight are in the informational category. Which genre will win it all?
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Oct. 15, 2016, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $963.
- $463 for an initiative at Lace School dubbed “Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead!” using elements of science, technology, engineering, art/design and mathematics to build critical-thinking skills and bolster creativity. As the teacher requesting the grant said in her application, “STEAM materials help us think like an architect or engineer and challenge our creative minds.” The grant funds will be used to purchase a variety of building materials for hands-on projects as well as books for the STEAM Library. Read more about this grant
- $500 to purchase supplies for a student mentoring program being developed at Lace School. The program is designed to support students needing extra teacher-student interaction. Students recommended for the program will be matched with a teacher or staff volunteer for weekly mentoring meetings. Teachers will plan activities based on the interests of the students and provide supplies such as journals, reading materials, arts and crafts, games and other items.
2016-2017 school year – Annual Grants
- $7,350 to Eisenhower Junior High to continue and expand its “One Book, One School” program launched last year. For two semesters, each EJH family will receive a copy of a designated book, encouraging students, family and school staff to read the book together as a community, “discussing, sharing and enjoying.” As the teachers noted in their grant request, in addition to curriculum objectives, two goals are just as important: inspiring students to read for pleasure and creating lifelong readers and learners.
- $2,150 to Mark DeLay School to purchase a variety of books for an Independent Reading Initiative. As the teachers noted in their grant application, “the more interested and successful a child becomes in reading, the more he or she will continue reading. A positive reading cycle begins. The less a student reads, the smaller the reading progress. The student loses interest and a downward cycle is created.” This grant funds a broad selection of books that students can access before and after school, in bus lines and at lunch. The teachers cited research showing that students not only need the skills to read, but the motivation and opportunity to do so. Read more about these two grants
2015-2016 school year – Mini-Grants
Applications are accepted throughout the school year with three deadlines–Oct. 15, Jan. 15 and March 15–for grants of up to $500 each.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Oct. 15, 2015, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $979. Read more about the grants
- $500 for Eisenhower Junior High teachers to start a lunch-time program called “Reading with the General.” Each month, a “general” will be recruited—it could be the principal, a teacher, a Darien police officer, a parent, etc.—who would read aloud the first chapter of a popular teen book as students eat lunch in the library. One copy of the book would be raffled among students attending the reading sessions and four copies would be placed in the school library.
- $479 for teachers at Mark DeLay School to upgrade the music curriculum using GamePlan, a well-respected general music curriculum that emphasizes singing, instruments, movement and creativity. The funds will be used for grade-level books and materials for all students in kindergarten through second grade.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Jan. 15, 2016, the Foundation awarded three grants totaling $1,200.
- $500 for a “March Madness Tournament of Books” at Lace School. The all-school competition starts with “brackets” totaling 16 books. Over several weeks, students in each grade will read books or listen to books being read to them and vote on their favorites. The winners are narrowed to a “Final Four,” with an eventual champion chosen based on the students’ votes.
- $400 for “Ready, Set, Write!” at Lace. The funds will buy “mentor texts” to help model the writing style of different authors, as well as a variety of supplies for the classroom’s writers’ workshop. The goal is to “make writing contagious” in the classroom, helping students love to write and “catch the writing fever!”
- $300 for “Chirping Chicks,” offering third-graders at Lace the chance to see live farm animals in the classroom by experiencing the birth of baby chicks—a smaller version of the popular exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. The funds will buy equipment for the hatchery such as a temperature-controlled incubator, an automatic egg turner and a feeder for the chicks.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended March 15, 2016, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $790.
- $500 for “Excited About Reading!” at Mark DeLay School. The literacy-oriented program will spotlight an author each month for the remainder of the school year. Funds would be used to purchase the monthly book selections and supplies to update the “Authors Bulletin Board.”
- $290 for “Let’s Get Moving in Music,” also at Mark DeLay, to purchase a CD set and books to promote movement/dance in the music curriculum.
2015-2016 school year – Annual Grants
- Awarded $4,500 to Eisenhower Junior High for its “One Book, One School” program, which adapts a highly successful initiative already being used in schools across the country. Each EJH family will receive a copy of a designated book, encouraging students, family and school staff to read the book together as a community. “Creating lifelong readers, inspiring students to read for pleasure, and providing fun and social activities surrounding the book” are among the program goals cited in the grant request. Teachers noted that research shows family involvement in reading has been linked to higher academic achievement.
- Awarded $4,500 to Lace School to fund “Lace Reads Together,” also designed to make reading a shared family experience. One chapter book will be selected and every Lace family will be given a copy of the book to keep. Discussion will be part of regular classroom instruction, but other activities involving the selected book include trivia contests during morning announcements, assemblies, group activities and even a Family Night. Read more about these two grants
2014-2015 school year – Mini-Grants
2014-2015 was the first year the Darien 61 Educational Foundation awarded three rounds of mini-grants for up to $500 each.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Oct. 15, 2014, the Foundation awarded six grants totaling $2,630.
- Two $500 grants for “Books Come Alive!” to help reduce ticket prices to provide a live theater experience for third-graders from Lace School. The students will read and discuss a novel in class and then see the same story performed at a local theater.
- $415 for teachers at Lace School to buy one soprano and two alto glockenspiels—small metal xylophones. The instruments will be used in Orff-based music instruction, which is a comprehensive study of rhythm, melody, harmony, accompanying, performing, improvising and composing. Instruction will include individual and group lessons as well as whole-class activities.
- $456 for teachers at Mark DeLay School to buy two alto and two soprano glockenspiels along with four sets of mallets. The instruments also will be used in Orff-based comprehensive music instruction.
- $350 for six math station kits for use by third-grade students at Lace School. The stations and related materials allow hands-on activities that help students working on math-fact fluency and other curriculum-related activities. The stations will be used during class as well as for independent learning.
- $409 for a full school year’s subscription to “Nutrition Nuggets,” monthly newsletters offering ideas to help parents boost their children’s healthy eating and exercise habits. Content covers all grade levels, K through 8. The newsletters also will be available on each school’s website.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended Jan. 15, 2015, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $915.
- $500 for “Social Studies that Stick!” The program is for third-graders at Lace School as they learn about people and cultures in the U.S. and around the world. The money will be used to buy books, games and supplies to enhance independent learning activities.
- $415 for “Our Diversified Classroom Library” at Eisenhower Junior High. The grant will fund new books for classroom libraries with diverse stories featuring protagonists and other characters from a broad spectrum of cultural, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
For the Mini-Grant application period ended March 15, 2015, the Foundation awarded two grants totaling $1,000.
- $500 for the purchase of special “tools” designed to help students with sensory-processing issues stay focused during class. The grant requested by teachers at Mark DeLay School will fund sensory fidgets and other products proven to enhance students’ attentiveness.
- $500 for “Active Seating in the Classroom” at Mark DeLay School. The grant will fund the purchase of five Hokki Stools, which allow young students to move about the classroom with minimal distraction. Research shows that such movement can improve students’ ability to focus and stay alert during class, enhancing the learning process.
2014-2015 school year – Annual Grants
- Provided $8,325 for “Lace Reads Together,” designed to foster a shared experience where everyone in the Lace School community is collectively reading the same book at the same time. Guided discussions take place during regular language-arts class time to work on goals such as comprehension and fluency. At-home reading activities, school assemblies, trivia contests and family nights are also part of the fun. One book will be chosen in the fall and another in the spring. The program includes visits from professional authors, who discuss the art of writing and story-telling and what it takes to start with a simple idea and end up with a book keeps readers spellbound for hours.
- Established an “iPod Listening Literacy Center” at Lace School, offering yet another tool to help students improve their reading skills. The $1,000 grant will help get the center up and running through the purchase of six iPod Nano devices and a collection of audio books. The listening center will be able to accommodate up to six students at a time and also complement the existing “leveled library” of printed books already available for students at all reading levels.
2013-2014 school year – Annual Grants
- Awarded a grant for Mark DeLay and Lace schools for the purchase of 10 iPad Mini’s—five for each school—and specialized apps for the schools’ resource rooms. The use of iPads, which are already widely available in all District 61 schools, has proved highly successful because of the increasing number of apps available, including many designed specifically for students with learning challenges. The apps help strengthen reading, writing and math skills. And they’re not only educational, they’re fun!
2012-2013 school year – Annual Grants
- Helped start “Make a Statement,” a program at Mark DeLay school that aims to help younger students learn how to use technology and improve their writing skills while also spotlighting the students’ artistic talents. Using iPads, students access an educational website that serves as an online gallery of their artwork–for friends and family to see–where the students will write an “artist’s statement” about their work.
- Supported a program at Lace School designed to increase student achievement, especially for special-education classes. A small number of iPads dedicated to the school’s resource room offer students alternative tools in learning, especially in reading and math, through a variety of educational apps.
- Funded a pilot program at Eisenhower Junior High that helps students develop their “executive function” skills—such as strategic thinking, problem-solving, time management and goal-directed behaviors.
- Helped expand a popular monthly after-school program at Lace School started in the previous year dubbed “Reading with the Stars!” A faculty or staff member—the “Star Reader”–introduces a favorite book, explains why it’s a favorite, and reads aloud from the story. As a new twist, local or regional authors make guest appearances to talk about their books and answer questions about being a professional writer.
2011-2012 school year – Annual Grants
- Launched a program at Lace School titled “Reading with the Stars!”—designed to engage students who already know how to read but don’t show much interest in doing so. Once a month, an invited teacher or staff member–the “Star Reader”–introduces a favorite book, explains why the book is special, and reads passages aloud to the students. The program also includes fun activities that allow students to be the first ones to read the “Star Reader’s” favorite book.
- Supported a project titled “Raising Student Reading Achievement,” which provides extra interventions to help English Language Learners and struggling readers. The program aims to improve comprehension with a wide variety of books and other materials that meet each student at their individual reading levels.
- Funded the purchase of new science-related books for the “Leveled Library” at Mark DeLay–permanent additions for students at all reading levels that will help supplement the kindergarten, first- and second-grade science curriculum while at the same time helping students learn to read and love to read.
2010-2011 school year- Annual Grants
- Added to the “Leveled Library” at Mark DeLay School to support “guided reading” for students in grades K-2. Guided reading involves teaching small groups of students at their individual reading levels to best meet their educational needs. To maximize guided reading, students need a wide variety of reading material.
- Expanded the “iPod Touch Enhanced Instruction for English Language Learners” program for students in grades 3-5 at Lace School. The grant funded two more iPod Touch devices in the ELL classroom and helped purchase apps and other student materials for the program, which emphasizes hands-on, interactive learning.
Total grants for the 2010-2011 school year: $1,000