Council Rock Robotics

A student works on a robotics project funded through the Council Rock Education Foundation.

NEWTOWN >> The Council Rock Education Foundation (CREF) has announced the awarding of 10 new grants totaling $43,000 in support of innovative learning throughout the school district.

CREF Executive Director Gail Acosta announced the grants at the January 7 school board meeting.

According to Acosta, since 2007 CREF “has enhanced the learning experience” of district students with the distribution of grants made possible by generous donors.

In just 10 short years, Acosta said the foundation, in partnership with its donors, has made an impact on thousands of students by awarding more than 136 innovative learning grants totaling more than $400,000 to Council Rock teachers and principals for the benefit of district students.

“These projects, not covered by the district’s annual budget, engage, educate and inspire young minds through experiential learning and excite passion for continued education,” said Acosta.

The 2020-21 school year grants have been awarded to:

- The CREF/CRSD Technology Lending Library, a districtwide project funded by $10,000. The library creates equitable access of STEAM technology, like Ozobots, K’nex, OSMO, etc., to teachers and students throughout the district. Staff members will be able to watch a webinar on the technology prior to borrowing the equipment. Grant recipients are Barbara Tiger and the STEAM Team.

- The Greenhouse Project is funded for $3,000 for the ACHIEVE program and the Sloan School. The project will create more authentic, real-world experiences for students in ACHIEVE and at Sloan. Students will learn and develop horticulture interpersonal job skills for future opportunities. The grant recipient is Daniel Bartleson.

- Hillcrest Elementary School, $1,232 for phonological and phonemic awareness. The project’s objectives are to provide additional research-based resources focusing on phonological and phonemic awareness in kindergarten, first and second grades. Grant recipients are Kathleen Manning, Mary Whittle, Amy Moore, Pam Longstreet, Katie Hudak, Karen Goppold, Brooke Shortlidge, Lauren Karczewski, Rachel Pullar and Gina Booth.

- Sol Feinstone Elementary, $4,730 for Innovative and Immersive Virtual Reality field trips that will bring the curriculum to life. Students will fully emerge themselves in curriculum units and have new and unique experiences through virtual reality. Social studies curriculum about ancient civilizations will be enhanced as students visit the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall of China and more. Grant recipients are Kate Lockett and Laura Panettieri.

- Newtown Middle School, $4,235 for a Laser Logo Project. Students will learn the design and laser engraving process through this STEAM-focused activity. Students will learn programming and hands-on application of laser engraving in order to print their project designed and engineered in class. Grant recipient is Eric Woehr.

- Hillcrest Elementary School, $700 for “Let’s MakeyMakey.” Students at Hillcrest, and throughout the district, with the support of math specialists, will engage in computer programming and its numerous applications within all academic areas through the use of MakeyMakey kits. Grant recipients are Monica Gardner and math specialists.

- Holland Elementary, $2,650 for Steam Rolling With Sphero. The project uses Sphero robotic devices as a platform to teach K-6 students programming and engineering. Sphero promotes logical thinking in students and encourages them to develop skills in the “decomposition” of problems into smaller, manageable tasks. The grant recipient is Andrea Mangold.

- The Sloan School and ACHIEVE, $4,685 for a Kinesthetic Schoolwide Initiative. The technology/equipment will engage students in engineering and building. Students will learn about robotics, renewable resources, civil engineering and teamwork. Grant recipients are Kevin Donnelly and Adam Collachi.

- Council Rock High School, $1,685 for “Coming of Age in the 21st Century.” As a way to help 10th graders navigate the circumstances of their own coming of age, this project will offer modern pieces of literature to pair with the traditional titles used. This grant will give students a better understanding in what it means to come of age in today’s eclectic world. Grant recipients are Cindy Naroff and Scott Leventhal.

- Districtwide, $10,000 for “Imagine Learning for ELs.” Imagine Learning is an innovative language and literacy software program for English Learners. It provides strategic first language support in 15 languages, as well as explicit instruction to promote language development in all domains: speaking, listening, reading and writing. Grant recipients include: Shanyn Heubeck and the ELD Department: Kathleen Bound, Carol Finnegan, Julia Leavitt, Krystal Eng Lieu and Maria Rounsaville.

The Council Rock Education Foundation (CREF) is a non-profit organization, in support of innovative educational initiatives that provide advanced educational opportunities and enhance the curriculum for students in Council Rock schools.

The goal of the Foundation is to invest in creative programs and inspiring ideas for the students in Council Rock, challenging them to achieve and providing teachers additional tools and resources beyond the limits of school budgets.

The Foundation is a volunteer organization working in partnership with the Council Rock School Board, administration, faculty, staff, and students as it funds programs enhancing the CRSD curriculum and our students’ lives.

Funding for public education is becoming increasingly limited by the constraints of Act 1 and by the machinations of the state legislature. While continuing to look for efficiencies within the budget, the District realized the importance of looking for outside funding streams and community initiatives to help fund programs that are on the fringe of general fund expenditures. An independent foundation has the opportunity to step in and create an alternative funding stream for innovative and interesting programs that support student learning.

For more information or to make a donation in support of innovative learning opportunities, visit

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