MVLA Foundation awards grants for innovative teacher projects

Megan V. WInslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High School chemistry teacher Danielle Paige, left, demonstrates for students how to pickle cucumbers and carrots, above, with equipment she received from her MVLA Foundation grant money.

The Mountain View-Los Altos High School Foundation is on a mission to encourage innovation in the classroom by awarding $75,000 in grants to individual teacher projects.

The foundation last month awarded 21 Innovative Learning Grants, ranging from $500 to $5,000, to teachers and teaching teams.

“These teachers demonstrated innovative teaching ideas and ways to create a unique learning experience for students,” said Margaret Gong, co-executive director of the foundation.

Grant criteria

A competitive process, the Innovative Learning Grants required the completion of an application submitted to Brigitte Sarraf, the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District’s educational services associate superintendent.

Winners were selected based on the following criteria.

• The project’s scaling potential – incorporation into the curriculum, shared future use by others in the course team and potential for replication across the district.

• The project’s impact on student learning – evidence of enhancing depth of knowledge, applicability to addressing real-world problems and interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving.

• The project’s effectiveness in challenging students to make connections and discover alternative problem solving.

“These grants are intended to foster innovation while cultivating exciting new collaborations among students,” Sarraf said. “The projects may also serve as pilot programs that, if successful, could become part of the curriculum in the future.” 

Mountain View High grant recipients and projects

• Emily Peña: Playwrights in Residence through TheatreWorks for a Young Playwrights Project course.

• Ly Nguyen and Phil Wiechec: Purchase software license to support building and programming an autonomous robot.

• Madeline Miraglia: Contract for videography and editing equipment.

• Teri Faught, Sarah Hawthorne, Megan Sibley and Steve Widmark: Purchase supplies for a stratospheric weather balloon project.

• Teri Faught and Steve Widmark: Purchase supplies for a satellite creation project.

Los Altos High grant recipients and projects

• Meghan Strazicich: Purchase materials for a toxicity study on lead compounds and reagents needed for a scientific experiment study of bee diversity on Santa Rosa Island in collaboration with Cal State Channel Islands.

• Adam Randall: Use video analysis to highlight graphical functional relationships among position, velocity, acceleration, film, movement and energy through video analysis.

• Richard Carmona: Purchase air-quality analysis tools for use in Environmental Science class.

• Jacob Russo: Purchase digital microscope to enable students to visualize living organisms on a microscopic level.

• Robert Barker: Contracts with Marine Theatre Company for Artist in Residence Program for acting workshops with professional artists and tickets to events.

• Stephen Hine: Purchase binoculars and motorized telescope to enhance learning of gravitation and circular motion.

• Danielle Paige, Trina Lee and Darren Dressen: Purchase chemical instrumentation and kitchen equipment to conduct kitchen labs in Chemistry.

• Lisa Cardellini: Purchase polarizing microscope for use in Forensics, Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science classes.

• Elizabeth Tompkins: Transportation for students to see a TheatreWorks show that will lead to a student play and production of a newspaper.

• Craig Seran: Purchase equipment for development of an independent scientific discovery unity in Chemistry.

• Karen Davis: Purchase Vernier Rotary Motion Sensors to perform inquiry-based experiments.

• Darren Dressen: Purchase materials and equipment for students to create their own Grätzel solar cells (dye-sensitized solar cells).

• Bobby Soto: Entry fees for students in Environmental Science to participate in an art contest involving the study of anthropogenic climate change.

Alta Vista High grant recipient and project

• Shannon Wernette: Purchase equipment and supplies for a Health Food from Farm to Table unit.

Grant recipients are required to submit a written evaluation of their projects’ outcomes within two weeks after completion of the project.

The foundation plans to hold an event in the spring to showcase some of the projects.

For more information, visit

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