Grants for Innovative Frameworks in Teaching

Funded through the generosity of the Sewickley Academy Home and School Association, the Grants for Innovative Frameworks in Teaching (G.I.F.T.) are designed to provide teachers with a mechanism that allows them to seize unexpected opportunities for innovative, interdisciplinary projects, especially where collaboration and experiential learning are the focus. These opportunities would allow student learning to soar above and beyond daily classroom practice and experiences.

A great teacher recognizes and seizes opportunities that present themselves as a result of any number of unpredictable classroom variables. Often the variables are generated from “students who stumble across a real idea,” the dynamic of a particular group, or an individual student who brings an unexpected insight into a discussion. Ideas also ignite through the dynamic of professional conversations, where the seeds of interdisciplinary and collaborative projects might be generated through the unexpected synergy of the moment.

Great teachers recognize those moments and often follow with a “what if we could do XXX …”, only to find that the schedule, competing priorities, a lack of available funding, or a combination of these present insurmountable barriers. G.I.F.T grants, which were developed collaboratively with the Home and School Association and the teachers and administrators of the Academy, help to fund projects or teaching strategies that move beyond the original conceptual framework of their courses. There are no limits on the kinds of requests considered, but projects or purchases whose focus is highly collaborative and/or interdisciplinary and engage students in inquiry-based learning are strongly encouraged.

Approximately $3,500 may be allocated to a single project, but teachers who might need funding beyond the $3,500 and who are able to justify the additional money needed, are welcome to apply.

G.I.F.T. Application Process
Applications for G.I.F.T. grants will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the school year. The project description should be clearly written with sufficient detail, but should not exceed 300 words in length. Once received, applications will be acted upon within a two week period.

Teachers are to consult with and receive support from both their department chair and division head prior to submitting their application. All applications will be assessed according to the following criteria:
  • Innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Interdisciplinary approaches
  • Impact on students
  • Level of experiential student engagement
Upon completion of the project, teachers will be expected to write a reflection piece, which will be shared with the larger community.

Please complete this form to apply for a G.I.F.T. grant.

Approved Proposals

List of 40 items.

  • National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) (2021-2022)

    Educational Goal: Participating in NaNoWriMo is an incredibly empowering and motivating experience for writers of all ages and experience levels. Not only is this a challenging and rigorous task that asks students to engage in an impressive feat of writing, but it is also an opportunity for students to authentically engage in an experience where they see themselves as true writers. According to NaNoWriMo as well as my own personal observations, students who have participated in the Young Writers Program overwhelmingly reported that they saw their writing skills improve, they became more excited about writing, they wrote stories that they really cared about, and they learned that they can accomplish great things when they are determined.
  • Campus Cultural Art (2020-2021)

    Educational Goal: Allow students to learn how one defines culture, become proficient in how one goes about sourcing art pieces for a display, acquire the knowledge of how to pick a location and get approval for a piece of art to be installed, and practice how to collaborate with others to come to a consensus regarding how culture is defined and what work of art to pursue.
  • City of Asylum (2020-2021)

    Educational Goal: A series of readings and workshops by exiled writers currently living in Pittsburgh under the auspices of City of Asylum ensures that our students see their connections with others from around the world, whether or not they are formally enrolled in the Global Studies Certificate program.
  • Communitopia (2021-2022)

    Educational Goal: Communitopia is an organization that seeks to educate citizens about the impacts of climate change. In partnership with Communitopia, students will analyze local impacts of climate change and identify the environmental justice implications attached to them, create an action plan after watching a Young Voices for the Planet Film of student-based solutions and present the action plan to administrators at Sewickley Academy.
  • Grades 5 and 6 Visit the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh (2019 - 2020)

    Educational Goal: Grade 5 and 6 students will visit the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

    This is a wonderfully inventive way to support the transition of Grade 5 students into the Middle School by partnering them with current Grade 6 students. The hands-on activities will provide multiple opportunities for learning and connections back to the Grade 5 and 6 curriculums. Finally, this proposal aligns with our new Strategic Plan by making great use of our local Pittsburgh resources. 
    Team: Grade 5 and 6 Teachers
  • Microphones and Tripods for Documenting the World (2019 - 2020)

    Educational Goal: Microphones and tripods to support Senior School students' work with their cell phones to create videos to demonstrate and document their learning.

    The English course "Documenting the World" will benefit from these tools, as will "Senior Seminar," which will be better able to support students in the creation of their "This I Believe" podcasts and their multi-modal reflective projects on the their history as readers.

    Team: Ann Russell
  • Rivers of Steel - The Carrie Blast Furnace, National Historic Landmark (2018 - 2019)

    Educational Goal: While exploring the job roles of former Carrie employees, students in Grade 5 and 6 will discover just what it took to work at a blast furnace. From the science and technology of the iron-making process to the cultural context of the immigrant worker experience, students will gain a firsthand understanding of how the steel industry shaped the history, character, and development of southwestern Pennsylvania. 

    This field trip carries on the tradition of students in Grades 5 and 6 sharing in a field trip experience together as part of the transition to Middle School. So not only do we have an amazing opportunity to share the rich industrial history of our region with our students, but we also do so in a way that gives our Grade 5 students an opportunity to see what it will be like to be a Middle Schooler.

    Team: Christy Mulhollem and Jonathan Riddle
  • CASOP: A Requiem for Rice Orchestral Debut (2018 - 2019)

    Educational Goal: Junior U.S. History students will see CASOP: A Requiem for Rice Orchestral Debut, a premier production. CASOP: A Requiem for Rice Orchestral Debut, is a remarkable opportunity to provide students with another way to learn and understand the trials and tribulations of the enslaved black men, women, and children who worked on lowcountry rice plantations.  The historical and artistic intersections are also powerful and reinforce for students that art has a critical role to play in contemporary society. The composer and the librettist are both Pittsburghers.

    Team: Senior School History and Social Sciences Department
  • Design Thinking Challenge for Middle School students (2018 - 2019)

    Educational Goal: Making use of the Design Thinking model is a great way to show students how working through a number of steps can help make ideas and objects better. This design challenges goal is to finish with a very useful product and aesthetically pleasing rack for the lab aprons in the Grade 6 science classroom. Any student in Grades 5-8 can submit a design.

    Team: Jonathan Riddle
  • The Panther Den (2017 - 2018)

    Educational Goal: The Panther Den, a mobile cart to be used as a store when it is opened, represents a hands-on opportunity for young entrepreneurs to dabble in product research, anticipated demand, cost/profit analysis, pricing, ordering, inventory management, money management, interpersonal skills, etc.

    Attached to the Panther Den will be an old style candy machine transformed into a way to celebrate student birthdays (students will be able to get a quarter on their birthday in order to be able to get a non-candy prize out the machine). The Panther Den would be offered as a theme based club for Grade 6-8 students.
    Team: Michael Cesario and Jonathan Riddle
  • Grades 4, 5, and 8 Celebrate Día de los Muertos (2017 - 2018)

    Educational Goal: 
    Grade 4, 5, and 8 students will participate in a cross-divisional activity to celebrate Día de los Muertos. Students will see the new movie, Coco, and have pre- and post-show discussions and time to share their reflections. This is a wonderful proposal that includes cultural, linguistic, and equity and inclusion elements. 

    Team: Monica Lynn, Alison Howells, and Jennifer Brown

  • Grade 5 and 6 Students to See Water on Mars at the August Wilson Center (2017 - 2018)

    Educational Goal:  
    Grade 5 and 6 students will see Water on Mars at the August Wilson Center.

    The trip aligns wonderfully with ​the Developmental Design and Responsive Classroom programs in the ​Lower and ​Middle School​s​, as well as significant components of the new fifth and sixth grade Global Studies curriculum. Upon ​their ​return to school, students will complete activities in mixed small groups over a shared lunch period. This will encourage the “Closing the Loop” component of reflection, reinforcing Developmental Designs language. ​This activity will allow Grade 5 students more interaction with future teachers and classmates while making space for Grade 6 students to build on relationships with teachers they adore.

    Team: Grade 5 and 6 Teams
  • MS Students Experience an Authentic Spanish Dance Performance (2016 - 2017)

    Educational Goal: Middle School dance and Spanish language students are going to see an authentic Spanish dance performance in Pittsburgh. This exciting cross-disciplinary opportunity will provide our students with an incomparable chance to see and reflect on language, culture, dance, and history.

    Team: Monica Lynn and Joe Jackson
  • Exploring the Sun (2016 - 2017)

    Educational Goal: The Senior School Science Department plans to sponsor an event in conjunction with Remake Learning Days 2017 to undertake a series of solar observations to educate participants about the sun, our local star, and the earth-sun system and stars. This will provide a wonderful community-building opportunity focused on learning, science, and improving our understanding of the world in which we live.

    In addition to funding from the Home and School Association, part of the funding for this event has been generously provided by the Child Health Association, an important local organization supporting children in the Quaker Valley region.

    Team: Ben Spicer
  • Grade 5 and Grade 6 Students Will See The Man Who Planted Trees (2016 - 2017)

    Educational Goal: This is a wonderful cross-divisional opportunity for Lower and Middle School students to share a learning opportunity, one that aligns so well with our Developmental Design and Responsive Classroom programs in the Middle School and Lower School, respectively, as well as significant components of the new Grades 5 and 6 Global Studies curriculum.

    The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust website describes The Man Who Planted Trees:
    This theatrical adaptation of Jean Giono’s environmental classic tells the inspiring story of a shepherd who plants a forest, acorn by acorn, transforming a barren wasteland. The touching yet hilarious puppet show demonstrates the difference one man (and his dog!) can make in the world.

    Team: Chris Carney and Christy Knable
  • Letters to Sala (2015 - 2016)

    Educational Goal: To bring a dramatic production of Letters to Sala to our campus next year.

    From the Dramatist Play Service description of the play:
    Adapted from the book Sala’s Gift by Ann Kirschner and based on a true account, Letters to Sala is a remarkable story of a young girl's survival during wartime Germany. Five years. Seven Nazi labor camps. Over 350 hidden letters. Sala Garncarz Kirschner kept her secret for over fifty years, concealing her incredibly painful history in a Spill and Spell box. Everything changes when Sala reveals the cache to her grown daughter, Ann.

    Connected to the work of students in all three Middle School grades, this story will be one to inspire and challenge our students.

    Team: Deborah Golden and Kate Lukaszewicz
  • Macbook Pro and accompanying QLab software for the Theater Department (2015 - 2016)

    Educational Goal: The grant will fund equipment that will have a positive impact on most if not all members of the school community who enjoy the Academy's theatrical and musical productions. Technical theater students will interact with and learn from their ability to use this equipment.

    Team: Mr. Joe Jackson and Mr. Nate Bell
  • Unidentified Friday Opportunities (UFO's) (2015 - 2016)

    Educational Goal: To make clear connections to the Middle School's curriculum in English, critical thinking, leadership, and global awareness, which reinforces that learning happens beyond the classroom and has applicability well beyond school.

    Team: Middle School
  • Field Trip to Cook Forest: Where Have All the Creatures Gone? (2015 - 2016)

    Educational Goal: Students will cover the essential question, 'What can cause populations to change?' They will focus on a trout population in Lake Erie for most of the study. The trip to Cook Forest will allow students to transfer the scientific principles covered with a different population, the old growth forest ecosystem, only found in the Cook forest!

    A capstone assessment for students will be to use data collected, referred to and/or witnessed on the trip to determine possible causes of changes in a population that they will study. This trip will also lead nicely into a theme on conservation that many students will find helpful when working toward our Environmental Summit in late May.

    Team: Jonathan Riddle
  • Chinese Calligraphy/Drawing & Painting Class (2014 - 2015)

    Educational Goal: To provide students an opportunity to learn Chinese calligraphy, as well as the history and cultural significance of this ancient practice. This is an exciting cross-disciplinary opportunity for students in the Middle School to have fun while learning one of the world’s most enduring art forms.

    Team: Shan Callaghan and Rob Edwards
  • Conflict Kitchen’s Foreigner Project (2014 - 2015)

    Educational Goal: Conflict Kitchen’s Foreigner Project, an art installation, to Sewickley Academy on Friday, May 8 from 11:45 am -1:45pm. Through this interactive piece, our students will have the opportunity to speak to a foreigner in Palestine and/or Iran via a Sewickley Academy student acting as an avatar. In this unique situation, the students speak to the foreigner directly via a microphone and the foreigner responds through an avatar, who interprets the responses live.

    According to Conflict Kitchen, which only serves food from countries with which the United States is in conflict, “’The Foreigner’ presents an uncanny circumstance where the separation between self and other, local and foreign, is collapsed and confused, and the geopolitical distance the United States and [other places such as Palestine or Iran] is made personal and local.” 

    Team: Michael-Ann Cerniglia and Matt Griffin 
  • Attack Theater as Artists in Residence (2014-15)

    Educational Goal: To support Attack Theater as Artists in Residence at the Academy. The Attack Theater interactions with students in all three divisions, including workshops, classes, and performances, will significantly extend the dance program’s reach and offer students an innovative experience they would otherwise not be able to have.  

    Team: Joe Jackson
  • Equip Project Rooms in the Newly Renovated Oliver Building (2014-15)

    Educational Goal: To spark interest in the spaces and, more importantly, to expose students to design, engineering, science and research activities, we would like to stock the spaces with supplies and offer faculty led workshops and design challenges this year and next year.  

    These workshops will include the following opportunities for exploration, which will be sure to catch students’ interest:
    • Chemistry of cosmetics “make and take” workshops: Students will begin to learn the important properties of cosmetic products and formulate recipes for bath bombs and body butter.
    • Conductive thread “make and take” workshop: Students will use LEDs and conductive thread to create a circuit within fabric.
    • Mousetrap car design challenge: Students will use a mousetrap and limited supplies to see who can design the car that moves the farthest.
    • Egg drop challenge: Using limited supplies students will try to protect an egg being dropped from various heights.
    • Fingerprinting workshops: Students will learn how to take fingerprints and identify basic fingerprint patterns during the first workshop. Subsequent workshops will focus on collecting latent fingerprints from “crime scenes”.

    Team: Tracy Wazenegger, Ruth Neely, Mary Donovan, Matt Eliot, and Ben Spicer
  • GoPro Cameras (2014-15)

    Educational Goal: Three GoPro cameras were purchased to support a variety of educational and professional development activities. The cameras, which may be worn, will allow the collection of data and artifacts that will capture and preserve the experiences students have, whether that be on a field trip or as part of an effort to gather material for a presentation. In addition, faculty can benefit directly by having students wear the camera during class, giving the teacher an otherwise impossible view into the experience of a student in his or her class. The educational and professional development potential of these cameras is significant, and it will be exciting to see them in action.

    Team: Christy Knable, Jonathan Riddle, and Stephanie Roccon 
  • Pittsburgh CLO’s Gallery of Heroes Production The Next Galileo (2014-15)

    Educational Goal: To bring the CLO’s Gallery of Heroes production here to Sewickley Academy.

    This year’s Gallery of Heroes production is called The Next Galileo based on a book, with music and lyrics by Joseph Domencic. The Next Galileo follows 13 year old Gabriella, big on brains but short on confidence, when she travels back in time to assist Galileo as he races to finish his first telescope. This story spans four centuries, teaches courage in the face of adversity, and touches many aspects of the Sewickley Academy curriculum at many grade levels.

    Team: Mike Cesario and Joe Jackson 
  • STEM Design Challenge (2014-15)

    Educational Goal: To put together a team of interested Grades 6 and 7 students in an after school club to prepare for and enter a STEM Design challenge sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. The challenge will be held at Duquesne University and involve teams of four students in the creation of a K’Nex structure that will move a ping pong ball lengthwise from one end of a table to the other.

    Team: Jonathan Riddle 
  • Write of Way (2013-14)

    Educational Goal: Write of Way (WoW) draws on ideas of access, opportunity, communication, and collaborative decision making. Grades 6 and 8 will partner with Summerbridge students during WoW and will examine the ways in which we are defined by “story” and how writing and sharing our story can catalyze change, not only in others’ perceptions of us, but also in broader and more wide-ranging stereotypes.

     Sarah Bachner and Deborah Golden
  • The Invention of Edison (2013-14)

    Educational Goal: The Academy will welcome the Pittsburgh CLO to campus to perform a Gallery of Heroes for students in Grades 4 through 8. The production is called The Invention of Edison based on the book, with music and lyrics by John Gregor. The Invention of Edisontells the story of the lighting of Manhattan through the use of musical scenes and dramatic sketches. This story, which involves journeys over two continents, touches many aspects of the Sewickley Academy curriculum at multiple grade levels.

    Middle School teacher Michael Cesario and Lower School Dance teacher Joe Jackson
  • Leading Change: The Impact of iPad, Google Nexus, and Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet on Experiential, Collaborative Student Learning at SA (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: To bring the educational experience of the whole child to the next level by providing cutting edge technologies that children can use to engage in collaborative problem solving, to experiment with design, and to imagine together new solutions to old problems. This grant will support the purchase of mobile devices for experimentation in all three divisions, professional development, and collaboration with other independent schools that are using the devices for teaching and learning.

     Stephanie Roccon (Team Leader), Julia Tebbets, Cristy Mccloskey, Beau Blaser
  • Children's Author David Smith to Visit SA's Lower School (2013-14)

    Educational Goal: To bring the well-know children’s author David Smith to Sewickley Academy to spend two days working with Lower School students on sustainability and Global Issues. The culminating project will be the creation of a giant world map.

     Judy Stewart
  • Screen-Casting for Innovation in the Classroom (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: To provide greater access to lesson content and skills and to make instruction and learning innovative, imaginative, relevant, and timely while providing opportunities for creative partnerships between the disciplines of mathematics and the sciences.

     Matt Michaels (Team Leader), Tracy Wazenegger, Linda Carpenter, Linda Bowers, Ben Spicer, Ron Kinser
  • The Danger of a Single Story (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: To provide a venue where Summerbridge Pittsburgh and Academy students in Grades 7-9 can explore and experiment with the power of story. The program, conceived of in several parts, will examine the ways in which we are defined by “story” and how writing and sharing our story can catalyze change, not only in others’ perceptions of us, but also in broader and more wide-ranging stereotypes.
     Sarah Bachner and Deborah Golden
  • Let Me Hear Your Heart Beat (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: To develop habits of lifelong physical activity by giving students tools to monitor their progress and watch their fitness levels improve; to provide real-world application of a range of mathematical concepts for Grade 5 students, who can use data collected during exercise to reinforce classroom instruction in math; and to foster the attitudes necessary to lead physically active lives by permitting increased independence and greater educational choice for students during physical education classes and team training.

     Lori Yost (Project Leader), Alan Bauman, Casey Calland, Evan Kurtz, Cheryl Ann Lassen, Shannon Rankin. The team will work closely the Grade 5 team of Chris Carney and Christina Pales
  • Speaking and Writing through Emerging Technologies (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: To provide access to emerging technologies that require significant collaboration on the part of students and teachers in order to produce an experiential outcome (like a recorded live performance) that can be shared throughout the Academy community.

     John Murphy (Team Leader), Ann Russell, Larry Connolly, Jennifer Salrin, Joan Cucinotta
  • Student Educational Enhancement - World's Fair (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: To support the World’s Fair that Grade 6 students participate in during the spring through collaboration among the history, science, and English departments. Teachers would like to bring in one or more professionals to demonstrate the real-world relevance of the type of problem solving and story-telling that the World Fair requires.

     Jon Riddle, Anna Brock, Christy Knable
  • Culinary Demonstrations (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: Because of the American lifestyle of fast, quick, and easy, there has been a rise in obesity. The health and world language departments are working jointly on a cross-curricular project in Grade 7 to raise awareness in students about this epidemic. Students will learn about nutrition through a cooking demonstration, learn about ingredients and making healthy food choices, and become familiar with lexical terminology related to health, food, beverages, as well as etiquette.

     Cheryl Lassen and Pascale Spinelli
  • Making History Relevant (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: SA's history department will develop a website, “Making History Relevant,” which will highlight the best of our students’ digital work, much of which will be completed on classroom iPads (this proposal requests six iPads for classroom use in Grades 11-12). Throughout the year, each course will highlight at least one student project on “Making History Relevant,” with an accompanying lesson plan.   Sample projects might include podcasts, news pieces and documentaries, video interviews and move-making, and Skype projects. The website will not only serve as a way to highlight history department curriculum and enhance student learning, it will also showcase what Sewickley Academy is doing and reach out to the global community of educators.

     Senior School history and technology departments, as well as library and support services  
  • Grade 1 iPads (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: Using iPads to engage Grade 1 students in the classroom.

     Grade 1 teachers Kelly Gary and Jerilyn Scott
  • Native American History and Culture (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: To integrate thematic units around Native American history and culture into all seven of the core Grade 8 classes, as well as several special classes. The units would culminate in new additions to the annual class trip to Washington, D.C. To better prepare for the trip, faculty will travel to D.C. beforehand to review resources, meet with docents, and plan interdisciplinary activities for the students that are hands-on experiences during the trip, starting with the National Museum of the American Indian. The guiding questions and resources for this project probe the nature of culture, and what defines us as people, as Americans, and the ties that both bind and separate people. 

     Grade 8 faculty members
  • "1776" - The Musical (2012-13)

    Educational Goal: The entire Middle School will attend a special matinee of the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s presentation of 1776 on January 30. In addition to history, there exists an unquestionable value of music in education. Viewing 1776 will also give any student who will perform in future Middle and Senior School musicals or plays a solid understanding of portraying a character, telling the writer’s story, and being a supportive member of an ensemble. Finally, the MS as a whole is seeking ways to foster greater communication, cooperation, and unity between the three grades in the Middle School. This field trip day will provide a significant and memorable experience for each student to move beyond what they think they may know about students who are in other grades.

    : Sewickley Academy's Middle School faculty