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Foundation Awards $10,000 Grant to Charter Oak and Smith

Schools receive Special Initiative Grant from the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools.

Two of West Hartford's elementary schools will soon have a greater connection to the world around them thanks to a $10,000 "Special Initiative Grant" from the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools.

The "Virtual Vistas: Connecting Classrooms to the World" grant, announced at last week's Board of Education meeting, has been awarded to and . It will be implemented during the 2012-2013 school year.

According to the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools, the Virtual Vistas grant will provide funding for Smith and Charter Oak to purchase high definition video conferencing equipment and a projector, as well as video conferencing subscriptions.

The purpose is to "enhance and enrich the curriculum at both schools" by providing a means for students, faculty, and families in the school communities to work with other professionals and interact with experts from museums, research and science centers.

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According to a release from the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools, the grant will also allow students to "speak with scientists, interview authors, explore ecosystems, share face to face experiences with classmates around each school’s magnet theme, practice global citizenship through direct communication and social skills, combine critical thinking and research skills while working on projects, and other classrooms throughout the world."

The grant award was presented to Charter Oak Principal Mary Thompson and Smith Principal Juan Melian by Clare Dowd, president of the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools board of directors and board member Sherry Feinglass.

“When we read the grant applications and we saw this Virtual Vistas application, it had a major 'wow' factor,”  said Feinglass in presenting the award. "I only wish we had more money to fund it. It’s the up and coming technology and will expand the horizons of the students in ways that many of them would otherwise never be able to do. It showed a real collaboration. Mary Thompson and Juan Melian worked together with the IT department to make sure this grant would affect all the students in both schools," Feinglass said.

Feinglass added that Virtual Vistas will allow students a tremendous opportunity to enhance their research and communication skills.

“We are truly appreciative of this opportunity,” said Melian. “The first benefit is for our teachers who are inspired by this opportunity to have an impact on all of our kids … as well as for all of our kids. I can guarantee all of you that it will make a difference to all our kids."

"We have a staff and a community that will absolutely learn from this opportunity," said Thompson.

Both Charter Oak and Smith are magnet schools, and the grant will applied at each in a way that enhances the theme. The Smith community will focus on scientific inquiry, and Charter Oak will focus on international exploration, cultures, and perspectives.

The following information was provided in a release from the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools: The Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools started in 1997 and is an independent non-profit organization.  The Foundation's mission is to provide financial support for educational projects, programs, and initiatives that will enhance and promote the excellence of West Hartford Public Schools. This year, the Foundation is celebrating its $1 Million milestone of investment in all 16 West Hartford Public Schools over a 15 year period. The Virtual Vistas grant is one of several larger grants that the Foundation has awarded to various schools. In 2010, the Foundation awarded a special grant to Conard High School for a Green Energy Lab that includes a 40 ft. wind turbine, 3 tilting solar panels, and a geothermal well. This lab will become fully operational in June 2012.  To find out more about the Foundation, please visit www.fwhps.org.

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