Grant will provide more library books at Agnes Little

Grant will provide more library books at Agnes Little

Two teachers recognized for environmental and physical ed curriculum

PAWTUCKET – From a library grant to recognition for environmental education, several teachers and staff members in the Pawtucket School District have been honored for their hard work and dedication to their students this past year.

Grant provides new books for Agnes Little library

Jennifer Sweet, Agnes Little Elementary School librarian, has received a $5,000 grant from the Laura Bush foundation to purchase new books for the school library.

Sweet said she was in disbelief when she learned she received the grant. Normally she only has money she makes from the Scholastic Book Fair to buy books and supplies for the library, she said, and since the fair was canceled last fall, this grant will allow her to purchase a lot of new books.

“The average age of the books in our library is 20 years old,” she said. “I am looking to use this grant money to update our fiction and nonfiction sections so I can better accommodate the students and teachers with beneficial resources they need in addition to what they use in the classroom.”

Over the years, Sweet said she’s kept a list of books that students have requested and can now begin purchasing those and new requests.

“I truly appreciate the generosity of the Laura Bush Foundation for awarding Agnes Little Elementary this generous grant,” Sweet said. “I would like to encourage all librarians in Pawtucket, as well as librarians in other districts, to consider applying for this grant next year.”

Agnes Little was one of 205 schools from 43 states to receive this grant this year.

Heon honored for environmental education

Kimberly Heon, a 3rd-grade teacher at Agnes Little Elementary School, has been named the Watershed Explorer Environmental Educator of the Year 2020-2021 by the Narragansett Bay Commission.

Heon, who has taught in Pawtucket for 30 years, has incorporated the Watershed Explorer program into her lessons for more than 15 years, engaging her students using hands-on water quality science and environmental lessons as part of her science curriculum, under the direction of Cynthia Morissette, the Commission’s environmental education coordinator, she said.

“I was very humbled to be named Narragansett Bay Commission’s Watershed Explorer Environmental Educator of the Year,” she told The Breeze. “It is due to our collaboration that our students have become more aware of the health of their community’s watershed and how to protect it. As I told my students, this is not my award, but our award.”

During the current school year, Heon said her students have enjoyed lessons and activities as part of the program and were able to conduct water quality testing at Slater Park, build models of a watershed, observe macroinvertibrates, follow the Commission’s Critter Spotlights and take part in critter research/poster activity. Among other activities, in spring 2020, she said she set up a camera in a rhododendron bush to track the activity and progress of a robin family. “My students were able to see the nest making, eggs, predators stealing a few eggs, nestlings, mother/father care and roles, young birds leaving the nest,” she said.

PE teacher recognized for COVID-safe play

Craig Giarusso, a physical education/health teacher at Nathanael Greene Elementary School, is one of two teachers across R.I. to be recognized by Recess Rocks for his investment in safe play with students at recess and gym during the pandemic.

“I was shocked and honored at first when I heard the news,” Giarrusso told The Breeze. “This wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the dedicated and hardworking teachers at Greene. I teach the Recess Rocks games during physical education class, and the teachers are the ones who monitor their classes at recess.”

Recess Rocks in Rhode Island, a six-year-old partnership of Playworks New England, the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition, and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, launched an initiative to recognize school professionals who have made it a priority to incorporate safe and healthy play into the school environment during the coronavirus pandemic, states a press release. “The arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020 did more than disrupt our everyday lives. It also upended the school environment with children learning virtually, in a hybrid environment, in-person or in a combination of the three,” said Jon Gay, Playworks New England’s executive director. “Despite these challenges, educators have taken steps to prioritize play and social-emotional learning, and have created recess systems that help students stay active and connected.”

Giarrusso said that “without safe choices, students were getting rambunctious and the principal was receiving regular referrals from altercations at recess.” By introducing games from the Recess Rocks program, which required no equipment and had plenty of social distancing, “it provided students with positive game and activity options and also gave students the tools to negotiate and resolve conflicts,” he said.