JACKMAN — Sara Hannan, Middle School ELA and science teacher at Forest Hills School, was awarded a $1,000 Student Engagement Grant from the Major Samuel Leigh Memorial Fund. The purpose of the grant is to promote critical thinking, problem solving, and self-directed learning. Hannan’s application for ‘Genius Hour’ stood out from the rest, according to a news release from the school.

Once a week, students in her science classes work on applied learning projects. They select a target they wish to spend more time on, and using habits of self-inquiry, they come up with new ways to expand their understanding of these concepts.

For example, a student who wanted to delve deeper into a Unit on waves chose to focus on heat waves and created a project whereby they did some deep frying of French fries. Another student was more interested in the science of electricity and energy and decided to do a full-on dissection of an old set of audio speakers to figure out how its “guts” and the concept of voltage were interrelated.

The grant that Hannan received will be used to purchase specific materials, supplies and equipment for her weekly ‘Genius Hour’.

“Our goal is to help promote innovative, student-driven projects and allow teachers the freedom to try something outside of the box,” said Dale Fortin PhD, executive director of the Major Samuel Leigh Memorial Fund, according to the release. He further stated that “what stood out to us about Sarah’s proposal was the way in which she will be able to engage students in all facets of the project; since each project is focused upon the interest of the individual student, this will allow her students to take ownership of their ideas and promote self-directed learning, self-confidence, and critical thinking which are key components of our grant program,” according to the release.

Providing students the opportunity to apply concepts learned in the classroom into real world application(s) is at the heart of the Major Samuel Leigh Memorial Fund, and as Director Fortin said, according to the release, “we thought Sara’s application fully embodied this philosophy.”

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