Since the pandemic began, we have seen outstanding teachers and students across our community taking learning to new heights to keep each other engaged, healthy and energized. Each year, the OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education celebrates local educators who are shattering the mold for traditional learning and enriching the lives of their students.
In addition to awarding outstanding educators, the OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education also provides awards for impactful school projects. As students return to the classroom for hybrid learning, inspiring creativity and fostering community will be more important than ever. We are proud, once again, to support five new Community Builder projects for schools across Oregon and Southwest Washington.
The nomination period for the OnPoint Prize for Excellence in Education began on February 23 and closed on April 13. From all the Community Builder project nominations, we are proud to announce our nine finalists who will be voted on by you, our online community. The winning school, selected by community votes, will receive a $5000 donation, while four other schools chosen by the OnPoint Prize Selection Committee will each receive $2000.
The voting period runs now through Tuesday, May 4. We encourage you to read about the schools below and cast your vote for the project you think will make the most of the $5,000 award. Then, look for our announcement of the Community Builder Award winners and the six finalists for the OnPoint Prize Educator of the Year on May 11.
Learn more about this year’s finalists:
Vern Patrick Elementary School’s StoryWalk
Redmond School District 2J, Redmond, Oregon
A StoryWalk® is a book that has been dismantled, laminated and presented page by page on a trail, bike path, walkway, park, or other outdoor space to promote reading and physical activity. StoryWalks® was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library. Presently, Vern Patrick is implementing a StoryWalk® on its campus with a homemade set built from metal stakes and yard signs on loan from the Deschutes County Library. On “Wacky Wednesdays,” students are treated to literary works and movement on the StoryWalk® at PE time.
As an “exceptional sensory break,” Vern Patrick’s StoryWalk® resonates with students regardless of age, learning style and reading ability. Students effortlessly spark discussions in the new learning environment outside of the classroom that educators say flow naturally and endlessly.
Vern Patrick would use the Community Builder Award to install a permanent StoryWalk® along the track for the school community to enjoy.
St. Thomas Academy’s Outdoor Grounds Enhancement
Diocese of Baker, Redmond, Oregon
Since opening for in-person learning in fall 2020, St. Thomas Academy has been immersed in finding the safest way to offer instruction and engage students through the pandemic. In addition to requiring masks, practicing physical distancing, creating class cohorts, encouraging hand washing, and installing health checkpoint stations, St. Thomas Academy also understands the safest place to be right now is outside.
To bring more multi-subject learning outdoors and allow students and teachers to reap the many health and learning benefits of being outside, the school would use the Community Builder funds to build a permanent high-quality gazebo and four picnic tables and benches. The gazebo would be located near the school’s new playground, which is open during non-school hours for the community to use.
Awbrey Park Elementary School’s Conscious Discipline Program
Eugene School District, Eugene, Oregon
Awbrey Park Elementary School’s Conscious Discipline Program is an evidence-based, trauma-informed approach to supporting teachers’ and students’ social and emotional needs in the classroom. The program provides various behavior management strategies and classroom structures that teachers can use to turn everyday situations into learning opportunities. Conscious Discipline meets CASEL’s SELect Program designation—the highest designation for evidence-based programs—in the CASEL Guide to Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs. This designation indicates that Conscious Discipline can play a central role in a school’s approach to promoting students’ social and emotional learning.
The Eugene School District is allotting funds for Conscious Discipline classroom materials and training for approximately 30 Title One kindergarten teachers in June 2021. With the additional Community Builder funds, the training at Awbrey Park would also include teachers and students in first and fifth grades.
Cheldelin Middle School’s Fire and Food Courtyard
Corvallis School District, Corvallis, Oregon
Cheldelin Middle School believes that life’s strongest connections form over food and fire. To create a unique learning experience for students that links scientific measurement, mathematical construction principles and art creation, Cheldelin Middle School seeks to build an outdoor space equipped with a wood-fired kiln. Built above the kiln’s firebox will be a bread oven. Through the power of fire and food, Cheldelin’s outdoor space will spark cross-curricular learning, create lasting positive memories, foster student pride and create a new recreational activity for the community.
Cheldelin Middle School would use the Community Builder funds to purchase a metal shed roof, the first item needed to begin the project.
David Douglas High School’s Scots Readers
David Douglas School District, Portland, Oregon
David Douglas School District teachers have found reading skills in elementary school are a key indicator for high school success. Right now, reading levels at the district’s elementary schools are well below average. David Douglas High School’s Scots Readers program hopes to change that by pairing district second graders with high school athletes to share and read their favorite books.
The Scots Readers program’s goal is to inspire second graders to recognize the importance of reading, create mentorship opportunities for high school students, and strengthen community across a district with over 60 languages spoken.
The Scots Readers program will culminate in a David Douglas High School basketball event in January 2022. Second graders will receive an “I am a Scots Reader” t-shirt, poster, three books, and a literacy handbook to recognize their achievement at the game. They will also have the opportunity to meet the boys and girls varsity basketball teams.
David Douglas High School would use Community Builder funds to pay for the second graders’ “I am a Scots Reader” t-shirts.
Holy Cross Catholic School’s Outdoor Enhancement Project
Archdiocese of Portland, Portland, Oregon
Holy Cross Catholic School has been hard at work over the last three years on a three-phase outdoor enhancement project. Holy Cross Catholic School recently completed the first phase of its new and improved play area, which included installing multiple new play structures, a music area and benches.
The school began work on its Hodge Street Garden two and half years ago, introducing gardening, agriculture and science learning opportunities for students, teachers, parents, youth groups and the surrounding community. So far, the school community has worked together to create a pollinator garden, hummingbird sanctuary and worm composting. Through the pandemic, the Hodge Street Garden has allowed the school community to continue gathering safely as the enhanced outside space provides enough room for physical distancing.
The third and final phase of Holy Cross Catholic School’s campus enhancement project is its Environmental Garden and West Gym area. This final phase will grade, plumb and install raised beds, pavers and benches. When complete, the Environmental Garden will be an area for classrooms to adopt garden beds, conduct outdoor learning, create outdoor space for teachers to eat lunch and establish a peaceful place for the neighbors to enjoy as well.
Holy Cross Catholic School would use the Community Builder funds to complete the Hodge Street Garden and begin work on the Environmental Garden and West Gym area.
Holy Family Catholic School’s Celebration of International Diversity
Archdiocese of Portland, Portland, Oregon
Holy Family Catholic School seeks to support faculty, students, families and the greater parish in exploring prejudices, racial diversity and solutions that can bring about a more equitable and just community.
Led by the Racial Equity Committee, Holy Family Catholic School’s diversity equity and inclusion project will naturally foster a safe learning environment and sense of belonging. In celebration of the diversity of cultures, religions, languages and races both in and out of the school community, the school will offer guest speakers or authors from different cultures, a social justice book club for families, students and faculty, cooking classes and art projects. Holy Family Catholic School’s social justice activities will culminate in its annual International Fair in May.
The school would use the Community Builder funds to engage speakers, provide books for the book club, purchase food for cooking classes and purchase supplies for art projects.
Lyle Elementary School’s Recess for All
Dallas School District 2, Dallas, Oregon
The Recess for All Project seeks to redesign Lyle Elementary School’s recess to better serve its students. Lyle Elementary School strives to go beyond the typical recess activities and make recess a time for all students to engage in activities that will benefit their physical and mental health and prepare them to return to the classroom ready to learn.
Recess for All will diversify recess activities by creating spaces for group and individual play, add new activities for different levels of play and define spaces so students can easily identify which area they would like to be in during their recess time.
Recess for All will benefit not only Lyle students but also the community at large. Located near downtown, the school is next to the Lyle Sports Complex and Dallas City Park, a popular area for many in the Dallas community. Because school grounds are open to the public outside of school hours, children of all ages will utilize the improved recess area.
Lyle would use the Community Builder funds to purchase new small group and individual activity stations, signage, barriers to better divide up the recess area, and a storage structure to help house recess materials.
Maple Elementary’s Bulb Planting Project
Springfield School District, Springfield, Oregon
After spending most of the 2020-21 school year apart, Maple Elementary’s bulb planting project will welcome students back in the fall of 2021 by bringing them together to work on a common goal benefitting the school and the entire neighborhood.
When school starts in September 2021, students and families will work together to plant bulbs in the school’s front entry area. When spring 2022 arrives, the school and community will enjoy the beauty of the work they did in the fall. Because the bulbs will bloom annually, they will beautify the area for years to come.
Additionally, in the time of COVID, having outdoor learning spaces available is more critical than ever. Teachers and students would use these garden spaces for science units, inspiration for art projects and creative writing, and a calm space where students can take a break. After a year spent online, these hands-on learning opportunities will be integral to students’ education.
Maple Elementary School would use the Community Builder funds to purchase enough bulbs for the school community and the gardening supplies necessary to allow the event to be open to all families. Bulbs varietals will include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and camas, a flower highly valued by the local Kalapuya tribe.
Our schools have been through unparalleled circumstances this year and it is the innovative projects like those described above that will jump-start in-person learning for kids across our region. We hope you will join us in supporting the project you think will make the biggest impact by casting your vote today!