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Innovation Grant Projects Progress As Students Lead

Second in a series of mid-year check-ins with Innovation Grant teams

illustration of many lightbulbs with one pushed higher by a hand

“We believe in empowering students to take ownership of their education and school experience,” said Campbell Union School District Superintendent Shelly Viramontez. 

Through the district’s Innovation Grant program, 10 student teams are using the design-thinking process to generate, test and implement ideas for two areas identified in our student survey data as needs: campus cleanliness and building a sense of belonging at their schools. 

“When we provide them with real-world challenges, our students see the connections to what they learn in school and recognize they have the ability to make a difference in their everyday lives,” Viramontez added.

Here are stories of progress at two schools.

Sherman Oaks Dual Immersion School

Two teams at this dual immersion, TK-8 school are working on ways to improve outdoor spaces for students to gather on campus. “We talked to a lot of students and staff and had a lot of ideas to start with,” said Yatzil, one of the 6th graders on the Innovation Grant team. More seating and shade—especially in the courtyard—topped the list, she added.

As they work with teachers Efrain Hernandez and Jamie Strand, and District Construction Manager Doug Williams (photo, center), the students are finding that state and local school safety requirements, maintenance, and costs mean reevaluating and generating different ideas to test. The solutions are becoming more clear. “We’re going to look at how to add seating to areas that already have shade, and what priority to give the other ideas,” said team member Alitzel.

Campbell School of Innovation

CSI’s student team has been working with Library Technician Sunny Huong to enhance the library experience for all students and making the “Think Tank” a welcoming space for students in the upper grades. The grant is making it possible to keep the library open during lunch for the upper grade students, holding book club meetings and community events, and eventually offering it as a study hall space after school on Wednesdays. 

At a recent meeting of the book club, pictured here, student leaders, Lyla B. (gr 6) and Miles V. (gr 8), explained why they chose to pursue the Innovation Grant. “I wanted CSI to offer more clubs and more books,” Lyla said. “I just want more people using the library, and more Uptown students using it,” Miles added. All of the students at the club meeting agreed that they enjoy reading, in general, and like having a physical book to read.

Library Tech Sunny Hong noticed that many students were not familiar with how to use the library When students returned to learning on campus. “They were good at computer searches and scrolling, but didn’t know how to select books in the library,” she said. She created book showcases and shared book recommendations by students’ peers, and sought ways to give students more experiences in the library. “It has made a difference,” she added.  “A lot more upper grade students are coming into the library.”

Next Week: Rosemary and Castlemont schools