How Your Donations Change Curriculum

Since 1995, the Foundation has provided initial funding for many programs that are now core components of our District 36 curriculum today. Once programs have been tested and proved beneficial, the district is free to take up funding and adopt them, spreading them throughout the appropriate schools in the district. The following programs began with Foundation grants.

All District 36 Schools

Marcy Cook Math Cards (2008)

First purchased in 2008 to enrich the math curriculum at Hubbard Woods, Marcy Cook math cards are now integrated into the math curriculum at all five District 36 schools. The cards help increase a student's ability to think flexibly about numbers. They also provide teachers with a valuable tool for differentiation, a key pillar of the progressive education model at the core of Winnetka Schools. While students benefit from the common experience in math, the cards also provide common ground for teachers.

District-wide Elementary Schools

The Buzz on Pollinators (2017)

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All District second graders will get up close with the new “Pollinators in Peril: Honey Bees” science kits.  Bee replicas, models, identification guides, books, and an engineering design challenge all demonstrate what plants need to grow and how plants depend on animals for seed dispersal and pollination. Students will learn the roles bees, insects, birds, and bats play in the pollination process and in the production of most fruits and vegetables. (Grant Recipients: Jean Bierner, Dan Miller, Jen Parkinson, and Eva Petersen, Crow Island, Greeley and Hubbard Woods)

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Froebel Gifts (2004)

Froebel Gifts are special blocks that were developed by famous German educator Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel and were first brought into the District through a Foundation grant in 2004. These blocks offer opportunities for children to engage in problem-solving and mathematical thinking in a spatial way. They are also used to enhance language development, language arts, math, science, and more. Foundation funds have enabled District 36 to purchase blocks and provide professional in-service training to teachers, classroom in-service experiences, and a Froebel Block night for parents. As one Hubbard Woods teacher explained, “Froebel Blocks have literally changed the way we teach” and children District-wide have benefited from the enriching experience they provide.

First Grade: Farm Unit (1999)

A teacher initiative grant was first awarded in 1999 to first grade teachers district-wide to enrich the Social Studies Farm Unit. Since that time, all Winnetka first graders have had the farm brought to life through purchases of farm animals, machinery, and a trip to a real working farm where children see first-hand the impact farming has on our daily lives.

Second Grade: Math Games (2003)

Second grade is the year in which every child in the District masters a set of fundamental addition/subtraction math facts. Math games allow students to practice these facts more easily and become fluent in these facts more quickly. 

Third Grade: Math Games (2009)

Part of the third grade math curriculum focuses on multiplication math facts. A Foundation grant enabled teachers to create a new, comprehensive collection of math games for third grade students to aid in the acquisition of computational fluency (automaticity and accuracy). Games were collected from multiple sources including the work of renowned District 36 teacher Lola May. All of the games selected align with the District’s math curriculum guide. The collection was shared with teachers at all elementary buildings.

fourth grade: Underground Railroad Unit (2001)

Having learned about Martin Luther King and Civil Rights in first grade, fourth graders then tackle the amazing Underground Railroad operation, following in the footsteps of slaves who were hidden by people who risked their lives for to ensure their freedom. Films, books, plays, quilts, and other memorabilia underwritten by the Foundation have helped bring this chapter in our nation’s history to life for students.

District-wide Middle Schools:

fifth-eighth grades: Writer’s Workshop (2009)

Foundation funds were used to enable four teachers to research best practices in Writer’s Workshop: what it looks like, how it is structured, and the process of designing authentic curriculum. They also explored how a Writer’s Workshop model may help students develop into strategic and thoughtful writers and enhance the voice and ownership in their work. In addition, staff researched how writing conferences with individual students enhance the student-teacher relationship as well as create authentic opportunities for the assessment of student writing and differentiation of writing instruction. Further questions that were researched include: How can one effectively capture students’ writing progress to inform instruction and curricular design; How can one create and use meaningful conference notes to create mini-lessons to address individual and group needs; and, How do our choices about what we ask our students to read influence them as writers and influence their knowledge of craft. The Writer’s Workshop continues to be a big part of Middle School curriculum.

fifth - eighth grades: Drama Club Pilot (2005)

In response to demonstrated interest of parents and students and in line with their own professional interests, the drama teachers at Skokie and Washburne created a three-month, tuition-free pilot program for a fifth through eighth grade Drama Club. This extracurricular club provides a variety of fun theater activities, including playing theater games and creating performing scenes. Initial funds were used to compensate teachers for writing the curriculum and for materials for the culminating production. The Drama Club continues to attract students and provide an important outlet for expression.

fifth/sixth grades: Wellness Booth (1997)

First started as a simple grant for a Wellness Booth, Skokie Wellness Day has become integral to the KW curriculum. Wellness Day provides a vast amount of information on health and wellness to Skokie students in an interactive, fun and memorable manner. The content of the Wellness Day has now been integrated into units within the daily KW curriculum.

FIFTH/SIXTH grades: Bosu Trainers (2006)

The KW Department at Skokie School purchased 24 BOSU Balance Trainers and integrated them into their curriculum with great results. Some examples include using them as a stand- alone teaching station, as strength stations in the fitness room, or as part of a circuit. The BOSU allows students to engage in strength, cardio-vascular, and plyometric workouts without impact. It also encourages joint stability for reduction of injuries. The BOSU trainer provides limitless opportunities for challenging athletes and students at every level.

fifth/sixth grades: Skokie Book Clubs (2002)

Book clubs came to Skokie in 2002 through a grant written by the Skokie School Resource Center Director. Indeed, book clubs still exist at Skokie today. Most noteworthy among them, students participate in the Caudill Book Club, which affords them the opportunity to read books on the Caudill list. The Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book is an Illinois Book Award developed to encourage children and young adults to read for personal satisfaction. After participating in the club, students can vote in the state election. This club has seen remarkable participation and excitement over the years.

Fifth Grade: Focus on Non-Fiction Reading (2003)

What began as a Foundation teacher initiative grant has become part of the core curriculum for fifth graders, as students focus on learning the skills and strategies necessary to read, comprehend, and apply what they learn in non-fiction reading material. Initial funds were used to purchase non-fiction reading material (age-appropriate magazine subscriptions and short books) for all classrooms.

sixth grade: Create a Museum (1997)

Started with a grant from the Foundation, Create a Museum has met with such popularity and success that it has become an exploratory class offering for sixth graders. This twelve-week daily class allows students to pursue issues of personal importance and addresses research skills, oral, visual, and computer skills as well as important inter/intrapersonal skills. This authentic inquiry experience culminates with the communication of their findings through an interactive museum experience.

Duplication Equipment for Band and Orchestra (2007)

Funds provided by the Foundation were used to purchase duplication equipment so teachers could provide beginning band students CDs to use to practice at home. This grant also allows rehearsals and concerts to be recorded and shared with the students for analyzing skills as well as tracking growth.

Seventh grade: CIVIL WAR DAY (1996)

Every seventh grade student participates in the Civil War Reenactment, a culmination of the major study of our nation’s unforgettable war. The Reenactment was made possible through a Foundation grant in 1996; the program has become fully integrated into the core curriculum today.

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Seventh/eighth grades: Froguts Subscription (2003)

The seventh grade science curriculum covers anatomy and physiology and, as a result,  students dissect frogs, squid, and cow eyes. These experiences are supported and supplemented with computer software through a subscription to, a website that offers software modules to enhance the dissection experience. This subscription is provided by a Foundation grant. Continued access to this website allows for high quality reinforcement and review. It also provides a “virtual experience” for students needing extra help or for those struggling with the dissection process.

Technology and Safety in the Middle Schools (2009)

The fast and furious growth of technological bullying has presented challenges for parents, teachers and social workers alike. Through this grant, social workers are working collaboratively with technology specialists, administrators, and community specialists to develop a series of educational opportunities related to technology and safety. Aspects of the program include sharing of new laws, demonstrating the responsible use of technology, and illustrating its dangers and abuses. Educating faculty through professional development opportunities, speakers, and written materials and programming for parents also is covered in this grant.