This is part of a series looking at how grants from the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation help students thrive.
Flowery Elementary students suddenly find themselves touring Athens, riding a gondola in Venice, and zipping through Zion National Park in Utah.
They’re using the school’s new virtual reality headset, thanks primarily to a $1,000 grant that Sarah Hubbard Lake, the school’s library media specialist, received for 2022-23 through the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s donor selection program.
“Our students are smart and curious,” wrote Hubbard Lake when applying for the scholarship. They are mathematicians, scientists, artists and little writers. Many of our students live their lives within a few blocks’ radius. They may visit family in another town or take a trip to town, but they don’t have many opportunities to explore outside the city limits of our own little town.
She added, “Virtual reality has some amazing educational platforms that allow students to take a trip around the world, into space, or even go back in time.”
The headphones are currently available to fourth and fifth graders, but parents of younger students who want a chance to use a headset can reach out to Hubbard-Lake.
Fifth-grade student Tallulah Carroll says she was the first student to use one of the headphones.
“I was really excited to do that; I’ve always wanted to do virtual reality,” she said. “I did the learning steps of volleyball—I like hitting things in the air. I also danced with a robot! “
Luke Smith-Luciano, a fourth grader, enjoys the various games he plays.
“I love Titans in Space,” he said. “You are in a space shuttle and you are trying to control it. There is also an underwater game where you get to know different types of underwater creatures. In a space game, you learn how to control a space shuttle and learn about space. The games are fun, and they help you learn.”
Meanwhile, the Flowery students enjoy another of Hubbard-Lake’s recent Classroom Grant projects in the school library.
Libraries aren’t known as the liveliest places in the world, but Flowery students often rush to the door of the school library during recess, eager to see what’s going on inside.
This is because during the break, the library is transformed into the No-Shhh Incredible Library, which offers a range of games and other activities that encourage conversation.
“By providing mindfulness tools for morning meditation, sensory games for a quiet corner, giant games to play at recess, sets for continuous chess games, stationary hawkers for the ride and reading station, and supplies for the arts and crafts corner, this bookstore will become a creative learning center where students can engage their minds.” and their bodies,” Hubbard Lake wrote when applying for the scholarship.
She cherishes the quiet, peaceful haven that traditional libraries provide, and appreciates that they provide an ideal place for students to learn and immerse themselves in a good book. Hubbard Lake notes that many schools are moving away from the idea that libraries need to be silent, static places for learning.
“School libraries are evolving into bustling, vibrant knowledge centers that engage the whole child,” she wrote. “This library will continue to provide a quiet haven for our voracious readers, but it is my hope that it will evolve into a place that can influence a student’s day in a positive and meaningful way both inside and outside the library.
Studies show that mindfulness can reduce anxiety and movement can prompt children to become more alert. When their bodies are calm and their minds focused, students simply learn better.”
The No-Shhh Incredible Library, available to all Flowery students, was made possible in part by the $1,000 semester grant Hubbard-Lake received during the 2021-22 school year from the Education Foundation. Teachers and school staff are allowed to apply for one grant of up to $1,000 per year.
“With the supplies provided by this grant, the library will be a supportive place that engages the whole child through games, brainteasers and sensory games, arts and crafts supplies, and more,” said Jill Chadwin, the foundation’s director of development.
Students can only visit the amazing No-Shhh Library during recess, while the calming library corner is available throughout the school day for any student who needs a space for a break outside of class.
Hubbard-Lake says students love the library’s many options, which include not only a quiet reading area, but also a listening lounge, sign language club, adventures in Bookland, Game Time, and a yoga space.
Emery Gybsers, a fifth grader, loves to play games during recess.
“I love the game you play to get smart… chess, checkers, those kinds of games,” said Emery. “I like them because I like to think about my moves and what I’m going to play. I feel like I can’t really play outside because it’s really noisy.
Luke enjoys coming to the library on recess to use a VR headset and play Jenga in a quiet environment.
“It’s quieter there,” he said. “You don’t have people shouting.”
Chadwin praises Hubbard-Lake’s creativity and resourcefulness.
“I’ve noticed that she’s one of only a handful of educators who always has a project posted on Donors Choose, which collectively brings a variety of resources to the Flowery Library. I really admire the way she thinks outside the box to bring engaging opportunities to her students.”
To learn more about the Donor Choice Program, where donors can support a semester application that speaks to them, visit svgreatschools.org.
Contact reporter Dan Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.