Foundation grant brings Skyline physics students lessons in teamwork, project planning

28 teachers given help for the classroom, impacting 7,500 students

From AAPS Educational Foundation
and AAPSNews Service

Some 450 sophomores in Skyline High School’s advanced physics class are taking part in Crash Test! – a multi-week project where students design collapsible front ends for cars.

The project teaches students to work in teams, discover how the basic principles of physics apply to everyday life and how to apply motion, force and gravity said David Coupland, one of six teachers involved with the program who also applied for an Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation grant to help fund it.

“ We’re really trying to do something hands on,” he said. “We point out that regardless of what you do in life, you’ll use this.”

Skyline students test model cars
Skyline HIgh School physics sophomores learn about the laws of physics while testing model cars during the Crash Test! project.

The Accelerated Integrated Sciences II class project is being done thanks to a grant from the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, which provided $936 through its fall teacher grant program. According to Coupland, the money paid for the model test cars students are using to test their hypotheses and how to best design a car for front-end safety.

Coupland said the project introduces students to technical writing skills and project management skills as they develop their task lists, set deadlines and track their projects. Each student team has its own Google page, accessible by their teachers, where they log lab work, testing and results.

The project started with visits from Ford Motor Co. engineers, who explained what they do and discussed the concept. The finale will be a capstone project at month’s end, where student teams will have developed posters with their findings. They will present to adult reviewers during the school’s first Conference on Automotive Crash Testing.

Students charting progress
Skyline students create graphs showing their progress in physics.

“They see there’s more to this than school work,” Coupland added. “We do a lot with data analysis. We have ambitious and broad goals for this class.”

The Skyline project is among 28 grants totaling $22,606 recently awarded by the AAPS Educational Foundation during its fall grant review.

The programs will impact an estimated 7,584 students at 21 Ann Arbor schools. AAPSEF grant awards are competitive – 61 applications were received in all – and the maximum amount of funding given per project is $1,000. A nine-member volunteer team serves as the foundation’s Grants Review Committee, including members of AAPSEF’s board, community members and retired AAPS staff.

AAPS Educational Foundation logoGrants were awarded from kindergarten through high school levels. Several projects received funding at the maximum amount.

Projects funded include a mural project at Skyline High School; installation of a garden at Roberto Clemente; additions to the science collection for K-5th grades at Carpenter Elementary School’s library; the purchase of West African percussion instruments for Ann Arbor Open; summer learning programs at Haisley and Lawton Elementary Schools, among others. Some grant awards are for next-step phases of projects, such as the Scarlett Bands Clinic Remix Day, where local musicians spend a day at Scarlett working individually with students of their instrument.

Other projects, such as the Huron High School Science Extravaganza Day, are traditions that have built their own history. Extravaganza Day, in its fourth year of funding, introduces hundreds of fifth-grade students to the world of high school science with hands-on physics experiments led by Huron High students. The idea is to inspire the fifth-graders to be excited about science classes offered in middle school, and thus prepare for high school courses in the subject.

Ann Arbor Open’s music teacher, Dan Tolly, received funding for West African percussion ensemble instruments. “The support of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation allows educators to take our craft to a whole new level,” he said. “The grant money received gives us the chance to bring the world to our students.”
New to the teacher grants this year is a fund established by the Pioneer High School Class of 1980, which at its 30th reunion this past summer gathered support for special education classrooms. In this grant cycle, students at Pioneer in the Life Skills Classroom will benefit from a new swing in the Sensory Area. At King Elementary School, students with attention issues will experience the difference of using stand-up desks, provided by a grant through this new fund.

Other grants are made through the foundation’s general fund. In addition, support for teacher grants is given through the Burns Park Players Grant Fund, The Eleanor B. Dahlmann Memorial Fund, The Freeth Family Fund and the Marcy Westerman Fund.

The 2010-2011 academic year is the 14th year that the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation has awarded grants to staff. Since the foundation began in 1991, its focus has been to give support to unique programs in the district. In addition to large-scale grants, the smaller awards of teacher grants allow focused support on the classroom level.

Last year, through the generosity of the Monroe Street Journal, AAPSEF was able to offer a spring grant cycle. Teachers who may have eligible projects are encouraged to check the AAPSEF website under the “For Staff” tab for upcoming grant opportunities.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation is an independent, community-based, nonprofit organization committed to helping all Ann Arbor Public Schools students achieve their highest potential by providing community support for innovative and excellent educational opportunities.

Conference on Automotive Crash Testing
Where: Skyline High School
When: Nov. 29 (Three sessions: 7:30-10:20 a.m., 10 a.m.12:15 p.m. and noon to 2:45 p.m.)
Who: Teachers involved with the project include Gren Agresar, Jack Hentz, Johnna Coleman, Mike Jones, David Coupland and Stacey Nunley.
Details: Tenth-grade ACIS II (physics) classes will deliver poster presentations on the design and testing of collapsible front ends for cars as part of a capstone project. The designs reduce passenger injuries in head-on collisions. Through their presentations, students will demonstrate their knowledge of the physics of motion, force and energy.
How to help: Adults are sought for both technical and non-technical reviews of student projects. Reviewers will be given a list of questions with possible answers and asked to rate student proficiency. Teachers will send the reviewers questions in advance and train them during an orientation session.
Contact: Those interested in participating should e-mail David Coupland at

List of fall 2010 teacher grants

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