Mini-Grant Application for School Year 2019-2020

Submitted by: Jennifer Bruno Email: Grade Level: 6-8 Subject: Technology / Peer Counseling
Co-Applicant: Email: Grade level: Subject:

School: Punta Gorda Middle School Type: Public Grade Levels:6-8 County:Charlotte

Approx. Enrollment: 1250 Number of teachers:65

School Address:

1001 Education Avenue
Punta Gorda, Florida 33950

Phone: 941-575-5485 Principal:Justina Dionisio Email:


Project Title: Messages of Hope
Project Dates: November 1-April 30th Grade Levels:

Focus Area(s) :Technology- Peer Counseling- Student Health -

“Messages of Hope” utilizes technology in a way that allows us to take a new approach to student success. Traditionally, we approach student success by teaching required curriculum, assessing student progress and measuring learning gains through teacher-made and standardized tests. As educators, we do a great job of tracking the academic lives of our students. Unfortunately, we almost exclusively look at their academic lives when we are trying to create new paths to success. Middle school aged students are burdened with so many adult responsibilities. This can lead to poor behaviors at school, conflicts with peers, and low academic performance. We need to give students the proper tools to manage emotions before they become an obstacle to their learning. The project will allow my students to create short audio recording messages made for their peers on specific topics (that have been approved by the school administration). These messages will be recorded on professional equipment, edited with audio software, separated into categories and then saved on tablet devices. These messages will be available to listen to on the iPads in a ‘calming corner’. As they sit, listen and unwind, the iPad screen will be a blank paper for them to use the Apple Pencil to create drawings. This process will help the student to get into the right frame of mind and be ready for the school day, or to calm them down after a stressful moment. For some students, school is their only refuge. By allowing students to take a break for a few minutes when they are feeling overwhelmed, it will give them the opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive. For my students, recording the messages, editing the audio and creating a special experience for other students, will be rewarding both academically and emotionally.


How is your project innovative?   (25 points)
This project is innovative because there are no other programs out there that focus on utilizing familiar tech devices to spread positive peer mentoring messages on an individual level. After much research on peer mentoring and positive messages for adolescent students, there was little to no information to be found. There are many peer mentoring programs, but those require students to sign-up in person, get parent permission, to have rides to and from the meetings, and a year long commitment. This is a good idea for some students, but it does not address the student that needs instant relief from some stressor in their life while they are in school. It is also innovative because it takes a unique perspective on promoting student success. There are so many traditional programs and methods available to promote academic success in the classroom, and those strategies are a necessary part of any curriculum. In addition to those traditional programs, we should be looking beyond the classroom. What are some of the factors that contribute to student behavior, being off task, failing academically? We expect students to arrive at school ready to learn and in the best frame of mind between the hours of 8:50am - 4:10pm, Monday through Friday, almost ten months of the year. During those hours, they are expected to put all of their external factors aside and be at their best and in the right mindset to learn as well as to interact with peers and teachers. As adults, we know that our lives do not always go according to the ideal time schedule. So, why should we demand that students perform on cue? What if they have factors going on in their lives that contribute to being unfocused, misbehaving and disinterested in learning. Many students do not handle transitions very well, and it is known that students can benefit from calming mindfulness. Hearing messages of inspiration from their peers will give students a better perspective to show that they aren’t going through this alone. There are others out there who are going through the exact same things. It is time to teach self-compassion. The Latin word ‘optimum’ means “your best”. Let’s encourage students to stop trying to be ‘perfect’, but instead, live their optimum life.

How will it fit into your curriculum (include standards)? (10 points)
Our “success” class incorporates essential communication skills such as conflict resolution, teamwork, collaboration and growth mindset. These tools can be utilized to help our students make good choices when faced with peer interactions. (HE.6.P.8.4 Identify ways health messages and communication techniques can be targeted for different audiences.) One of the requirements for the messages that will be recorded, in addition to explaining the issue or problem they are addressing, students will also need to include the decision they made, and then share how their choices affected the outcome in a positive way. What did they learn from their decision. What would they have done differently. (HE.8.B.5.2 Categorize healthy and unhealthy alternatives to health-related issues or problems.) These situations can then be used on our messages of hope to help other students who may be going through similar situations make better decisions. (HE.7.B.4.1 Apply effective communication skills when interacting with others to enhance health.) Creating these recordings and processing each one will also allow the students to work with and master the skills needed for various types of computer digital media software. (CTE-BUS.68.GENRL.02.01 Define and identify various software applications.)

How will it encourage long-lasting change in your classroom, school or community? (20 points)
The desired end result for this project is two-fold. The first goal is for students to have the opportunity to take a break during their school day when they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. It will be a catalyst to change the way students interact with each other. The students recording the messages will have a sense of accomplishment and feeling positive about helping others. Students will be mentoring and uplifting other students. Instead of turning to anger or depression, resulting from fear and insecurity, they will think about how the messages have helped them, and that will motivate them to help others. The second goal of this program will be to expand it throughout the school. The vision of creating stations around the school, giving students a place to transition between home and school. This project will help students transition from the roller coaster of emotions they deal with every day to get into the mindset of learning in the classroom. The hope is that this will inspire not only other classrooms to include this type of calming area, but also to be accepted into other schools around the district.

How will technology be utilized?  (20 points)
The technology portion of the project deals with recording audio, using editing software and becoming familiar with tablets, audio equipment and a podcast microphone set-up. This project is requesting two (2) iPads, protected in cases, two (2) Apple Pencils, two (2) sets of noise cancelling headphones and a podcast recording microphone. We have been given a donation of the required software for recording and editing, as well as seating and pillows for the calming corner. Classroom instruction methods have changed so much over the last few years. The students will become proficient in modern editing software and digital audio recording equipment. The students that would also benefit from this project, is the students who receive the messages. With advances in technology for the classroom, there are always new and innovative ways for students to learn. We live in a world where we can get things done instantly. If we want a question answered, we ask Google. If we are hungry, we use an app to order groceries or a restaurant meal and it arrives in minutes. So, why not utilize the technology that children are already familiar with to help them when they are in need. Middle school years are some of the toughest to get through in the life of an adolescent. Middle school students face so many issues these days. Some issues are in the home, some are academic, and many are social/emotional involving their peers. These same technological advances have allowed middle school age students to communicate with each other within seconds; unfortunately, many have not been given the tools for proper and appropriate communication. One thing that has been missing from the classroom / school is the emphasis on peer relations. Students spend 7-10 hours a day at their schools. They arrive before school, through breakfast, 7 class periods per day, all the way through to after school clubs and sports. We, as teachers, have a tremendous impact on these students every single day, but we often fail to recognize the impact that students have on each others lives. This impact can be academic, social, emotional, and into almost all aspects of their day. After the completion of the project, my students will not only be proficient in computer hardware, audio recording software and professional recording equipment, they will be able to know that they contributed to the mental and emotional well-being of their fellow students.

What evidence will you collect to show student gain?   (10 points)
Student gains would be measured in two different ways. The students who are creating the recorded messages using the devices and software necessary for this project will be given a pre and post test. The test will include device knowledge, software skills and proper procedure. The second way that student gains would be measured would be to have each student that utilizes the ‘calming corner’ to take an exit survey before they leave. This would allow us to make adjustments as necessary, in real time before the next student uses it. The survey would include things like, ease of use, ratings for the messages and whether or not they would recommend the experience to a peer.

How will participants share your project results with the community?  (15 points)
If our project receives funding, we will be creating a news story for our morning school TV announcements that showcase the project and how it was funded. We also plan to write up a few paragraphs that will be printed in our school newsletter and we have also been in contact with our school press liaison Michael Riley who will share the story in our local newspaper. He is a part of our county schools as well as a contributing writer for the Charlotte Sun newspaper. Our hope is to inspire other schools to incorporate similar projects into their own curriculum.


Service/ Item Description Cost
11-inch iPad Pro x 2 $1498
Wireless over ear noise canceling headphones $200 x 2 $404
iPad protection case $40 x 2 $80
Podcast Recording Microphone & stand $189
Apple Pencil x 2 $248
Total Cost of Project $2419
Total Requested from TERRA $2419
If matching funds identified list source:
Donated Goods/Services:Recording Software and Calming seat

I, Jennifer Bruno, certify that the application is complete and final, AND I verify that I have received permission to apply for these funds from Justina Dionisio,the Principal of Punta Gorda Middle School and any other individuals required by my school district.