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McElroy Grant Blog


Welcome to the McElroy Grant Blog! Here, you will find updates from our grant recipients regarding their projects and highlights of the student experiences. 

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R.J McElroy Trust Excellence in Education Enrichment Grant Program Recipients Announced


Keystone AEA has partnered with the R.J. McElroy Trust for approximately twenty years to provide teachers with grant money to fund innovative classroom projects.  Keystone provides administrative support for the application/selection process while McElroy Trust provides $29,000 for the grant awards. Bev Berns, Keystone AEA School Improvement Consultant, facilitates the grant application process.

Process:  Each fall AEA 1 teachers are invited to develop and submit grant proposals for up to $2,000.  Projects are to be implemented during the second semester of the school year. A group of six readers, selected from the education environment, read and score the grants based on a rubric.  The grants that meet selection criteria and score the highest are awarded funding. Grant recipients are required to submit a report detailing the activities, lessons learned, and expenditures of the project. Keystone staff visits some of the classrooms to monitor the projects and to get ideas to help other teachers.  Keystone submits a report to McElroy in June each year.

For the 2022-2023 school year, Keystone received thirty-eight grant applications for a total amount requested of $63,033.13. Nineteen of the grant applications were awarded funding.

Please follow the McElroy grant blog for updates on the projects awarded!


2022-2023 McElroy Grant Recipients (listed alphabetically by district):

STEAM Program for Middle School Students

Students will have the opportunity to explore STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) through a variety of activities. Project examples include learning about electricity through building working circuits, utilizing Makey Makey’s and Finch Robots to introduce computer science and programming to students, and creating unique products related to STEAM concepts with kits for catapults, boats, and quilling. The need for students to develop strong skills in STEAM is important for their future regardless of their intended career path. This project will provide our next generation students with the early skills and interests necessary to pursue further STEAM education.

  • Amount Awarded: $1,989.00
  • Grade Level: 6-8
  • School: Mazzuchelli Middle School
  • District: Archdiocese
  • Teacher: Andera Reilly


Sewing Pillow Monsters for Kindergarten Buddies

During this project, kindergarten students will collaborate with 8th-grade students to create pillow monsters! To start, kindergarteners will illustrate a monster in art class. They learn about expressions, eyes, shapes, textures, and color. After they have created their monster, the images are scanned and used in creating a story. From there, eighth graders will take the images and will help the kindergarteners write a 10-page storybook. To complement the book, characters from the book will be made into pillows. Eighth graders will create patterns and create the pillows to complete the storybook project. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,200
  • Grade Level: 6-8
  • School: St. Teresa of Calcutta
  • District: Archdiocese
  • Teachers: Robin Timp and Marie Monroe


Innovating Students’ Problem-Solving Through Technology

The goal of this project is for students to be exposed to careers in the technology field and gain experience working with microcontrollers, a circuit designed to carry out specific operations. This student-led experience will engage students in three phases of learning: Explore, Engage, and Apply. In the Explore phase, students will build their understanding of how the Arduino works and brainstorm and model a potential solution to a problem. The Engage phase is the hands-on  component transferring ideas to TinkerCad to explore all the components of the Arduino and get feedback on designs. The final phase is physical modeling where students will engineer, create, and program robots. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,388.60
  • Grade Level: 5/TAG
  • School: Clayton Ridge Elementary
  • District: Clayton Ridge CSD
  • Teacher: Margo Friedlein 



Hummingbird Kits by Birdbrain Industries combined with Micro:Bits take microcomputing to the next level of Blooms. Students will be able to become engineers and explore their creative side, all while learning about computer science. Throughout this project, the teacher is the facilitator, mentor, and coach while students apply their learning to personally meaningful products. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,701.79
  • Grade Level: 7
  • School: Decorah Middle School
  • District: Decorah CSD
  • Teacher: Steve Larson


Employability Skills: Renewable Energy Project-Based Learning

“What is the best renewable energy source for our community? During this May term project, students will connect with a variety of industry partners to research different renewable energy sources and create models. Guest speakers will support students in their designs as well as have career conversations. Students will create a presentation/proposal to present to a public audience, which might include the school board, city council,  etc. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,925.00
  • Grade Level: 9-10
  • School: Alta Vista Campus
  • District: Dubuque CSD
  • Teacher: Anthony Tuttle


Let’s Get It ARTed

Let’s get it ARTed is a collaborative project in which 10th-12th grade students enrolled in Advanced Art 3D course. Through this project, students will provide multiple lessons and supports in engaging senior residents in the artistic thinking and creative process. Students will travel to a nearby senior living community and provide materials, instruction, feedback, and additional support in making art with the residents. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,140.00
  • Grade Level: 10-12
  • School: Hempstead High School
  • District: Dubuque CSD
  • Teacher: Thaeley Holzer


Lit Kits for Little Kids

This project will support an inclusive early childhood special education preschool program. Staff will create and manage multiple sets of take-home kits that offer age-appropriate literature to provide families with developmentally appropriate activities to explore literacy skills. Each kit will contain two or three books and activities matching the book topics and skill areas of focus. 

  • Amount Awarded: $2,000
  • Grade Level: Preschool
  • School: Lincoln Elementary
  • District: Dubuque CSD
  • Teacher: Katie Potter


Screenless Coding and Computer Science

As we introduce computer science to our youngest learners, it needs to be age-appropriate, embedded in problem-based and play-based learning. This project will utilize Sphero indi Robots to support a variety of applications with PK-1 students in a screen-free way. Students will design mazes using color-coded cards. As the students progress through the learning process and become familiar with coding, they will advance to sequencing, algorithms, and many other coding concepts such as block-based coding. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,200
  • Grade Level: PreK-1
  • School: Marshall Elementary
  • District: Dubuque CSD
  • Teacher: Theresa Northouse


Digital Writing Tablets

In Kindergarten, we like to celebrate daily learning! The writing tablets will engage students at various developmental levels, some students will write their names while others can write letter sounds or words. The tablets will also be integrated into reading groups, individual intervention instruction, math practice, as well as support fine motor and writing skills to form the correct letter formation to write sight words. 

  • Amount Awarded: $431.76
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten
  • School: Table Mound Elementary
  • District: Dubuque CSD
  • Teachers: Rachael Kilburg, Amy Herber, and Brittany Becker


Newton’s Law of Motion Using Smart Carts

Teaching about Newton’s Laws often comes with the challenge of measuring motion accurately and allowing for students to engage in a more rigorous, hands-on learning experience in physics class. The Smart Cart is a low-friction dynamics cart with onboard wireless sensors that measure position, velocity, acceleration, force, and rotation. Students will plan and carry out investigations and use graphical analysis of results to provide evidence of their learning.

  • Amount Awarded: $2,000
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • School: Crestwood High School
  • District: Howard-Winneshiek CSD
  • Teachers: Karen Steffen and Jessica Hillers


Streaming and Podcasting Lab

The goal is to create a multi-media production and creator space to be utilized by students of various activities and academic classes in middle school and high school. Student projects will include skills related to podcasting, broadcasting, live streaming, audio/video editing, music production, and more. The project was inspired when establishing an Esports team needing skills and experience with live streaming, broadcasting, and providing color commentary.  

  • Amount Awarded: $2,000
  • Grade Level: 5-12
  • School: New Hampton Middle and High School
  • School District: New Hampton CSD
  • Teacher: Justin Adam


Culture Through Culinary

“Culture Through Culinary” is intended to assist students in better understanding the Hispanic culture. At least two levels of Spanish classes will research various Hispanic cultures and determine foods that demonstrate the specific culture’s values and history. They will invite members of the Hispanic community to demonstrate food preparation and cooking techniques. Using the cooking appliances and utensils purchased with the grant and with the community member’s assistance, students will prepare cultural dishes. Students will have the opportunity to taste a variety of foods that may be new to them. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,000
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • School: New Hampton High School
  • District: New Hampton CSD
  • Teacher: Kris Ward and Tisha Macon


Ramps and Pathways

This project is geared toward 3-5-year-olds in order to foster their deductive reasoning and critical thinking skills through STEAM within the preschool block center. As children engage with the materials, they are challenged to explore concepts such as force and motion.  Through exploration, they will develop a hypothesis, understand cause and effect, and increase their persistence through trial and error. The project outcome will develop important and foundational problem-solving and deductive reasoning skills. Students will be involved in this project through exploration in a hands on learning environment. They will be questioning and commenting which will help stimulate their thinking, drawing their attention to details, and assist them in constructing mental relationships. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,651.96
  • Grade Level: Preschool/ Special Education
  • School: West Union Elementary
  • School District: North Fayette CSD
  • Teacher: Emily Kuller


E Start Speed Enhancement

This project ties together students who are in physical education and athletics with a focus on improving students’ reaction times when sprinting. The overall focus is on body movement, skill work, and data collection to support personal growth. Feedback will be provided to students through observation and data collection of the times from sprints. 

  • Amount Awarded: $598.00
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • School: Oelwein High School
  • District: Oelwein CSD
  • Teachers: Josh Vanderloop and Bob Lape


Point of Sale System for Student-Run Store

Business, Family and Consumer Science, and Art classes will collaborate with local business owners to operate a student-led storefront across the street from the school. Through the collaboration, the overall goal of this project is to have students fully operate the store and offer a variety of services and products including but not limited to screen printing, embroidery, and engraving. the project will require the business department, work-based learning coordinator, students, and art department to collaborate to cover all aspects of a graphic design business. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,988.98
  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • School: Riceville High School
  • District: Riceville CSD
  • Teachers: Andrea Bauer, Nicole Smith, Amanda Conway


Starting a Legacy

The Starting a Legacy project will offer students in grades 6-12 a greater chance at creating their own identity in the school through the display of their art around the school in two phases. Phase one projects relate to a theme of “Uniquely Beautiful” where students submit original works of art and over time explore a variety of materials, mediums, and products in order to create a final product. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,990.00
  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • School: Starmont Middle School
  • District: Starmont
  • Teachers: Amanda Knox, Linda Sneed, and Sue Klett


Mini Market

Exploring and introducing careers through dramatic play in early childhood helps students learn about the real world and to connect why they are learning what they are learning. Experiences for our little learners will include an apple orchard/store, a pet shop, a restaurant, a farmer’s market, and much more. Students will partner with older students and the collaboration offers countless opportunities! 

  • Amount Awarded: $2,000
  • Grade Level: Preschool
  • School: Turkey Valley Elementary
  • District: Turkey Valley CSD
  • Teacher: Christina Carlton


Flexible Seating for Flexible Minds

For students in special education, it is important to encourage them to advocate for themselves and their learning needs. Many students state within their IEP that they learn best when moving around versus sitting at a traditional chair and desk, but how do we help them specifically explore what works best for them? Through this grant, students will have access to a variety of seating options that can be utilized in the classrooms. Through reflection, students will identify what works best for their learning style.  

  • Amount Awarded: $1,924.92
  • Grade Level: 5-8
  • School: West Delaware Middle School
  • District: West Delaware CSD
  • Teacher: Kendra Vix


Donuts to Dollars

To build students’ understanding of business and entrepreneurship, students will produce and sell donuts. This would be used by all Foods 2, Foods 3, and Bakery students. Students will make decisions about what type of donuts to make, find and execute recipes, and package items. We want to produce students who can work together to solve problems, adapt to challenges, and create a great product. 

  • Amount Awarded: $1,988.98
  • Grade Level: 10-12
  • School: Western Dubuque High School
  • School District: Western Dubuque CSD
  • Teacher: Liza Walke-Pollitt



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