Wheatland j1 School District wins Tauscher’s Literacy Grant

Wheatland Center School teachers (from left) Kandi Horton and Megan Zirbel. /Contributed photo

The Wheatland J1 School District was awarded a $3,000 literacy grant from the TRIFECTA Foundation.

The grant written by Wheatland Center School teachers Megan Zirbel and Kandi Horton focuses on empowering students to participate in real world science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) experiences based on children’s books. The literature list chosen features titles that align with Wisconsin adopted Science and Engineering practice standards along with immersion in literacy. By connecting reading and STEM fields, the district hoped to bring literacy to life as students engage in hands-on, creative, STEM projects.  

The TRIFECTA Foundation (Tauscher’s Reading Initiative For Every Child To Achieve) was started by Mark Tauscher and his wife Sarah in 2005. The goals of the foundation are to enhance the education and literacy of children in Wisconsin by:

  • Meeting locally identified literacy needs.
  • Promoting creative learning experiences in and out of the classroom.
  • Offering unique opportunities to inspire children to read.
  • Working with local organizations to improve literacy statistics.
  • Stimulating creativity and imagination in children.
  • Motivating children to realize their potential.

With this grant, the district will be creating literacy rich, hands on activities that bring books to life by organizing a Literacy Day.  The district will pair 15 different children’s books with a STEM activity in a bin full of supplies for each group of students to read the book and do the STEM activity.  4K-4 grades will be paired with a Buddy Class from 5-8 grades to create a schoolwide literacy day focused on bringing books to life by making real world connections in STEM.  Teachers will group their buddies into 8 smaller groups and give them a bin consisting of the book and STEM supplies. Older students will read the book to the younger students and then participate in the STEM activity together.  The STEM activities will be directly connected to some aspect of the book and follow the Engineering and Design process.

Horton, teacher in Wheatland’s personalized learning academy said, “Teachers will be able to use these reading/STEM activities at minimum one time per month. This will keep enriching students’ reading experiences throughout the year and beyond. Our hope is to make our students enthusiastic readers and problem solvers for life-long learning.”

Each grade will also have different guests who will come in and talk about their STEM related career. Guests will be available to work with groups and provide meaningful and timely feedback as students engage in science and
engineering practices such as designing models, defining problems and developing solutions. Students will be able to communicate their thoughts and ideas to an authentic audience, strengthening their purpose for reading
and building while being exposed to different careers.

“We continue to use STEAM activities to create connections between life and literature,” said Zirbel, Wheatland’s STEAM coordinator and Middle
School science teacher. “As a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics school we look for opportunities to engage students in cross-curricular projects that teach literacy skills through the design process. This grant will give us the opportunity to make relevant and related connections for years to come.”


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