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South McKeel Receives $5,000 for Videoconferencing Program to Engage Students Around the Globe

Funded in part by a grant from the 2014 Impact Polk Initiative of the GiveWell Community Foundatio

Lakeland, FL  (April 15, 2014) -  South McKeel Academy is the proud recipient of a $5,000 grant from the GiveWell Community Foundation as part of the 2014 Impact Polk initiative.  South McKeel Academy’s “Bring the World in to the Classroom: Using Interactive Videoconferencing to Gain 21st Century Skills” application was chosen for partial funding.  During a formal presentation, the McKeel Board of Trustees accepted the check from Johanna Martinez, Grants Manager for GiveWell Community Foundation.

“We are extremely excited to have this opportunity to launch this program with all of our students,” stated Mrs. Judi Morris, South McKeel Academy Principal.  “This generous gift provides us with a way to build essential communication and collaboration skills while cultivating global awareness and citizenship.  The possibilities are endless.” 

Interactive videoconferencing in the classroom is a reality, and provides powerful communication and learning tools.  The grant will enhance the sound and video quality beyond what can traditionally be done with Skype that the students have used since the fall of 2013.  The teachers and students use videoconferencing as a collaborative learning experience between students from all over the world.  Being able to discuss topics with experts and hear storytellers helps engage students.  With enhanced connectivity, teachers will be able to use resources from the Smithsonian and other interactive, virtual field trips who set those higher levels as requirements to access their resources.  

The project focus is to increase student engagement and foster global awareness.  Students develop effective listening and speaking skills in real world contexts, and cultivate their cultural understanding as they interact with peers and experts at a distance.  South McKeel Academy expects all grade levels to utilize the enhanced program.

South McKeel Academy opened its doors in August 2006 as a K-5 start-up public charter school contracted by Polk County Schools to offer an elementary program in South Lakeland in a former skating rink.  The campus added grades 6 and 7 in 2009 in the adjacent former bowling alley, and now had 1164 PreK-7 grade students and 104 staff.   South McKeel Academy was designated as a high-performing charter school in 2011 and is under the direction of Principal Judi Morris. 

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