According to Dr. Althea Hammond, principal of Ambrose Plamondon School in Douglas Park, Plamondon is a truly unique place.
“The children, the parents, the staff; I could not have asked to have been in a better place,” she says. “If you want to see a ‘Kumbaya’ place, it happens every day at Plamondon. It’s been amplified by the gift that Chance has given us.” Their biggest challenge is funding. As both the principal and instructional leader for the school, it is stressful being unable to provide the resources that teachers and staff need to properly educate the students at Plamondon. “Everybody here at Plamondon thinks the sky is the limit for what children can do,” Dr. Hammond says. “Unfortunately the sky isn’t the limit for what they can do because we are limited in funding. We’re not missing out, but we just can’t get as big as we can get.” With the help of the New Chance Arts and Literature Fund, however, the school will have the opportunity to support the students in a new way.
Before the New Chance Fund opened doors to opportunity for the school, Plamondon used a single all-purpose room to house presentations, art projects, and more, and teachers were greatly limited in what they could do and present to their students.
Math and science teacher Joanna Bianca-Lana says, “Right now in my classroom I’m very limited to where it’s mostly demonstrations because we can’t do many hands-on activities in the classroom.” Music teacher Sarah Sand explains that her biggest challenge is also not having the materials to help teach the students effectively. Currently, the school only has a few percussion instruments and recorders, but the grant will allow Plamondon to purchase new instruments and other teaching materials.
“What science looks like in these classrooms right now is…limited opportunities for inquiry-based learning,” Dr. Hammond says. “The science lab will give children the opportunity to be scientists. It will give teachers the opportunity to live as scientists in the school and give children those experiences.” Now, the school is dedicating the donation to improving the music and science programs. “Science is the vehicle for now and in the future,” Dr. Hammond says. “This grant is the catalyst to show students there is something else out there other than playing basketball or [another] sport to move forward.” Dr. Hammond explains that students will get the exposure to a variety of fields.
Dr. Hammond believes in the reflection of science in the arts, and her science teacher background helps inspire this. “You can become an engineer, you can become an artist, with the help of science,” she says. The grant has allowed the school to purchases licenses to put on musicals such as Seussical, Junior and more.
Already the fund has had a great impact on morale. “We have been super excited since the first announcement,” Dr. Hammond says. “I have been cloud nine, and the staff has been [too].” Bianca-Lana explained, “It’s going to be absolutely amazing. I am overwhelmed with excitement for it. Just thinking about telling my middle school students, ‘We’re going to the lab today. We’re going to see specimens. We’re going to do experiments.’” The students have enjoyed improved morale, too. Plamondon second grader Justice says, “The school is pretty cool because we have amazing teachers and an amazing principal.”
The fund will also provide more opportunities for community involvement.
Dr. Hammond encourages parents and community members to help in terms of volunteering and chaperoning field trips. Other partnerships include Cinespace Film Studios, who provides materials or funding when they ask for it, as well as Mount Sinai Hospital’s Under the Rainbow Program which provides mental health services. The science lab will allow for more fluid collaboration with Mount Sinai Hospital to provide mental health training to teachers using zebra fish models. They will also be providing materials to the science lab. Sand says, “I think community members could help us by coming in and seeing what we’re doing to find out how they can help us.” Through volunteer work and other interactions, community members and organizations can see how their services and efforts can complement the projects the school is already working on.
The students are excited about both the new music program and the science lab. Second grader Nathaniel says, “We will have more music instruments, so instead of just learning beats, we will learn how to play the instruments.” He already plays drums, harmonica, and guitar, and he is looking forward to learning more. Justice likes to play the drums because she likes to be loud.
Learn more about the New Chance Arts & Literature Fund. You can also learn more about our mission and other initiatives like Warmest Winter Chicago and Open Mike.
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Date & Time
Friday, November 9th