15 Public Schools Put on Their Thinkfinity Caps

BOSTON - If they had to rely on their 20-year-old social studies textbooks, fourth- and fifth-grade students in the Blackstone-Millville regional school district would know nothing about the Gulf War, 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina.

But a classroom project that uses an online educational tool, developed by Verizon and endorsed by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, will make amends. 

The project is one of 15 creative educational-improvement ideas that will come to fruition, thanks to $150,000 in grants awarded by the Verizon Foundation as part of the 2009 Think Ahead With Thinkfinity Awards. 

In a ceremony at Framingham High School on Monday (June 8), Verizon Region President Donna Cupelo announced the 15 Massachusetts schools that won the awards, of $10,000 each.  The winners will incorporate Verizon's Thinkfinity.org online educational portal in classroom projects that are designed to improve student performance on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test and other educational goals.

"We were impressed with the number of creative proposals submitted by public schools and school districts across Massachusetts," said Cupelo.  "Thinkfinity provides educators with a tool to help them prepare students for future academic success.  The Verizon Foundation is thrilled to support educators in their quest to challenge students to reach even higher goals."

Thinkfinity.org is the Verizon Foundation's comprehensive online portal that offers more than 55,000 educational and literacy resources for teachers, parents and students. Resources include standards-based, grade-specific, K-12 lesson plans and engaging interactive activities provided in partnership with many of the nation's leading educational and literacy organizations.

Teachers and administrators in the Blackstone Millville district are reinventing how they deliver the fourth- and fifth-grade social studies curriculum by using Thinkfinity to supplement outdated textbooks.

"The last time we were able to buy new social studies textbooks was 20 years ago," said teacher Estelle Martineau. "They are expensive - $40-$80 each - and, frankly, we are strapped for resources, like every other school system. Using Thinkfinity.org's contemporary, interactive lessons - which, by the way, are a lot of fun - is going to make a huge difference in what our students learn and in how they learn."

In addition to Blackstone Millville, Verizon awards were made to schools in Brockton, Fitchburg, Framingham, Hamilton-Wenham, Tewksbury, Peabody, Lawrence, North Adams, Plymouth, Roxbury, Northampton, Taunton, Truro and Worcester.

Verizon received a total of 55 applications for the Thinkfinity grants from school systems throughout Massachusetts.

The Verizon Foundation recently awarded $130,000 to support a partnership with Lesley University and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to train teachers to use Thinkfinity.org in the classroom.  The partnership is providing professional development opportunities to classroom and teachers statewide through onsite and online training; resources to create a Massachusetts network of Thinkfinity trainers; and a mechanism to ensure that Thinkfinity resources are aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. 

The Web site offers teachers resources across eight academic disciplines, from science to English to mathematics, to improve student achievement. Thinkfinity.org is designed to help teachers gain access to lesson plans, interactive activities, primary sources, references and other authoritative resources that can be searched by grade level, keyword, subject or resource type.

Content for Thinkfinity.org is provided through a partnership between the Verizon Foundation and 11 of the nation's leading organizations in the fields of education and literacy: the American Association for the Advancement of Science, International Reading Association, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National Center for Family Literacy, National Council on Economic Education, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Council of Teachers of English, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Geographic Society, ProLiteracy Worldwide and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, supports the advancement of literacy and K-12 education through its free educational Web site, Thinkfinity.org, and fosters awareness and prevention of domestic violence.  In 2008, the Verizon Foundation awarded more than $68 million in grants to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad.  It also matched the charitable donations of Verizon employees and retirees, resulting in an additional $26 million in combined contributions to nonprofits.  Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the nation's largest employee volunteer programs, Verizon employees and retirees have volunteered more than 3 million hours of community service since 2000. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizonfoundation.org.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving more than 86 million customers nationwide.  Verizon's Wireline operations provide converged communications, information and entertainment services over the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network.  Wireline also includes Verizon Business, which delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 237,000 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of more than $97 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.