A private foundation supporting Barrington Area Unit District 220 has agreed to help fund a proposed outdoor education initiative and expansion of an entrepreneurship program into the middle schools.
Mary Dale, executive director of the Barrington 220 Foundation, said the nonprofit will provide a to-be-determined donation for the district's proposed outdoor science laboratory off Hart Road. The lab would be on part of an undeveloped 67 acres the district owns, and officials say it could cost up to $750,000 to build.
Dale said the foundation also will donate $27,000 to District 220 for creation of the business incubator for eighth-graders at the two middle schools, allowing those students to have a "bridge" between similar programs in fifth grade and high school.
She said the two major projects were recommended for the funding after a vetting process by a committee that included residents and foundation officials. Foundation board trustees gave the final approval, with the selections revealed at a recent soiree at Barrington's White House.
"We do a lot, but our resources are not completely unlimited," Dale said. "And so we want to make sure that we are doing the biggest impact. So, we look at, 'How many students is this touching?'"
Under the outdoor classroom proposal, students would receive practical and hands-on applications of scientific principles in a conservation area just west of Hart Road across from Barrington High School's stadium. The Barrington Area Conservation Trust and Citizens for Conservation have agreed to help in the planning and use of the space.
Student learning could include monitoring stream health, restoring prairie habitat, researching soil composition and studying renewable resources. Superintendent Brian Harris said the idea is to "address science curriculum in a holistic and authentic way and bring science to life for all Barrington 220 students."
Dale said a foundation donation amount will be decided when District 220 narrows the cost projection. In March, the school board agreed to set aside $50,000 in the summer projects budget for a surveyor and consultant to define the scope of what could be done on the Hart Road property.
As for the expansion of the entrepreneurship curriculum with the assistance of the foundation's $27,000, the eighth-graders will participate in mxInc as part of their social studies curriculum at the Prairie and Station middle school campuses in Barrington.
The students will work in teams to create a product with materials that have been reused or recycled. They then will learn to market the product with guidance from adult mentors from the community.
"It just takes it to the next level in terms of sophistication of identifying a product and then thinking through how you're going to manufacture it and then how you're going to market it just beyond your friends," Dale said.
Launched in 1999, the educational foundation has granted about $3.5 million in private money to District 220. Such private foundations typically provide donations for projects unlikely to be paid with taxpayers' dollars in school budgets.