GAR Foundation Renews Three-year Commitment to Essential Experiences℠


Akron, Ohio, (September 14, 2022) — GAR Foundation announces the continuation of Essential Experiences℠, which provides every Akron Public Schools student in PreK through 5th grade with a meaningful, co-curricular experience outside of the classroom. The renewal provides an additional $2.1 million in support, nearly doubling their initial investment for the next three years.

Essential Experiences℠ began through a partnership with Akron Public Schools to offer high-quality
experiential learning, supporting the value of co-curricular experiences.

“The learning and fun provided by Essential Experiences℠ have been much more comprehensive than any traditional field trip,” said Kirstin Toth, senior vice president of GAR Foundation. “We’re beyond thrilled to commit to another three years of experiences for APS students. Through this initiative, learning takes place long before the field trip with pre-visit activities in the classroom, and it continues as the teachers extend their lessons once the students head back to the classroom.”

Since its launch in 2019, Essential Experiences℠ has served roughly 9,000 APS students each year through partnerships with key arts and cultural institutions throughout the greater Akron area. The grantee partners are ArtSparks, Akron Children’s Museum, Akron Art Museum, Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center, Akron Zoo, Hale Farm & Village, and Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. Students will continue to visit these organizations to participate in educational programming directly connected to classroom learning.

Akron Public Schools Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack said of the opportunity for students, “GAR Foundation’s Essential Experiences℠ has truly expanded the horizons of our scholars by creating what really are educational adventures. This has opened their world in a special way.”

Essential Experiences℠ features high-quality, custom-designed educational programming that not only creates equity for all APS students, but also deepens students’ connections to the community, builds their skill sets through inquiry, and exposes them to possible career paths.

“We’re excited to add the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center and the Akron Children’s Museum this year,” said GAR Foundation Program Officer Bronlynn Thurman. “We’ll continue fine-tuning the program to give students the best experiences possible.”

Essential Experiences℠ are as follows:

PreK students will participate in a 15-week art and music program by ArtSparks called “Ready, Spark, Kindergarten,” a program that joyfully fosters kindergarten readiness skills through rhyming and dance. This experience will culminate in energetic live showcases in their classrooms with parent audiences.

All kindergarten students will spend the day on-site at the Akron Children’s Museum participating in “Explore Galore with Monsters and More!” where they’ll practice learning skills in predicting, estimating, counting, sorting, and more through playful discovery and problem-solving.

First-grade students will participate in a two-part experience with the Akron Zoo “Animal Encounters,” in which the Akron ZooMobile will visit every first-grade classroom to enable students to interact with living and nonliving things in a controlled environment and expand their understanding of their impact
on the ecosystem. Then, all first graders will travel to the Akron Zoo for a guided tour where students will observe habitats and discover how zoologists develop healthy and thriving ecosystems that are tailored to the needs of each organism.

Every second-grade student will spend the day as “Junior Rangers: Ecosystem Explorers” at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park exploring the natural world around them. They will practice observation skills while investigating pond and forest
ecosystems. Students will “think like a scientist” through exploratory activities centered around making observations, asking questions about their observations, and making personal connections.

Each third-grade student will learn about entrepreneurship through the “Market and Me” experience at Hale Farm & Village. Students will explore the history of the market system during the 1800s. Each class will examine how economic principles have changed in our community over time. They will bring
these foundational concepts to life by creating and pitching their own business plans and gaining exposure to modern-day entrepreneurs.

Every fourth-grade student will visit the Akron Art Museum and will work individually and collaboratively to solve the “Mystery at the Museum,” an unfinished graphic arts novel. They will use clues embedded in the museum’s art collection to solve the mystery. Students will have an opportunity to publish their graphic arts novels via the Akron Art Museum.

Fifth-grade students will advance their geography and history skills by visiting Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. Students will “Meet the Staff” from the organization’s past by taking on the identity of a 1920s immigrant or migrant and learning why they came to Akron. They will learn how the immigrant staff
managed daily life in their “new” country and strengthened the flourishing city of Akron. Students will then be able to apply their knowledge to modern-day immigration.

“Essential Experiences℠ gives teachers those memorable ‘aha’ moments with students. These really are amplified field trips that offer young people a deep learning adventure that captures and holds their attention. We are so grateful for GAR and all partners who work on behalf of our students,” said Fowler Mack.