Boots Are Optional But Attending the Barn Bash Is a Must!

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October 2019

It’s that time of year again! Time to grab your cowboy boots, best hats and best friends and purchase your tickets for the 2019 Barn Bash. For a night out in support of teachers, schools and students, join us on Nov. 9, 2019, for Zionsville Education Foundation’s (ZEF) Annual Barn Bash at the Golf Club of Indiana.

Boots Are Optional

What Is ZEF?

Did you know that Zionsville Community Schools is the lowest-funded public school corporation per student in the state? The funds raised by ZEF are used to help bridge the gap between the basic curricular necessities provided by the state funds and the innovative ideas our educators create to encourage our students to develop into lifelong thinkers.

ZEF relies on corporate sponsors, individual donations, support from local businesses and fundraising events, such as its annual Barn Bash, to support its mission. The funds that are donated and/or raised are used to award grants to ZCS teachers that are categorized as: Classroom Grants, Imagine Professional Development Grants and Student Enrichment Grants.

Each year, ZEF accepts applications for these grants as well as ZEF’s Donors Choose Matching Funds program that is made possible through a generous grant from the Community Foundation of Boone County. ZEF provides matching funds to ZCS educators raising funds for an educational project through

In Their Own Words

A few of last year’s grant recipients shared what they have done with their grant money and the importance of supporting ZEF from an educator’s perspective.

Allison Spillman, Literacy Coach at Stonegate Elementary: Promoting Cultural Understandings Through Literature

“In Zionsville, our classroom populations historically have been homogenous, but the landscape of our student population is changing,” Spillman shared. “ZCS is fortunate to have students whose families speak 52 different languages as part of our school community, and we have students who come from many diverse cultures. Stonegate Elementary alone has students whose families speak 14 different languages. The diversity in our community is growing. Unfortunately, the availability of children’s books with multicultural characters is limited.”

Spillman added, “When ZEF funded my grant, they provided between seven and 10 books for the classroom libraries in every K-4 classroom at Stonegate Elementary. By reading literature with diverse characters, topics and settings, students will develop cultural understandings, one of the domains of the Strong in Every Way initiative. This promotes civility and citizenship and helps students be able to interact positively and thrive in a diverse society and world.”

Andy Knueven, Fifth-Grade Math and Science at ZWEST: Sync Our Students with Digital Ink

“I received this grant in fall 2018, which has 100% revitalized my classroom instruction,” Knueven shared. “Students are given the choice to utilize the digital drawing tablets, as writing by hand helps the brain connect with the material at a greater level. Last winter, students used the tablets to digitally design their Rube Goldberg projects, which I was able to access digitally too with my ZEF-supported iPad to provide feedback, and we could both access their digital notebooks at the same time.”

Knueven continued, “ZEF grants and support in the classroom is one main reason why our classrooms stand out compared to any other district or school corporation. I love hearing, encouraging and coaching new hires or others who are interested in finding ways to believe in themselves that a ZEF grant is possible to enhance the learning experience and opportunity for each of our students. There are so many amazing supporters to ZEF, but the annual Barn Bash provides an opportunity to unite as a whole, celebrate all our schools, their teachers and most importantly, our students’ futures. Our families typically only see what occurs within their child’s school, but the ZEF Barn Bash allows the community to see the magic that is occurring across our district’s classrooms to feed our students’ minds to pursue excellence in whatever passions they may have.”

Kelsey Buckley (Library Media Specialist) and Emily Wleklinski (Sixth-Grade Humanities) at ZMS: Exploring the Stories of Readers, Writers and Historians

Our project, Exploring the Stories of Readers, Writers and Historians, impacted nearly 1,200 students at ZMS through the purchase of novels and multiple presentations by Alan Gratz, a well-known author who has perfected the art of developing the stories of his characters in historical events. Through the novel studies and author visit, students learned how writers develop the human voices and narratives of the events they read about in their history textbooks. This project promoted academic excellence by providing high-interest reading and writing experiences that address state standards across multiple curriculum areas and grade levels.”

Elementary STEM Team—Lead Grant Writer Kara Benson (Boone Meadow) for the Elementary STEM Team with Assistance from Other STEM Coaches: Molly Haas (Eagle), Amy Brandau (Pleasantview), Jen Skura (Stonegate), Trish Brimmer (Union)—K-4 STEM (Integrated Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Lessons, Robotics, and Coding): Robotics for Newbies

“ZEF is integral to the success of STEM instruction in our elementary schools. While our science and engineering classroom supplies are provided by the school district directly, there is not a budget for robotics equipment. Nearly 100% of our robotics equipment K-4 has been funded by ZEF throughout the years, as have other smaller components of our elementary STEM program. The educators and youth in our community are lucky to have ZEF supporting us.

“STEM and robotics aren’t the only pieces of ZEF’s mission. They also contribute to and make possible dream projects, innovative classroom initiatives and other vital programs in our schools. We couldn’t do what we do in ZCS without a partner like ZEF. We need the community support. Contributing to ZEF and attending the Barn Bash and other fundraising events is not only fun, but it makes a difference for our kids. Thank you, ZEF! Thank you, Zionsville!”

What’s New at This Year’s Barn Bash?

This year’s Barn Bash co-chairs, Amy Essley and Kim Lewis, shared what attendees can expect at this year’s Barn Bash.

Boots Are Optional

“We’ve always had VIP tickets, but this year we are doing it [VIP] a little bit different,” Lewis said. “We are going to have a VIP reception an hour before the doors open to the general ticket holders. VIPs will enjoy an open bar, appetizers and Chad Collyer—a professional magician/mind reader—who is so much fun and is kindly donating his time for this event.”

Lewis credited the Golf Club of Indiana for their support of ZEF’s growing event and thanked them for their accommodating services. She also mentioned that this year’s fundraiser will feature Big Roscoe as the night’s musical entertainment. There will be a silent/online auction in addition to a live auction at the event featuring some incredible items and experiences.

Essley added, “There will be a wine and gift card pull. We’ve purposely made it [the fundraiser] more of a party-like atmosphere versus a sit-down formal dinner. People can mix and mingle, dance and bid on auction items and participate in the ‘Cap Off the Night’ that we do at the end of the night, and anyone who makes a minimum of a $50 donation gets a hat. It’s become a tradition and a way to continue sharing the ZEF message throughout the year. Plus, people look forward to having a new [ZEF] hat every year.”

Essley concluded, “It is the most fun fundraiser you will go to. It’s very social, and people are grazing and socializing and dancing and having fun. If you’re new to town, this is a great place to meet a lot of parents from the community. It’s not a stuffy fundraiser at all, so bring your boots and your cowboy hats and come ready to have a good time!”

For more information and to purchase tickets for Barn Bash 2019, visit