Vashon Partners in Education recently provided more than $55,000 in grants to island educators for a variety of projects and programs.
For more than 30 years, PIE — as many people know it — has fulfilled grants each fall with the goal of enhancing education for island students. This year PIE awarded more money than it has previously, funding 41 grants. Last year’s total was $42,000 divided among 27 grants, according to PIE President Jenna Riggs. The two previous years the awards totaled less than $40,000. Riggs, who has been on the PIE board since 2010, said grant requests are always strong, and this round even more so.
“There were a lot of really great grant requests this year. We were pleased with their thoughtfulness and creativity,” she said.
The grants submitted spanned a wide range, from Vashon High School teacher Jason Butler requesting funds to provide every senior with a copy of the U.S, Constitution to supplies for a new wilderness program for kindergarteners based on Erin Kenny’s Cedarsong training.
At the school board meeting earlier this month, Riggs and three teachers who received grants provided a presentation to the board about their requests and visions. Riggs said the teachers were selected because their grants were the most innovative of all those submitted.
Representing Chautauqua Elementary School, second-grade teacher Esther Morrison said she and two other teachers had joined together to enhance an underutilized courtyard area outside the second-grade classrooms.
Calling the area a “no-man’s, no-woman’s land,” she said she had been trying to do something about the space for years, particularly for kids who do not want to be in the “rough and tumble” of the larger playground area. With $3,400 in PIE grants, tables are coming for that area, as well as a rock river, with students painting and contributing their own rocks. There will also be an art installation with art teacher Tara Brenno involving all the kids in the school.
Morrison noted she would like to see the area covered — and will request funds for that in the future.
At McMurray Middle School, teacher Amy Holmes wrote a grant to expand a food and cooking program.
Last year, she said, the program was designed by the special education department and was meant to be an inclusive class to teach life skills.
“It became wildly successful all across the school,” she told the board.
This year, the course will have a multicultural focus. Like last year, it will be in the Learning Resource Center, she said, noting those involved have “big dreams” that may include an outdoor kitchen some day.
This year’s $1,700 in grant money will buy a standing mixer, blender, demonstration mirror and specialty ingredients.
Andy Callender drew laughs when he introduced his grant.
“I have always been very interested in answering the question the students always ask me, ‘When am I ever going to use this?’” he said.
Many years of searching led him last summer to the answer: The STEM Guitar Project, organized by the National Science Foundation.
He attended a project workshop for a week and built a guitar from a kit — which some VHS students will soon be able to do.
“The idea is you are teaching the mathematics and science of how guitars work and how they are constructed,” he said.
Each guitar takes about 40 hours to build. A tremendous amount of math and music theory is involved, he added, noting that he also wants to teach kids to play the instruments.
A course will be offered next year after a pilot next semester with students in the Pathways alternative learning program.
The $2,400 PIE awarded to Callender will buy five kits and specialty tools.
Superintendent Slade McSheehy welcomed the grants, saying after the meeting, “PIE is a valuable partner in our work to provide world-class education and services to our kids.”
The money that PIE awards is donated by island individuals and businesses primarily through the annual PIE phonathon in the fall and dog sponsorships at the Vashon Sheepdog Classic in June.
Vashon’s public school teachers, staff and other community members are encouraged to submit grant proposals in the fall for items or programs the district budget does not cover, according to the PIE website. Board members evaluate the grants on their educational value, innovation, need and impact.
For more information or to donate, see vashonpie.org.