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Hands-on, hi-tech projects get school grant funding

Education foundation awards for spring cycle

The White Salmon Valley Education Foundation (WSVEF) announced the successful applicants for the $20,000 available in the spring 2008 funding cycle.

The first two are hands-on projects at Whitson Elementary and the third is a hi-tech education opportunity at Columbia High.

"We're delighted to fund clearly defined projects with specific goals in mind that will benefit students for years to come," said WSVEF President Anne-Marie Slater. The WSVEF will fulfill three of four grant applications for a total of $20,190.

The first, and largest, grant goes to a Salmon and Water Quality Program benefiting 4th graders at Whitson. The $14,820 will purchase a 10-laptop mobile unit to be shared with up to four classrooms, and provide transportation for students to and from survey sites.

The children rear salmon from eggs in their classroom, make monthly water quality tests of Jewett Creek, and eventually release their salmon into the creek. This long standing program has been designed to help them understand the connection of the Columbia River, White Salmon River, and Lower Jewett Creek as part of a national hatchery system and larger water shed.

The computers will enable students to communicate with other schools to compare lessons learned in salmon rearing, as well as compile and share data with government agencies.

"In these times of changing climates and growing environmental concerns, we value the hands-on experience with the life cycle of a threatened species in our region," said Slater. "When students connect their learning with real-life situations, it makes a lasting impression."

Another Whitson program helping connect children with the natural world around them is the Outdoor Sensory Courtyard. A WSVEF grant of $2,090 will help with the planning of curriculum connected with the Sensory Courtyard, a part of the evolving and on-going Schoolyard Habitat Improvement Plan.

It will also help provide a list of requirements for the overall design of the courtyard prior to construction. The Sensory Courtyard will be used as an outdoor classroom and lab to augment current curriculum, as well as a purely aesthetic place for students and teachers to connect with nature in a native landscape setting.

"In today's world, children are aware of global threats to the environment, but their physical contact and intimacy with nature is fading," said Cheri Anderson, grant applicant and an educator from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

"This space will provide our children the opportunity to connect their learning with hands-on projects and real-life contact with nature during the school day," said Pam Garrett, co-author and Whitson librarian.

Small school districts are often challenged to offer high school students the range of courses and advanced study options available to their peers in larger districts. And creators of a new project at Columbia High School hope to help close that gap. A grant of $3,280 will be used to fund the "Digital Learning Research for Small Schools" project.

It will provide resources for current district staff to investigate and pilot on-line educational programs to enhance high school students' learning opportunities and advanced study options.

Jerry Lewis, project applicant and district technology coordinator, said "With the explosive expansion of on-line educational opportunities, possibilities exist to explore options for CHS students for on-line classes -- with little or no cost -- that were not available a few years, or even a few months, ago."

Said Slater, "We feel it is so important to give our local schools a boost in helping children succeed in the fast-paced and increasingly high tech world of the 21st century."

Since September 2007 the WSVEF has funded grants to the White Salmon schools totaling $79,840.

For more information, or to make a donation, call the foundation at 493-1175, or go to


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