Mercer Island Schools Foundation (MISF), a pillar of the community for 40+ years, is a catalyst enabling the community to give teachers the most effective materials to promote exceptional learning experiences. I met with MISF Executive Director Tammy Shoop to learn about its Student Ambassadors and Teacher Enrichment Grants.
The current ambassadors include Julia Harper, Silas Burkey, and Nathan Wen. According to Tammy, these ambassadors "represent the student voice on the MISF Board." "They help raise awareness among high school peers about the Foundation's work, and they participate in Foundation events and recruit student volunteers."
Here's how Julia described the role:
The Student Ambassadors are non-voting board members representing the students. The main objective of the student ambassador program is to increase student engagement with the foundation. We’re working on building a social media presence that allows students to better understand how the foundation impacts their education. We use our social media presence to get student opinions and get student volunteers for foundation events. Another project we’re working on is connecting with teachers who have been most impacted by the foundation through teacher grants. We’re doing interviews with these teachers on projects they were able to fund with the foundation money and how that has benefited students. ... Our goal is for students at Mercer Island to become advocates for their own education and have a voice in what they are learning.
Teacher Enrichment Grants
In Tammy's words, "Teacher enrichment grants are provided to the schools ... to motivate learners to take a more in-depth or expansive look at a topic." "The grants are intended to promote intrinsic curiosity, further exploration, spark creativity, and inspire lifelong learning."
Teachers submit applications for everything from field trips, author visits, books, and other materials to enhance learning. The Foundation together with the PTA and District look closely at each grant and fund those approved by the principals at each school.
Here are a few examples.
Rita Harvey – MIHS Physics & Chemistry Teacher
This project involves physics 2 students building Stirling engines from ordinary materials and then designing their own experiments to investigate their engines. Students will research a variety of energy-conservation devices before they begin construction of their Stirling engine. The Stirling engine was chosen because it can be used as an engine, a refrigerator, or a heat pump. This investigation will be hands-on and have real-world implications. The students will build, document, run experiments on their design, and present their findings to other classes.
Annalise Rockow, Choir Director at MIHS
Grant enables the choir program to create a partnership with a professional pianist with experience accompanying school choirs. This person will come to classes to rehearse with the students and provide accompaniment at school concerts throughout the year.
"This grant will provide an opportunity for students to explore a diverse array of music. In my repertoire choices, I seek to program a diverse array of music from a wide variety of cultures and styles. The ability to hire a professional musician ensures that I can choose any piece of the repertoire without worrying about the piano accompaniment being a barrier to access."
Carly Adams – West Mercer 5th Grade Teacher
Each fifth-grade classroom would receive a 5-6 session mentorship by a professional writer, who will facilitate the collaborative writing of a class novel, that will culminate in a published book (with a genuine ISBN number!) on Amazon. No materials are needed.
"This project provides a mechanism for emerging student writers to produce a product and feel pride in their work. When students succeed at something they never thought they could do and see their work in the public arena, they often begin to demand a more careful, quality-driven approach to their work."