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Foundation plants 'SEED' of learning with new program

New weekend courses give students chance to explore interests


by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Clara Pane, a 4th grader Alberta Rider Elementary School on Bull Mountain, prepares a drawing of Peter Rabbit during an Art Literacy class in 2012. The Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools, which funds art literacy, is launching a new program of no-credit extracurrilcar courses next month.No homework, no grades, no pressure.

That’s the idea behind a new program launched by the Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools this week.

The program, called SEED, is currently enrolling students in special one-hour-a-week courses aimed at making learning a bit more fun for students in Tigard-Tualatin schools.

The foundation plans to launch the pilot program next month. SEED is meant to offer interesting, no-credit classes to expose students to areas of study they might not have taken before.

“It’s just something to interest kids who have a little something extra that they want to do,” said foundation board member Jessica Cousineau.

Every Sunday for six weeks, students will meet at Tigard High for one hour. Classes begin in January and run through February.

With classes like songwriting, improvisational acting and video game design, the courses are designed to get students learning through activities.

Register now

What: No credit extracurricular classes

Who: Open to any third-graders to seniors in the Tigard-Tualatin School District

Where: Tigard High School, 9000 S.W. Durham Road.

When: Sundays, February to March

How much: $80 per class, with scholarships for students on reduced income

To register: visit the-ftts.org.

“It’s more of an introduction,” Cosuineau said. “None of these classes are going to give you an in-depth knowledge of the subject — it can’t in that amount of time. But it’s an introduction and a good way for students to see if they are interested in a topic. They get a smattering of it, and then they can get more involved through advanced classes, or look into it outside of school."

High school students can take a course on ancient mythology, as well as more real-world classes, including learning about banking and budgeting, or taking part in a mock trial taught by local attorneys.

“This truly is something that piques their interest, either a new path to follow later in school, or maybe something totally outside of school,” Cousineau said. “It’s totally up to them.”

A rigorous program

“Hopefully, we can give students a chance to explore avenues that they might not get to in the regular school day,” Cousineau said. “Maybe it’s something they never thought of taking before. We have classes for science and math, fine arts and performing arts. It’s all over the map.”

Foundation leaders are quick to point out, these are not remedial classes. Students should take courses they are interested in.

“This isn’t, ‘I flunked geometry, and I need to take it again,’” Cousineau said. “It really is just for fun.”

Foundation officials said they have tried to keep the cost for classes low to allow as many students to enroll as possible.

Classes are $80 per student, with full and partial scholarships available for families who can’t afford the enrollment fee.

It’s a different outlet for the foundation, which raises money for programs across the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

Most of the foundation’s funds are awarded through grant programs to schools to help pay for books, technology and other supplies. It funds art literacy programs, grants college scholarships and supports a student health center.

Foundation Executive Director Margie Greene said SEED fits perfectly into the organization’s mission of helping students.

“It’s all about time,” she said. “Teachers stretched too thin, they want to offer more for their kids, particularly in the elementary and middle (schools), but there just isn’t the time. But instead of sitting and griping about it (Cousineau) said, ‘Let’s try to do something.’ The foundation is supposed to be helping to serve the entire district, so let’s try to create something on the weekend to help when maybe more students have more time.”

Enrollment began this week and runs until Jan. 10. Cousineau said even before registration opened, parents and students were already showing an interest in the program.

“We have already heard from people who heard about it from somewhere,” she said. “There is some interest there.”

The program has also gained support from the School Board.

“It could really reach out to kids, especially when you think about girls in math and science,” said School Board member Maureen Wolf. “To have a safe zone where students can get their toes in the water and go, ‘Wow, this is interesting,’ then it can build from there. That’s what you are giving kids. It’s the ability to expand their areas of interest.”

“What you are proposing is perfect,” School Board member Barry Albertson added. “I think we need to support you in any way we can.”

Another set of classes will be offered in April.

After the spring sessions, Cousineau said the foundation will look at how the program works.

“Our biggest measure of the success is if we get enough kids to carry the classes,” she said. “If we have fewer than 10 kids sign up for all the classes, it’s probably not successful.”

For more information, visit the-ftts.org/seed.




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