Garden, expeditionary pilot a 'go' for Tonasket

TONASKET – The Tonasket School Board approved the beginnings of a school garden and a pilot program to explore expeditionary learning at its Tuesday, May 29 board meeting.

The school garden, which was proposed by a diverse committee of community members at the May 14 school board meeting, was encouraged to move forward and proceed with the project.

“I really like the idea, and the board has given their support to it,” said superintendent Paul Turner. “The committee will continue to report back to the board, but they have been given the green light to continue going with it. In a way it’s like building a plane while trying to fly it; it’s kind of an unknown that is exciting.”

The committee plans to use a site to the east of the school buildings where the school had an orchard project that was discontinued several years ago. A cover crop will be planted in the upcoming months, with the majority of the project getting underway next spring.

The expeditionary education program was proposed by a group of homeschool parents in early April. The project-based curriculum emphasizes a unified approach that includes character building, community service, natural history, outdoor history, and an overarching yearly theme through which students at all levels do their learning. It has been used as the foundation of the Methow Valley Community (private) School’s curriculum and has been adopted by the Kettle Falls School District.

Turner said that the board approved a one to two-day-a-week pilot program that would allow a teacher to become familiar with the program and begin to implement it.

“This will give us a chance to see if it’s something to move forward with; we won’t make that decision for a year or so,” Turner said. “We’ll do it in the Outreach (homeschool) setting and go from there. Down the road we might do more.

“I see the value in it. We have kids and parents that are committed to it. We’ll do some advertising to see if we can draw about 10 more kids into it. I think it’s fair to take a good, hard look at it before making a final decision.”

Turner acknowledged that there are similarities between the school garden project and the expeditionary learning approach.

“They both are project-based,” he said. “It’s definitely something with the potential to dovetail.”

In other actions the school board approved the high school handbook; set the 2012-13 Traffic Safety Class fee at $365; approved the purchase of two new buses; approved contracts for personnel; approved Tyler Graves and Martha Wisdom as summer school teachers; and approved the hiring a fifth grade teacher Daniel Vassar; approved the hiring of Jordan Weddle to train with and eventually replace Hanna _ as technology coordinator.

Athletic director Kevin Terris also shared a report on the district’s Title IX compliance.

“We are doing well there,” Turner said.

The board also set it’s schedule for summer meetings.

The Monday, June 11, meeting will be as scheduled; the second June meeting will be Wednesday, June 27. The board will not meet in early July but will meet on Monday, July 23, as well as Aug. 13 and Aug. 27. All meetings will be in the district office board room at 7:30 p.m.