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Classroom Teaching Illuminated with Washington Mutual's Bright Ideas Grant Program
PORTLAND, Ore., Feb 27, 2002 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Ever thought of creating an in-depth lesson plan to teach your class about another country, the moon or a famous painter?

These are just a few ideas Portland teachers proposed for the Washington Mutual Bright Ideas Grant Program. In partnership with the Portland Schools Foundation, Washington Mutual recently funded nearly $25,000 worth of teacher grants. The grants will fund initiatives that focus on literacy, integrating the arts into the curriculum and a range of teacher-led efforts to strengthen curriculum and teaching in Portland's public schools. Washington Mutual Bright Ideas Grants were awarded to the following schools:

Atkinson Elementary School, Project SOAR! ($2,000): This project expands the use of a subject matter (like the Civil War) through which teachers will teach all academic subjects -- including math, science, reading, etc. Teachers will examine if this method is effective for their high percentages of English language learners and low-income children.

Boise-Eliot Elementary School, Our Journey as Teachers in Diverse Classrooms ($300): Teachers will examine the factors involved in the achievement gap that exists for many African American students in order to develop a school-wide understanding of how to close the gap.

Boise-Eliot Elementary School, Communities Around the World ($2,500): Teachers will develop lesson plans that focus on multi-cultural studies.

Bridger Elementary School, Leap into Literacy ($850): With the help of professional artists and writers, teachers will help students learn to write through creating their own books.

Chief Joseph Elementary School, Engaging Books for Fourth and Fifth-Graders ($1,500): By purchasing stimulating books that contain relevant material presented at a lower-level of difficulty, teachers will help struggling students improve their reading skills while maintaining their interest in grade-level subject matter.

Fernwood Middle School, LaserBright ($500): Science teachers will purchase a helium-neon laser to teach students about physical and earth science thorough hands-on technology and laboratory exercises.

Grant High School, Building the Effective High School Reader ($2,500): While continuously assessing and monitoring the progress of struggling high school readers, this grant will enable teachers the opportunity to provide targeted support to students and analyze the results of those "best practices."

Gregory Heights Middle School, Earth Force Songs ($1,750): With the help of a musician/composer, teachers will work with 120 sixth-graders to write music about science and record four "earth songs."

Grout Elementary School, Early Literacy Language Intervention ($750): Teachers will develop a common "literacy language" with parents so that they can increase the at-home literacy support of parents of kindergarten and first-grade students.

King Elementary School, Community Reading Project ($1,300): Teachers will invite six community members to read selected books to two first-grade classes. After using the texts for additional language arts activities, teachers will provide copies of the book for students to take home.

Laurelhurst Elementary School, Communities through Time ($1,500): Using literature, applied art and writing, teachers will help students learn about their community at different eras and make a time-line mural. Student learning will be enhanced through sharing art activities with severely disabled children at the Providence Child Center.

Lewis Elementary School, Building Relationships through Art to Strengthen our Community ($1,500):, Teachers will partner fourth and fifth-grade students with second-grade "buddies" in a year-long visual arts project that will include an artist-in-residence.

Mt. Tabor Middle School, Animal Research and Inquiry ($900): By combining classroom learning with real-life animal observation, teachers will engage sixth through eighth-grade students in scientific research that addresses math, science, writing and speaking goals.

Roosevelt High School, Columbia Slough Watershed Curriculum Project ($1,750): History and Social Studies teachers will guide students through a year-long curriculum about the social and environmental history of the Columbia Slough.

Vernon ECEC, Hands on Marine Science ($2,300): Teachers will develop a fourth-grade curriculum focused on different aspects of marine biology, including a field trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Vernon Elementary School, Vernon Book Club ($800): On Friday mornings, teachers will hold a weekly book club for fourth and fifth-grade students reading below grade level.

Vernon Elementary School, Books for Black History ($1,000): In an effort to enhance and deepen the activities surrounding Black History Month, the librarian and fifth-grade teaching team will purchase biographies and other information about well-known African Americans.

Woodlawn Elementary School, Boys of Distinction ($1,200): In an attempt to improve behavior and academics, male teachers will meet weekly with third through fifth grade boys to work on five areas of development including personal, social, academics, culture and community.

"The goal of the Washington Mutual Bright Ideas Grant Program is to provide support to public school teachers and encourage innovative classroom instruction," said Charlotte Ellis, Washington Mutual's consumer regional manager for Portland. "The grants, which were awarded to teams of two or more teachers, promote collaboration between educators in the development of curricula designed to raise student achievement."

Over the past three years, Washington Mutual has provided a combined total of over $185,000 in funding to the Portland Schools Foundation. The contribution has helped fund a variety of initiatives including the development of the Five-Year Strategic Vision and Plan for Portland schools and funds to launch a new Principal Leadership Institute.

"As with all our strategic funding initiatives, the Bright Ideas Grants will allow teachers to strengthen classroom instruction while positively impacting student learning," said Ellen Bergstone Beer, Portland Schools Foundation director of grants and special projects. "We will find ways for these grants to provide constructive models for other teachers to learn from and adapt into their own classrooms."

For additional application information concerning recipients of the Washington Mutual Bright Ideas Grant, please phone Ellen Bergstone Beer of the Portland Public Schools Foundation at 503/234-5404 x12 or visit the foundation's site at www.portlandschoolsfdn.org.

With a history dating back to 1889, Washington Mutual is a national financial services company that provides a diversified line of products and services to consumers and small- to mid-sized businesses. At Dec. 31, 2001, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had assets of $242.51 billion. The company currently operates more than 2,300 consumer banking, mortgage lending, commercial banking, consumer finance and financial services offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's press releases are available at www.wamu.com.

CONTACT:          Washington Mutual
                  Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot, 206/377-3635

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