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    If you attended the TOPS Spring Auction in 2010, you may remember the energy and enthusiasm that was in the air for the idea of deepening, strengthening and effectively aligning our curriculum around ‘Compassionate Citizenship and Social Justice’. The enthusiasm paid off – we raised $30,000 to provide support to teachers and parents who have projects in place or in mind to support the TOPS Social Justice mission and vision.

    Following the Auction, a Coalition for Social Justice (CSJ) subcommittee of parents and teachers formed to define the parameters of this fund – called Tending the Whole Garden (TWG Fund, for short!) CSJ administration of the TWG Fund was a natural fit, given both the scope of CSJ and the work that the teacher/administrator/parent members of CSJ had been doing throughout the course of the school year. They focused on ensuring that the 8th Grade “Planting the Seeds” curriculum would be ongoing, and on identifying practical, sustainable ways to build and improve our social justice curriculum through the partnership of teachers and parents from kindergarten through TOPS graduation. In October 2010 CSJ hosted a Dialogue with TOPS teachers to learn about what they need to develop their ideas toward planting seeds of social justice in their classrooms. One particular outcome of this work is the planned creation of a TOPS volunteer bank where community members can post their skills and contributions, and teachers can access them online.

    The plan outlined a request that part of the money be spent on hiring a project coordinator (preferably a teacher or parent with curriculum development experience who was part of the TOPS community) to work with teachers to improve implementation of existing projects and to bring forth new ones through a proposal process that is similar to the RFP (Request for Proposal) and Teacher Excellence Fund processes already established at TOPS. The project coordinator would primarily act as a liaison between teachers/parents and the TWG subcommittee to establish projects and request support for those that further our Social Justice mission around three themes:

    • Service Learning in the greater Seattle community
    • Community Building at TOPS
    • Equity in Learning at TOPS

    The project coordinator would be referred to as ‘The Master Gardener’, as a way to reflect his or her role in nurturing and growing new curriculum that is aligned with our overall mission.

    TWG Applications can be submitted by staff together with a parent/guardians and must also meet several criteria for funding:

    1. Applications must be co-sponsored by at least one parent/guardian and one teacher and must clearly explain collaboration between staff and family community.
    2. Curriculum component must be established.
    3. Thematic relevance to one of the above listed themes must be established.
    4. Community outreach for project and project outcome must be part of the implementation proposal

    The members of Site Council and the Coalition for Social Justice are very excited about how the TWG fund may improve our already strong program. We look forward to providing support to teachers so that they can actually make more of their great ideas for our community come to life.

    Stay tuned – we look forward to reporting about the great seeds that will be planted in the TOPS curriculum and community with the money you helped to provide.