A Bright Idea Becomes a Shared Reality

July 3, 2022

Two Independence High School teachers, culinary instructor Deidre Mallow and art teacher Abbie Hess were surprised this past November when they learned they each were awarded a Bright Ideas grant from Union Power. 

“I want to thank Union Power for their support. Quite often, teachers have ideas and a passion to enhance the learning opportunities for our students, but they don’t always have the means to make that idea or their dream come true. So we really appreciate Union Power for providing this opportunity to support our teachers and their ideas,” said David Legrand, principal at Independence High School.

The Bright Ideas grants, submitted last April, started as two separate projects, but with the help of the Co-op, they are now a shared reality for both teachers and their students. “We didn’t know that we both applied, but it was a treat to find out that we both won the grant and wanted to apply it to the same shared space,” Mallow said.

Mallow’s bright idea for “Culinary Craving Greenhouse” was to turn the space into a farm-to-table garden to show students where food comes from, how it is grown, and how to apply what they learned in the kitchen. “We had bits and pieces of things we needed to get the project done, which was fantastic, but we didn’t have all the tools we needed, so the money was able to help us get a couple more things that would help us be more successful and make it easier to work with the grounds.” 

Since receiving the grant, Mallow and fellow culinary instructor Luvena Brown have started preserving the food they’ve grown in the garden. Their goal was to show students the preservation process of how to can/freeze the food they’ve grown so that when they return next school year, students will be able to use what they grew in the kitchen.

Blending her love for art and gardening, Hess had the bright idea to create a “Sustainable Apothecary Art Supply Garden” after learning about eco-dyeing from a fellow art teacher. Her idea was to create a sustainable garden for natural arts and crafts supplies such as but not limited to fabric dyes, paint pigments, fiber materials, natural binding mediums, compost, apothecary mediums, herbal remedies for sensory and art purposes, and an assortment of flowers. Students will work with teachers in the garden to grow, harvest, apothecary, compost natural botanicals, mix their own paints and natural dyes, and create living sculptures, among other innovative projects.

“This garden is so much more than I could have dreamed of it being,” Hess said. “I get to witness my students take pride in their work, their school, and in the garden. I often hear how they can’t wait to come back when they are 40 with kids and show the garden off to their kids and that they will get to work out in the space one day, too.”

And while there are an infinite number of learning opportunities teachers can create through the garden, it also serves a deeper purpose at Independence High School. Both teachers and their principal shared how creating a space for students to clear their minds and refresh after these challenging past two years is a bonus.

“To be able to create an outside space/garden where students can get away from technology and be one with the earth really gives them a different perspective and helps to support their social and emotional well-being. It’s sort of therapeutic not only for our teachers, but for our students as well,” Legrand said.

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Teachers can apply for a Bright Ideas education grant to fund projects that enhance student success in K-12 classrooms that would otherwise not be possible. Grants are available in all curriculum areas, including art, science, history, and mathematics. Bright Ideas grant applications are now being accepted through Sept. 15. Teachers who submit their applications by Aug. 15 will be entered to win one of five $100 Visa gift cards. Interested teachers can access the application and more information about the program at union-power.com/brightideas.