Heading into 2024, Western School Division (WSD) school board trustees heard two Innovation Grant presentations at their first meeting of the new year.  

Board Chair Brian Fransen said Innovation Grants were started over 10 years ago looking for ideas that will advance Board Priorities Plan and for ways to enhance student learning, to connect with the schools, to the community, or to improve the health and the culture within the school division. 

Morden Collegiate Institute Guidance Counselor Tyler Sloan and Visual Arts Teacher Dawn Rigaux collaborated on an idea to help students utilizing the guidance area to feel comfortable and inspired by other students in the school.  

The $1000 awarded to the project will go towards framing and showcasing three students’ artwork in the guidance area. 

Guidance Counselor Tyler SloanGuidance Counselor Tyler Sloan

Sloan explained. 

“There's lots of traffic in and out of our office, especially during changes in semester, and I think having those pieces there that students are going to be able to see and just see what a high school student was able to do and not just a professional artist by any means, because I don't think they'd be able to recognize the difference between the two.” 

Second, was Maple Leaf Parent Advisory Council Co-Chair Grace Keeling who presented a kid’s business market. Kids would create their own businesses and sell a product or products at the market with the guidance of adults. This project was seeking $7000 and was awarded $2500. 

Keeling described how the money will be used. 

“We're going to have a panel of business owners, parents, and teachers choose who will be the best in whatever category and we’ll have gifts for each award. But also, we have another idea to start up a grant for children to apply to, to which some of the funds can go towards supplies or anything that they need to start up.” 

Maple Leaf PAC Co-Chair Grace KeelingMaple Leaf PAC Co-Chair Grace Keeling

She said her son was very excited when she told him the idea. 

“I am trying to teach my son the reality of the world and it takes hard work, for one. And secondly, there are shortcomings and disappointments, and that's ok. So, from that it's like, ‘OK, so maybe it didn't go as you expected or maybe something didn't work out. What did you learn from it?’ But this is just like real life. So, my hope is to guide kids to a different experience and then make it safe for them to innovate, and be creative, and take chances.” 

Fransen said Innovation Grants have been on hold for the past few years and remarked it was great to be back at it. 

“We had a really good time discussing what it is that we want, as a board, to see these innovative ideas coming. It doesn't take grand ideas and master planning. Sometimes it just takes a seed. It takes a little idea to grow into something that can change students’ lives forever. These two ideas hit on some of those potential areas where student lives will be impacted. The community will be impacted.”