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By Dave Barta
Principal, Goldendale Middle School 

GMS students getting new topics, new types of teaching

The Goldendale Way

 


“What if there was a class where curiosity ruled? Where you learned not only how things worked, but how you might make them work better? Where the biggest challenge was between you and your imagination?” This idea is the chief motivating force behind a new curriculum called “Gateway to Technology” that will be offered to Goldendale Middle School (GMS) students next fall. Using funds from a new “Rise Up” Gear Up grant through the University of Washington, GMS has purchased the materials and begun the process of training teachers in the Gateway To Technology (GTT) curriculum.

Beginning in September of the 2012-13 school year, GMS seventh and eighth graders will have the chance to experience new material in two classes. The first offering will be Design and Modeling, a class that teaches students how to render their ideas from multiple perspectives and design 3D models of a product they have designed. The second course we have planned is called automation and robotics, which teaches students to design and build computer controlled robots. As reported earlier in the year, our first ever Lego Robotics team earned a top award at the First Lego League Robotics Challenge in January. We plan to build on that with GTT courses.

As part of our goal of teaching the whole child, GMS is working to engage more students with new topics and new types of teaching that will give them skills needed to compete for jobs in a 21st century world. In fact, much of the curriculum for Design and Modeling utilizes a program called InventorWorks, which is similar to Solidworks, the computer engineering program used by professional engineers today. Students study mechanical and computer control systems including robotics and animation. In a third course to be added the following year, students will also explore the importance of energy, including innovative ways to reduce, conserve and produce it using solar, thermal and wind power. This class will be called Energy and the Environment.

How can this all be done without added technology? The short answer is it can’t. In order to run the programs that students will be using, GMS is building a new lab in a classroom that has only been used for part of each day. Recently, using money from the Gear Up grant, GMS purchased 24 new desktop computers with larger monitors so that students can more easily manipulate the drawings they are working on in their GTT courses.

Gear Up brings some additional features to GMS next year as well. Much like the Link program at GHS, a new WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) program has already started this spring, with teachers Tamara Johnson and Sherelle Wanderscheid receiving training on how to involve every student. As Johnson said, “What if students at GMS were given permission to care about each other and the structure in which to do it”? At Goldendale School District we are trying to develop leadership in every student at each grade level. That may not mean that every student is ASB President, but it does mean that every student can take the lead in doing the right thing and making our school community a stronger one.

This week, teachers began identifying WEB leaders from this year’s seventh graders, and students themselves will be applying soon. Activities for GMS’s new fifth grade class are already in the works, and an exciting “day before the first day” of school has been planned. More details on WEB and the beginning of next school year will be made available later.

As part of the Goldendale Way, we hope to reach each student with curriculum and activities that engage them. Students who are active and engaged in their own learning achieve more and have better attendance. Our goal is to foster the development of productive citizens who are ready to lead in society, and our new Gear Up grant is helping us in that quest.

 

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