The Wahtonka campus will be experiencing some new life with the informational barbeque for those interested in the Wahtonka Community School set for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 6, at the Wahtonka campus.
Community organizers Carol Roderick and Janna Hage are combining efforts to bring the social event together and assist Brian Goodwin, district director of grants and special projects, and administrator-to-be of the new school, in promoting all the program will offer.
Seth Hedberg, language arts and social studies teacher at The Dalles Middle School, says he’s more than excited to start introducing people to the “enormous potential” the new school will have to really “make a difference” in the lives of students who have struggled to succeed in the traditional school system.
“We’re really striving to be innovative and blend the content areas in a way that’s more true to life,” Hedberg said. “Rather than having students stuck in the old mindset of, ‘Now I’m going to math, now I’m going to science,’ we want them to venture outside the constructs of the traditional system and experience the much more real life experience of having each subject integrated into the next to form a complete whole. In other words, we want what students are reading and the knowledge they’re gaining to facilitate their own interests as well as their ability to make a positive impact on the local community.”
Hedberg, who will serve as the head language arts and social studies teacher at the school to Goodwin’s math and science, said that the last two hours of the school day for students will be devoted to working in what he called the “maker lab.”
“In the maker lab, students will come in and work on things that are tailored to their own personal interests. They might do fiber art, or learn about robotics or welding — anything they may be interested in and want to pursue, which we’ll then work on finding partners in the community who have expertise and share that common interest to advance the students’ learning in that particular area… The whole point of the lab is to encourage students to be the innovators and creators who are making an impact and facilitating change.”
In contrast to the former Discovery School alternative program, which followed a more structured and traditional learning process, the Wahtonka Community School is project-based and involves service learning projects, said Goodwin.
“Curriculum will be rooted, when possible, in our community — learning science, geography, history, math, etc. through knowing the place where one lives first — this is also known as place-based education,” Goodwin said. “Because of the nanture of the way we will be learning, we have had a tremendous amount of community [members] step forward and want to volunteer their time and talents.”
“We’re really trying to reach out to as many potential students as possible,” Hedberg said. “We recognize that, for whatever reason, the traditional education model is just not working for everybody. What we want to do is give those students another option that will allow them to graduate from high school, gain valuable life skills and the opportunity to recognize just how important they are to our community and learn what it means to be active, contributing members of it themselves.”
The barbecue, Hedberg said, will give both he and Goodwin an opportunity to share the mission and the vision at the new high school.
“We want to create an educational system built on community-based service learning that provides opportunities for students to learn through doing and come to understand that every one of us is a valuable member of the community, that we all have the ability to make a difference and to empower them to recognize their own potential by enabling them to really get out there.”
The Community School’s target demographic, Hedberg said, are students who have already dropped out, or who are already either on the cusp of dropping out or have so few credits that they will not be able to graduate on time.
“What we’re doing is offering a place for those students where we think they can be really successful and have an opportunity to really make a difference not only in their own lives, but in others,” Hedberg said. “Once students start participating in the program, the excitement and the reality of a learning environment that is not confined to a single classroom or building and which is determined instead by what they are doing and where they need to be to really learn — well, everything’s just going to take off from there.”
Goodwin said they are shooting for a 55-student enrollment and that he expects the upcoming lottery to be “pretty competitive.”
“I really encourage parents and students to get signed up for the lottery as soon as possible,” he said. “Although they may not be able to secure a spot right away, some students will graduate out of the program and others will inevitably decide that the system just isn’t right for them, and that’s when we’ll start calling people on the waiting list.”
The lottery, Goodwin said, will be a strictly one-time deal and community members’ only chance to enter students’ names on the school’s waiting list. The sign-up deadline is 4:30 p.m. on March 20, and applications can be submitted to Stan Felderman at the district office.
For more information on how to apply, visit the district website at www.nwasco.k12.or.us/domain/151 or call Felderman at (541) 506-3422.
Anyone who is interested in learning about the new community school is welcome to attend the barbecue.
Hedberg said that the barbecue will be followed by a conversation focused on he and Goodwin’s vision for the school.