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News Releases
Luke Cook finished his diploma a semester early in order join the military and pursue his dream of a career in law enforcement
Luke Cook finished his diploma a semester early in order join the military and pursue his dream of a career in law enforcement
Woodland's TEAM High School helped a student graduate a semester early, join the military, and pursue his dream of working in law enforcement (Photo) - 12/17/18

Monday, December 17, 2018-Woodland, WA-Luke Cook will graduate from TEAM High School, Woodland Public Schools’ alternative high school, later in December in order to pursue his dream of working in law enforcement.

TEAM offers Woodland’s students a path to earning a high school diploma which accommodates each individuals’ life circumstances including full-time work, family responsibilities, or simply wanting the chance to finish high school early in order to get a jumpstart on their future.

TEAM Graduate Spotlight: Luke Cook

Luke enrolled at TEAM in order to earn his high school diploma a semester early and pursue his career plans of becoming a Portland police officer. He particularly appreciates the self-directed lesson plans TEAM’s students use to finish their diplomas. “You can move at your own pace at TEAM which helped learn at a faster rate,” Luke explained. “I loved all my teachers at Woodland High School, but I felt like the classes would often move slower than I wanted to.”

Luke initially enrolled in TEAM his freshman year after moving to Woodland from Oregon with his family. “I was home-schooled until high school, so TEAM’s less structured approach was more appealing than enrolling at a traditional school,” he said. “TEAM’s environment is much less stressful and allows you to create your own schedule with hours that work around your other responsibilities.”

Luke left TEAM to attend Woodland High School for a semester to earn foreign language credit before finishing his high school education at TEAM. His experience at both schools made him appreciate all that Woodland Public Schools offers the community. “I’ve really appreciated all the teachers I’ve had during my time in Woodland,” he said. “They’re amazing and they’re all dedicated and available to helping students succeed regardless of which school you attend.”

While enrolled at TEAM, Luke also took classes in criminal justice at Cascadia Technical Academy. “I’ve always had an interest in working in law enforcement, so when my mom discovered Cascadia’s program, I knew it was a great opportunity,” he said. “I started taking classes at Cascadia during my junior year, loved it, and went back to take additional courses this year, too.”

In addition to attending Cascadia, TEAM’s flexible hours and schedules gave Luke the opportunity to take part in the Clark County Sheriff Explorers program, a cooperative venture between the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Learning for Life. The Explorer Program offers youth between the ages of 15-1/2 and 21 the opportunity to observe the criminal justice system and make an informed career decision by assisting sheriffs in serving the community.

The Explorer Program noticed Luke had a knack for leadership and started giving him additional responsibilities beginning with teaching coursework to classes of 40-60 enrollees followed by a promotion to Captain. “I started with the Explorers last year and it wasn’t long before they started assigning me lessons to learn and teach to my colleagues,” said Luke. “This year, I was promoted to Captain where I direct teams of 40-50 explorers at any given time.”

Luke’s self-directed nature combined with a high level of self-discipline served him well as captain. “Managing a team is a lot of scheduling to ensure everyone is working hard and swapping tasks when necessary – time management is definitely key,” he said. “For me, it’s fun figuring out what happens next while also keeping an eye on everyone to make sure we’re all learning and enjoying the program.”

In order to achieve his career goals of becoming a police officer, Luke enlisted in the security division of the U.S. Air Force. The position offers him the ability to earn an Associates Degree while he serves his tour of duty starting in February 2019. “In the Air Force, I will get a lot more leadership experience, earn my Associates Degree, and have my remaining undergraduate work paid for which will all help me get to work in law enforcement,” he said. “I really enjoy structure and I think the military will play to that strength; I’m only little nervous because I’m actually really excited.”

TEAM enabled Luke to start pursuing his career earlier than traditional school options and he recommends the school for those who want to get started early on their career plans. “You can truly get ahead if you push yourself at TEAM,” he said. “Although it requires a lot of discipline not to get distracted, if you stay focused, you will definitely make a lot of progress.”

An alternative to “alternative high schools”

The staff of TEAM works to help people think of alternative high schools differently. “Many people hear ‘alternative school’ and think it’s a place for ‘troubled’ kids and we want to change that perception,” said Liz Vallaire, TEAM’s Math and Science Teacher. “We don’t have ‘typical’ students – we have high-achieving students, students with life responsibilities, and students with life circumstances that make this approach to learning a better fit.”

“TEAM is great for students because we meet students where they are academically and offer a myriad of supports and flexibility with classes to help students succeed,” said Jill Domingo, TEAM’s Social Studies and English Teacher. “By having the time to work with students one-on-one, they share information about their work, hobbies, and home life, and I feel like that knowledge helps me be a better teacher by adjusting my instruction to fit their needs and learning styles.”

Luke’s teachers still remember the first time they met him. “I knew he was special – he is an incredibly driven, motivated, respectful, thoughtful and brilliant young person,” said Liz. “Luke works hard but has fun doing it – he is easy to talk to and absolutely hilarious which made him a favorite for all his peers.”

Jill agrees with Liz. “From his first day at TEAM, Luke made an impression with how polite, well-spoken and driven he is,” she said. “His hard work and dedication made him stand out especially when he was constantly exceeding TEAM’s performance standards by going above and beyond in his schoolwork.”

Liz points to TEAM’s flexibility as the reason for the program’s success. “For some students, the rigid schedule of traditional school feels oppressive which can lead to issues with truancy, discipline or behavior,” she said. “At TEAM, students can be and feel independent by making their own schedules while still having support from teachers and staff when they need it.”

With a relatively small enrollment, TEAM’s maximum enrollment is 100 students, the program takes on a different feeling than larger schools. “We feel like a family since we all get to know each other really well, and through that we are able to build trusting relationships through all the one-on-one time we have with each student,” said Liz. “I believe those relationships are often part of what keeps a lot of students motivated to succeed; they know that their families, their teachers, and their peers are also invested in their success.”

Preparation through partnership

Leslie Mohlman, Community, Family, Student Resource Coordinator for Woodland Public Schools, connects local organizations with TEAM High School to help support students. “We strive to introduce students to all the resources their different lifestyles might need,” she explained. “In addition to resources that specialize in teen support such as housing, medical, and mental health, we also reach out to local resources based in Woodland, too.”

Leslie specifically targets resources offering teen support to make it easier for kids who need help to find it. “Teens don’t always trust adults so the main objective is to build trust and relationships so students know they can find help at school,” she said. “Local resources are more than willing to become reach kids by bringing awareness of social problems that can affect people of all ages such as finding affordable housing; dealing with depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide or addiction; and concerns just finding food.”

TEAM also partners with local community organizations to offer more learning opportunities for students. A recent partnership with the Woodland Public Library allowed students to take home free books. “Some of our love reading and were so excited to have free books they could take home and keep,” said Liz. “I placed donation boxes in all of our other schools, asking employees to donate books, and, now, TEAM High School has a small library of nearly 100 books students can borrow or keep.”

Want to learn more including how to team up with TEAM?

To learn more about TEAM High School, how to enroll, or how your organization can partner with Woodland Public Schools, visit the TEAM website at www.woodlandschools.org/team.

Learn about Woodland Public Schools’ Family and Community Resource Center by visiting www.woodlandschools.org and selecting “Family & Community Resource Center” from the drop-down Menu.

To learn more about the other programs discussed in this article, you can visit their websites:

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Officer Brent Murray distributed handouts with examples of how modern technology has created hard-to-find weapons, presenting challenges to law enforcement.
Officer Brent Murray distributed handouts with examples of how modern technology has created hard-to-find weapons, presenting challenges to law enforcement.
Woodland Police visit Woodland High School government class to discuss citizens' rights and the Constitution (Photo) - 12/10/18

Monday, December 10, 2018-Woodland, WA-Woodland’s Chief of Police Jim Kelly and Officer Brent Murray visited Katie Klaus’ government class to discuss the methods law enforcement uses to ensure they protect individual rights while also protecting the general public as a whole.

Klaus’ students spent the past weeks studying the Bill of Rights with visiting speakers including Woodland High School Principal John Shoup offering insights into the many differences to citizens’ rights in the United States. “For example, there are different rules and laws protecting students on-campus and off-campus,” said Klaus.

In order to provide students with insight into how law enforcement operates under the guidelines of the U.S. Constitution, Klaus partnered with the City of Woodland’s Police Department. “We really enjoy taking the opportunity to speak with students and talk about how law enforcement operates,” said Chief Kelly. “Students often get very involved with lively debate and great questions about how law enforcement balances individual rights with protecting the public’s safety.”

Klaus began the presentation with a discussion of the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, the landmark decision from 1964 resulting in the requirement of law enforcement officers to read every suspect their rights – now referred to as “reading Miranda rights” – to ensure suspects understand what protections they have when under arrest.

Chief Kelly then presented the case of Terry v. Ohio to start the discussion. In the 1968 Supreme Court case, the court ruled on reasonable search and seizures – a protection offered by the fourth amendment of the Constitution – when police officers determined that a suspect was planning to commit a crime in Ohio. “The Court determined that a stop-and-frisk approach would be legal if officers possessed a reasonable belief that a suspect may be about to commit a crime,” explained Kelly to the students. “The officers must use objective tests to determine a suspect could be armed and dangerous prior to the search.”

Students then asked several questions about the level of training officers receive and how officers go about assessing the threat of a given situation. “We’re trained for hundreds of hours at the academy with ongoing training throughout our careers,” answered Officer Murray. “The decision-making tools we utilize in a daily basis are acquired in the academy, through continued training, and through on-the-job experience.”

Students asked how police officers know if individuals are speaking the truth. “When it comes to understanding people, a lot of it comes from experience,” said Murray. “For example, when you try to talk to someone and they appear to be making up an excuse or can’t answer simple questions such as ‘what is your name’ without thinking first, we can certainly learn a lot about the situation.” Police officers are trained in identifying body language to glean possible results before a suspect interview even begins by utilizing a technique called the Read Method or Interrogation.

The officers discussed the concerns of social media and the incrimination of police officers in today’s media crisis. They explained that students don’t need to speak to police officers, however they may want to just to assure officers they understand the situation. “You don’t have to talk to a police officer if you’d rather not, however if we give you a direction and you fail to follow it, it’s going to spark our interest and cause us to investigate further,” explained Officer Murray.

Ever-changing technologies continue to present challenges to law enforcement, too. Officer Murray distributed handouts with examples of new weapons that can be easily hidden such as knives the size of credit cards; guns made out of plastic that can’t be recognized by metal detectors; and pens that can be used to spray mace or pepper spray. Murray also pointed out examples of older technology such as a gun manufactured into a belt buckle used by the German army during World War 2 that allowed the wearer to fire up to four shots.

Klaus partners with a variety of speakers so students can learn the different perspectives that affect how the laws and rights in any society are protected. “Hearing how law enforcement or school authorities work to protect both individual rights and the safety of the general public goes a long way in learning how important the U.S. Constitution truly is as a living document,” she explained. “I’m incredibly grateful to the willingness of the Woodland Police Department and other agencies in participating to help provide even more insight for our students to reflect and learn from.”

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Lorie Vogel's Explorience teaches students construction engineering by using simple construction materials such as buttons and clay to create complex structures while learning challenge, comparison, and measurement concepts.
Lorie Vogel's Explorience teaches students construction engineering by using simple construction materials such as buttons and clay to create complex structures while learning challenge, comparison, and measurement concepts.
Explorience empowers students at Woodland Primary School to learn science and social studies by becoming explorers, astronauts, aviators, and more! (Photo) - 12/03/18

Monday, December 3, 2018-Woodland, WA-Woodland Primary School takes play-based learning to a higher level with Explorience – a weekly 70-minute event when students learn high-level concepts through classroom experiences including creating a space habitat, understanding body movement through kinesthetics, becoming explorers on the Oregon Trail, and a wide variety of other projects designed to teach students science and social studies through hands-on learning.

Defining Explorience

Explorience – a combination of “explore,” “science,” and “experience” – stemmed from a staff brainstorming session targeting the creation of amazing learning opportunities for students. “We started with a basic question: ‘What would Woodland Primary School be like if it was the most amazing place for students to attend?’,” said Ingrid Colvard, the school’s principal. “The staff brainstormed ideas and concepts to motivate and excite students to learn without limits.”

Teachers didn’t hold back their ideas with a huge variety of descriptive concepts they feel could define and drive learning at Woodland Primary ranging from family and community involvement to collaborative, project-based learning with fun and authentic projects. “As we started to dream and plan as a staff, all of these ideas started forming,” said Colvard. “As a leadership team, we took those ideas and started developing ways we could make it happen.”

The heart of a school defines the way students and staff feel in it. “We realized we needed all of the ideas – we couldn’t give up any of these defining concepts,” said Colvard. “The staff collectively came up with an experiential learning process that would take place each week – Explorience – where students wouldn’t just learn lessons about science and social studies, but truly experience the lessons first-hand.”

Students choose the Exploriences they want to take part in each week through a process the staff calls “registration;” much in the same way college students choose their classes each semester. “Research shows that self-selection enables students to feel more ownership in their learning by choosing how they will learn,” said Jones. “When a student gets to choose what they want to do, they’re much more engaged in the material and will often internalize the concepts faster than more traditional approaches.”

Teachers developed different experiences based on their own interests as wide and varied as complex Rube Goldberg machines where motion and momentum create a cascade of interactions, or by using a race track to learn how acceleration, velocity, and distance can affect a racecar’s performance. “The vocabulary and standards-based themes students learn in each experience are posted throughout the classroom and on the materials the students receive so they receive repeated exposure to the standards by using the vocabulary and concepts as they learn them,” said Pat Jones, the school’s instructional coach who helps teachers develop effective lessons for students.

Learning through Experiences

Using a variety of props and a lot of imagination, teachers create classrooms where students immerse themselves in their chosen activity. “When kids walk into a classroom, they become whatever they’re doing in that event – scientists, aviators, explorers – and they use the language of the profession,” said Jones. “In addition to teaching the standards-based concepts at-hand, these wide and varied experiences expose students to a variety of different futures for themselves they might not have previously considered.”

During Explorience, teachers guide students by asking leading questions rather than by explaining concepts, a process which results in students potentially learning high-level concepts far beyond typical elementary level comprehension. “Teachers acknowledge what students are learning and then ask them the next challenging question to encourage students to think about the next step, continuing for as long as the student wants to learn more,” explained Jones. “By allowing students to learn as much as they desire to know, teachers can guide students to levels of knowledge far beyond kindergarten and first grade.” 

In the last ten minutes of each Explorience, students use journals to jot down ideas and reflect on the lessons they learned in that day’s experience. At the end of each eight-week session, students use their journals to reflect on the activities they took part in, what they learned, and create hypotheses to share their knowledge with their classmates in a process called collaborative learning.

Designed to meet standards

In order to ensure Explorience activities meet the state’s standards for science and social studies, the administrative team mixed teachers’ passions with the concepts and standards students need to learn. The academic language used in each Explorience is thoroughly planned in advance with students using the knowledge learned during Explorience throughout their coursework following that day’s experience.

Before using an experience with students, the school’s teachers take part in their colleagues’ ideas to ensure the experience teachers the concepts and can work in the limited timeframe. “We’re on the forefront of what science learning can become – teachers and students passionate about experience-based learning to ingrain the lessons demonstrated through experimentation,” said Jones.

Every eight weeks, teachers develop a new set of Exploriences for students to choose from. Jones created a lesson template for teachers to use in their development process to ensure their experiences hit the learning targets designated by the state. “By teaching the same Explorience eight times in a row, the teachers refine their Explorience so when they come back to use it in following school years, the lessons are even more effective,” said Jones. “The excitement in the teachers is palpable – you can feel it – their passion for the material passes on to the students.”

The Future of Explorience

In order to fund Explorience, Woodland Primary School uses an anonymous $5,000 donation received last year. “At first, we thought the money might pay for a full year of Exploriences, however the teachers’ creativity in designing lessons has kept costs so low that we believe this one generous donation might pay for three or even more years’ worth of supplies and materials,” said Colvard. “Our staff is incredibly efficient and effective at offering amazing experiences while needing very few supplies.”

Explorience started in the 2018-2019 school year with first graders being the first class to participate. Starting in January 2019, Woodland Primary School will roll out the Explorience program for kindergartners, too. “The process of developing Explorience exemplifies shared leadership by the school’s entire staff,” said Colvard. “The teachers came up with the idea, owned it, and then my challenge was just to make it happen – it’s been a fantastic experience for everyone – students and staff!”

Explorience takes place on Mondays – statistically the day of the week with the most absences – as a way of kicking off each school week with something exciting that can encourage students to look forward to coming to school. “Right before Halloween, one student walked into a classroom and exclaimed, ‘this is better than trick-or-treating!’,” said Colvard. “We knew we were on to something when we started hearing and seeing reactions like that.”

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Students raved about the opportunity to learn from collegiate musicians
Students raved about the opportunity to learn from collegiate musicians
Woodland High School student musicians experienced life as music majors at Washington State University and the University of Idaho (Photo) - 11/26/18

Monday, November 26, 2018-Woodland,WA-Woodland High School band students took part in “Music Major for a Day” at Washington State University’s School of Music in Pullman followed by a private tour and instruction at the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho.

The ten band students experienced life as a music major including experiencing a college student’s typical schedule. Students learned about degree programs, admission, auditions, scholarships, and financial aid along with attending classes and participating in ensemble rehearsals.

Students attended classes including Music Fundamentals, Music History, Opera Workshop, Instrumental Conducting and Film Music. In addition to classes, students sat in on and played alongside college musicians while also receiving complimentary lessons from nationally-acclaimed professors of music.

The following day, students toured the Lionel Hampton School of Music with a private tour of the University of Idaho campus. Students had question-and-answer sessions with Dr. Spencer Martin, Director of the Athletic Bands and coordinator of visitor events. Once again, students received private lessons with university professors and graduate students.

“Both Washington State University and the University of Idaho provided an incredibly welcoming environment which ensured everyone had an amazing time,” said Bryana Steck, band and music teacher for Woodland High School. “Music Major for a Day was an incredible and unique experience which certainly piqued the interest of many of our students who are considering participating in music at the university level.”

Following classes and sessions, students watched the 250-piece ensemble marching band perform a private show just for the students. “It was an incredible experience the students will not soon forget,” said Steck.

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