Woodland Public Schools introduces Career-Life-College initiative, Digital Learning at Woodland High School, plus Beaver Camp and Lunch & Lockers ease students back to school
Career-Life-College: Preparing students to succeed in life after school
At Woodland Public Schools’ annual kick-off staff meeting, Superintendent Michael Green announced a new district-wide initiative designed to prepare students for life after high school, Career-Life-College. “Traditionally, the goal for school districts was for students to earn a high school diploma,” he said. “However, that is no longer enough – school should prepare students for life after high school, whether that future is higher education, joining the military, or learning a trade.”
Green discussed the importance of reaching students wherever they may be in life and helping them prepare for whatever next steps they may have in store. “Our challenge is to really raise the bar and serve all of our kids very deeply,” he said. “In Woodland, we don’t accept mediocrity and we will continue to push for the highest-quality teaching and learning experience.”
Green presented studies to the staff showing many career paths previously available to high school graduates which have become automated along with many others predicted for automation in the future. “We need to make sure our students learn the skills employers are looking for – soft skills,” he said. “In addition to reading and writing, we will teach our students complex problem-solving, critical thinking, how to coordinate with others, active listening, and more so they will have the edge they need after leaving Woodland’s schools.”
In May, the Board of Directors adopted a document defining what it means to prepare students for careers after school. The district’s administrative team developed the Career-Life-College initiative, a plan to ensure students receive the education and skills they need for their futures after high school.
Woodland Public Schools’ teachers and staff will continue developing methods and curriculum to prepare students for life after their school careers, from kindergarten through graduation. “We aim for effective collaboration, leadership, and learning,” said Green. “From the district level all the way down to the classroom, we will engage as a staff and work as a team to help our students develop the many skills they will need to succeed in life.”
The district will release updates about Career Life College throughout the year. For more information the Board’s work in addition to the document approved during their May meeting, visit the district’s board meeting archives section or use this direct link: http://bit.ly/WPS-CareerLifeCollege
Chromebooks for Students: Enhancing Digital Learning at Woodland High School
In order for students to succeed in the modern workplace after graduation, learning how to effectively use technology is essential.
Starting this school year, every student at Woodland High School will receive their own laptop, called a Chromebook, which will enable them to access their coursework, engage with their teachers, and work collaboratively throughout the year. Rather than providing students with their own devices when other school districts first started similar programs, the staff at Woodland High School opted for patience and research. “We’ve studied other school districts, both locally and on the national level, to see the best ways to introduce and utilize technology in the classroom,” explained Woodland High School Principal John Shoup. “By closely watching the methods that have worked and avoiding those that haven’t, we have created an excellent approach to increase digital learning for our students.”
While teachers had access to carts of Chromebooks for their classrooms in prior school years, they couldn’t design their entire curriculum around the use of technology since the carts were shared throughout the school. After reviewing the school’s current inventory of Chromebooks, Principal Shoup and his team realized the investment to provide each high school student with their own computer would be incredibly modest. “When we added up all the Chromebooks we had in carts, we realized we already had enough computers for students in three of our four grades,” he explained. “With every student having access to the same technology, teachers have designed their curriculum around its use.”
For more than a year, the teaching staff at Woodland High School has been using the Triple-E Framework developed by Professor Liz Kolb at the University of Michigan’s School of Education to integrate technology into their course curriculum. “Rather than simply providing technology to students without any real guidance, the Triple-E Framework ensures that the computers will be used to Engage, Enhance, and Extend student learning,” said Shoup. “This approach uses effective digital learning methods to enable our students to have access to new opportunities learn advanced concepts and show growth in their studies.”
In order to protect students’ data and help prevent inappropriate use which could damage the computers, the district’s Information Technology department installed special filtering software on every Chromebook. “These devices are designed for learning, not for entertainment,” explained Shoup. “We also advise parents to have students work somewhere that parents can observe and ensure students are using their computers constructively.”
Chromebooks are cloud-connected productivity notebook computers which include Google’s suite of office software with applications directly compatible to Microsoft’s popular Office suite including a word processor, spreadsheet development software, and presentation software. In addition, students will be able to interact with their teachers and collaborate with their students through Google Classroom, an innovative application specifically designed for schools to help teachers and students teach and learn in new ways.
On the first day of school, students will receive a guide of student expectations along with an agreement for parents or guardians to sign. Some examples of student expectations include bringing Chromebooks to school fully charged every day, being a mindful digital citizen, and keeping the devices in good condition. The guide also includes examples of appropriate and inappropriate uses.
The school will also provide optional assurance for families to purchase which protects against accidental damage for a small fee which is discounted for families who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
Beaver Camp: Helping freshmen and new high school students learn the ins and outs of Woodland High School
This year, the high school introduced Beaver Camp, a special half-day orientation program for entering freshmen and students new to the district.
School Counselor Terra Pfeiffer worked with the school’s administration to introduce the program after seeing something similar at Longview School District. “The first day at any new school but particularly high school can feel overwhelming for students as they try to find their classes, learn how meal payment works, and more,” she said. “In order to help make our students more comfortable and ready for the first day of school, we developed ‘Beaver Camp.’”
One day during the week before the start of the school year, students new to the high school attended orientation from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students received their schedules, found their classes, and met teachers. Students also took part in a physical education activity, learned the school’s evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency, and ate a free lunch to learn how meal payments and the cafeteria operates.
In addition to learning about the curriculum and operation of the school, representatives from each of the school’s extracurricular clubs gave brief introductions during an assembly at the beginning of Beaver Camp so new students could learn all the opportunities available to them. “Woodland is a very inclusive community and we want to make sure our schools feel that way, too,” said Pfeiffer. “The first day of school can be exciting enough without adding complications like not knowing your way around into the mix.”
The school’s counselors walked new students over the requirements for graduation, both for students considering higher education as well as students considering entering a trade. The counselors also taught students about some of the school’s many academic offerings including College in the Classroom – classes taught at the high school where students can earn college credit – as well as the successful Running Start program where students may take college courses at local community colleges while still attending high school.
To help with the event, nearly 30 returning students volunteered to serve on the Beaver Crew. The Beaver Crew worked with new students to help them learn different tips and tricks to navigating the high school as well as how to succeed. “The Beaver Crew has been absolutely fantastic,” said Pfeiffer. “Not only did they help ensure the event would be a success from the planning process straight through to execution, many of them even joined me during my visit to the middle school last year with lists of tips every freshman student should know so eighth graders could prepare for their transition.”
Lunch and Lockers: Getting middle school students ready for the new school year
Before the start of each school year, new and returning students at Woodland Middle School attend a special kickoff event called Lunch and Lockers where they can meet their teachers; find and decorate their lockers; familiarize themselves with where their classes are; and also get a free lunch!
Prior to the school holding the Lunch and Lockers event each year, teachers often had to spend the first few days of the new school year helping students deal with their lockers. Now, the more laid-back atmosphere allows students to familiarize themselves with school without the added stress of a ringing bell announcing the start of the next class. “You can feel the excitement and energy in the air throughout event making it such a nice way to jump-start a new year,” said Woodland Middle School Principal James Johnston. “Although some of the students may be anxious about the new school year, most of them are eager to get their new schedules, lockers, and meet their teachers.”
Teachers greet students and their families in their classrooms while classified staff members are stationed throughout the school greeting and directing students and families to wherever they need to go. “I really enjoy having the opportunity to meet the kids and their families in a relaxed setting,” said Johnston. “Lunch and Lockers is a fun way to gently introduce students to the school and get them thinking about the year ahead.”