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Terra Nova program goes old school by moving into Bonny Slope building

After spending the last year searching for a more permanent location, the Terra Nova options program has a new home - inside the old Bonny Slope Elementary School off Thompson Road.

The program is in the old five-room schoolhouse on Thompson Road in the northeastern corner of the district.

Bonny Slope most recently housed special education programs for the Northwest Regional Educational Service District's West Slope Academy, which has moved to a site on Millikan Drive in Beaverton.

Terra Nova Principal Gary Myers said he's pleased to have more permanent quarters for his program, which emphasizes a personalized learning community that focuses on individual responsibility, academic rigor and productive citizenship.

The school, which last year was located in portable classrooms at Sexton Mountain Elementary School, and later at Beaverton High School, ended up with about 35 students.

'We wanted to start with a small number and build it up,' said Myers.

Plans are to begin the 2006-07 school year with 40 to 45 students with capacity for about 60. Sophomores also will be added to the program this year and an additional teaching position will be in place as well, said Myers.

The school, which translated from Latin loosely means 'new earth,' grew out of two outdoor programs previously offered by the Northwest Regional ESD and many past projects that emphasized environmental themes.

Myers said Terra Nova's model this year will focus on spending two days of the week at an internship program geared to a student's interest and three days at school studying something related to that internship.

'We tie the academic to hands-on (experiences),' he said.

During the past year, many students have worked on the new L.L. Stub Stewart State Park currently under construction between Banks and Vernonia.

'They're doing a variety of projects,' Myers said of his students. 'Basically they're building a state park.'

Myers said one example of how the school's internship program could work would be helping to construct the park's amphitheater, which could be linked to classroom learning as well.

'They could do engineering, drafting and the materials list for the project they're going to build out in the field,' he said.

Also, many students serve internships as counselors at the ESD's Outdoor Science School, which also is headed by Myers.

Last year's Terra Nova students ended the year with many obtaining their GED certificates while others either graduated early, graduated with their peers in June or attended the Oregon Youth Challenge National Guard Boot Camp.

This year, Terra Nova will be the first school in Oregon to replicate the Big Picture Company model, part of a national education reform movement that stresses personalized learning by educating 'one student at a time.' The program was founded by Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor, formerly with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.

'We were just starting to develop this last year,' he said.

Of those attending Big Picture programs, 95 percent go on to college and the majority stay there, Myers pointed out.