Administrators and school board members from the Culver School District shared information at last week’s open house about staff working on transforming the district’s identity.

The goal is to become a model of K – 12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) district for the state of Oregon.

In a partnership with OSU-Cascades STEM professor Michael Giamellaro and several other OSU staff, school district staff will be coached, and then will develop this rigorous, method of delivering education. Full implementation will be in September 2014.

Superintendent Stefanie Garber said that STEM is the term being used nationwide, but for Culver students and staff, it really means “project-based education.”

Garber explained that it is an Interdisciplinary approach to learning that removes the traditional barriers separating disciplines, and integrates them into real-world, rigorous, and relevant learning experiences for students.

“Project-based learning is a systemic teaching method that engages students in learning important knowledge and 21st century skills through an extended, student-influenced inquiry process structured around complex, authentic questions and carefully designed products and learning tasks,” she said.

“It is not just making something, hands-on learning, or doing an activity. The focus is intellectually challenging tasks that led to the physical artifact,” Garber emphasized.

“We want to create young adults who make society stronger, we want to fuel their dreams, we want colleges and careers dying to get our kids!” she explained.

Garber held up her cell phone and explained that any of the traditional book learning can now be communicated via the Internet. “Our teachers must meet the information age and step up their methods, what they expose their students to, and what they expect,” she said.

The administration knows the district has well-behaved students who work hard as well as a hard working, dedicated staff. Garber said they deserve to learn in a thriving environment that blows the roof off of typical ‘school learning’ and gives students impressive, higher level skills for their future beyond school.

During the 2012-2013 school year, the high school had one very successful STEM class that focused on creating renewable energy. The students created a paddlewheel that generates and puts energy back on the grid. That energy is now powering some of the buildings at the RV park at the Cove near Lake Billy Chinook.

The Culver District is currently working on grants to secure additional funding for this transformation, gathering community partners to provide expertise in specific areas of study, working with OSU-Cascades staff to build the transformation, and will develop a parent advisory committee.

”This move will truly be transformational for Culver students and teachers,” Garber said. “And that will result in benefits to our district and our community.”

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