Coyote Trails Partnerships Grow Stronger: March 21, 2012

New STEM course allows students, residents to learn side by side

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ThisWeek Community Newspapers Wednesday March 21, 2012 11:50 AM

This summer, New Albany high and middle school students will learn about geology, wildlife tracking and digital photography alongside adults.

The focus of the course is on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It is called STEM Expeditions: Geology, Wildlife Tracking and Digital Photography and is open to students entering seventh to 12th grades in the 2012-13 school year and community members.

“We have talked about lifelong learning but have not gone about encouraging that,” said Sandra Willmore, outdoors education leader for grades K-12. “This (class) promotes intergenerational learning. It doesn’t really matter what age you are. Everybody can benefit.”

Students will receive a half credit for an elective technology class and a half credit for an elective science class.

Willmore said although adults wouldn’t receive credit for this course, she has confirmed that future summer STEM classes will provide students and adults with college credit through the University of Vermont.

Willmore said the district held an informational meeting on the new course March 14.

“Fifty-five people were there, and there was energy in the room,” she said.

As of last week, Willmore said, 15 people have registered for the course, including 13 middle and high school students and two adults. The class could accept 24 students. Online registration at www.napls.us closes March 23.

The course will begin with a few meetings in April and continue once a week in May. The majority of the class will be held in June. From June 11 to 15, the class will meet daily. Participants then will fly to Oregon from June 16 to 22 and stay at Crater Lake National Park, exploring the park with geologists and scientists. Students and adults will “learn wildlife-tracking techniques with nationally recognized expert trackers and biologists.”

At the end of June, students will be required to report what they have learned in an electronic portfolio.

Willmore said this class cost is $1,986 per person and includes airfare, accommodations and food during the trip.

Six teachers from New Albany-Plain Local are teaching part of the course: Willmore, eighth-grade science teacher Claire Monk, digital-photography teachers Pat Samanich and Leslie Shea and technology-support team members Rob Hood and Andy Moore. The rest of the course is being taught by educators and field professionals: Mike Kessler, wildlife-tracking teacher at the University of Vermont; Renie Brady, a retired Southern Oregon University professor and author; Joe Kreuzman, director of Coyote Trails School of Nature and a professional tracker; Dave Clayton of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife; Anita Grunder, a professor in the Oregon State University department of geosciences; Dean Swartz, a professional photographer and district parent; and Jonah Evans, a wildlife-diversity biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and a track and sign evaluator for CyberTracker.

Willmore said each class member would need a digital camera and memory cards for the camera. Other items, such as personal laptop computers, are optional. Information on the course is at sites.google.com/a/napls.us/stem-expeditions/2012.

Willmore said the district intends to offer more STEM expeditions. She said the 2013 summer course would include a trip to Africa.