Board Approves Improved Science Curriculum

Board Approves Improved Science Curriculum

After some discussion about schools essentially doing away with lessons on pencil and paper for a more digital version of learning, the school board approved the adoption of new science curriculum resources for the junior high and high school departments during its April 8 meeting.

Board Director Mary Massey expressed concern about whether there’s a connection between declining scores and replacing pen-and-paper and textbooks with a digital platform. High School Science Teacher Michelle Snyder responded that the tests are actually all digital, but she believes the real problem lies in a standardized test that is biased against students in low-income families/areas.

“If we’re going to have kids competing in an electronic world, then we need to be teaching them that,” Snyder said.

Junior High Science Teacher Ryan Kildea shared information about Stile for the school’s science curriculum, which staff selected as their curriculum of choice to start using next school year.

“What I felt was it meets the students where they are,” Kildea said. “It’s designed in kind of a newer technology age, and really utilizes those tools to try and enhance it for the students.”

Kildea said the science department prefers to prioritize their lessons into more hands-on projects, and less technology and textbook focus.

“We believe that science is ‘doing’ and ‘participating,’” he said.

Ryan Kildea, science teacher, gives details about the new science curriculum (Stile) the junior high science department would like to implement next year.

The department chose Stile because it complements the activities the school is already doing and it’s customizable based on what is most effective for the students, Kildea said. Though originating out of Australia, the company has now set up camp in Portland, so much of its content is derived from Oregon-based information. The program also requires less prep time and provides real-time data that instantly shows teachers how well students are comprehending the lessons.

“That was a huge selling point for us,” he said.

He also reported Stile encourages the identification and use of evidence to support scientific claims, and encourages students to ask more questions and form their own opinions. He also liked the real-world application in its lessons. For example, a lesson revolves around a controversy about a lithium mine on the Oregon-Nevada border.

Snyder presented to the board the science curriculum her department would like to implement at the high school, Savvas.

One benefit of Savvas is it includes textbooks that would help the high school branch out into a pathway for health occupations, which is a goal at the school, Snyder said. She also pointed out that, in addition to hands-on labs, the company’s virtual labs allow students to perform labs that are difficult to do in a budget-constrained district.

“It gives us the outline and it gives us a textbook and it gives us the labs, which we’re very thankful for, but then it’s what we do with that information that makes it even better,” she said. “What we do is more than they could ever get out of a textbook any day of the week, in my humble opinion.”

The workbooks and notebooks are all digital, which Snyder pointed out is common these days.

“Kids very rarely carry notebooks anymore; when you go to college, none of them do,” she said. “So that’s our goal; we’re getting them college ready.”

Samples of science curriculum from Stile and Savvas are set out on display at the School District office.

It was clarified that physical textbooks can be made available for students, but a majority of the time the kids prefer to access their books online. In addition, Snyder noted, there is quite a cost-savings to not buying a physical textbook for every student.

“I just want to make sure we all keep in mind how much of our curriculum is going to digital as opposed to a good old fashioned (tangible product),” Massey said.

Board Director Floyd Neuschwander noted that he, too, is “nervous about the digital revolution,” but it is something that happened a long time ago, and there are some good benefits to today’s technologies.

Massey raised the idea that if schools stop teaching certain skills, such as how to use a pencil,  write cursive or hold a book, then there are certain things in a child’s brain that don’t get activated.

“It’s a lack of knowledge that never is activated in the brain,” she said. “I just want to be mindful.”

In other business:

◆ Snyder, vice president of the Sweet Home Education Association, reported that the union representatives met with the school district to discuss contract negotiations and left the conversation “without having to be angry about anything.”

◆ Supt. Terry Martin reported enrollment is down 13 students since last month. He said a decline in enrollment is common after spring break and there might be some early graduations that are contributing to the data, but it could also be related to a trend of enrollment decline across the nation.

◆ Junior High Principal Nate Tyler accepted the award for highest attendance at 88%.

◆ Tyler reported on activities at the junior high school that support strategic plans for achievement, thriving citizens, thriving communities, and safe and welcoming services. He said one day was spent focusing on teaching students to be respectful, kind and safe. The school also held a food drive, held a fundraiser for a child battling liver cancer, held a day of kindness in the community, sent the leadership class to the Capitol, and reinstated the Interact Club.

◆ Heard a budget update by Kevin Strong, who reported that although the district’s spending increased by more than $1 million, it is staying “well within” the fiscal year budget.

◆ Following an executive session, which is closed to public view, the board accepted an evaluation of Supt. Martin. Board Director Mike Adams then made a motion to extend Martin’s contract one extra year, making it a three-year contract. The motion did not pass.

◆ Following the executive sessions, the board approved adjustments to salary schedules for the 2024-25 school year.

This month’s ESPY/SPARK winners are (from left, back row) Daylon Pecnick-Thompson, Joshua Meglen, Rylan Pearson, Emma Davis, Tripp Carr, and (from left, front row) Kimber Corrington, Hadley Larsen, Jacob Hagemeier, Rowan Dixon, Keegan Collings and Archer Lindsey. Not pictured: Trinity Landtroop and Ty Sapp.

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