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home : schools and education : schools July 22, 2014

10/3/2012 6:37:00 PM
Harvesting STEM students: Manson creating opportunities for math and science courses
Two Manson science students paddle their self-made boat during a recent regatta.Photo courtesy Nancy Martin/Manson schools
Two Manson science students paddle their self-made boat during a recent regatta.
Photo courtesy Nancy Martin/Manson schools
Vince Lovato

(First in a series on how Chelan, Entiat and Manson schools are teaching students science, math and technology skills.)

MANSON -- Manson School District officials agree that students need more, and better, science and technology classes to keep pace with international students and provide
skilled workers for Washington industries.
And Manson teachers already started some innovative programs.

A new report confirmed there is a significant shortage STEM education opportunities in Washington. STEM stands for of science, technology, engineering and math. The Vital Signs report from Change the Equation prompted state education and business leaders to form Washington STEM in 2011, according to a Vital Signs press release.

"I agree with the underlying premise that our state educational system needs to create more college- and career-ready students who are entering STEM fields," said Manson Superintendent Matt Charlton. "In Manson we are underway with this transformation and beginning to create more learning opportunities for students in STEM both in the classroom and beyond."

Manson's teachers have aggressively taught classes that challenge students to learn and use STEM skills.

• High school teacher Tim Bombaci is teaching a class on house design and construction in which students will draft architectural plans. They were visited recently by area architect Larry Hibbard who shared his design process. In other classes, Bombaci had students make to-scale planets and set them at various places throughout the Lake Chelan Valley. The Sun was in Manson and some planets were as far away as the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce office -- about 8 miles away.

• Soon after the end of the 2011-12 school year, Manson Middle School students took a week-long unit in Flight. Students were involved in information-rich, day-long, hands-on projects to learn about everything from the concepts of jet propulsion, to building rockets - which were launched at Singleton Park on the final day of class.
"This year, students are clamoring to get into a STEM class in which they will learn about cutting-edge technologies going into home design and construction," Bombaci said.
High school teacher Erik Helleson has three dynamic offerings.

• His new human biology course students will travel to the WSU human cadaver lab where School of Molecular Biosciences students will help them insert a gene into bacteria that causes it to glow.

• A group of sophomores will travel to Hutch High School for hands-on biotechnology labs with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research scientists.

• The General Biology class will partner with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on a project in the Sinlahekin Wildlife area of Okanogan County. The students will conduct biodiversity surveys and submit the data to the department.

• General Biology students will each be assigned an iPad. It will be a completely digital classroom with all assignments and files submitted to a classroom "cloud" using a new application called eBackpack.

• Human Biology students will engineer a Head/Neck model. The model will incorporate the seven cervical vertebrae along with the cushioning cartilage between the vertebrae. The students will use rubber bands (representing muscles) to sustain a gallon of water (roughly the weight of a head) that will be set on the neck. The goal is to use only 23 rubber bands, which is about the number of neck muscles.

• Technology teacher and FFA advisor Kevin Amsden annually has students design small boats the has them race across part of Lake Chelan.

Manson graduates have gone into STEM-related fields of study including Jonathan Paniagua, who studies medicine at U.W. on a (Bill) Gates Millennium Scholarship; Whitney England, who studies medicine and nursing at BYU; and Gabe Castro, a graphics designer for all corporate/marketing communications for Clearwire in Bellevue. Clearwire is a 4G wireless network company that owns the network Sprint.
Washington STEM is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing excellence, equity, and innovation in STEM education in Washington state, according to the press release.

The report was designed to provide business, education, and policy leaders with information and recommendations to
promote high-quality STEM learning for all students.

"I encourage my fellow Washington lawmakers to join me in ensuring that STEM education is a priority throughout Washington state," said Rep. Marcie Maxwell. "Kids from Sequim to Walla Walla need the same STEM learning opportunities as students who attend public schools within shouting distance of Microsoft's headquarters."

At a time when the need for jobs exceeds the number of jobs, the report states that for every 2.1 STEM jobs in Washington, there is 1 unemployed person. Conversely, for every 3.7 unemployed people, there is one non-STEM job.

"STEM skills open doors in today's information economy," said Brad Smith, executive vice president and general counsel at Microsoft, and a member of Washington STEM's board of directors. "Currently too few students have the opportunity to learn the STEM skills that jobs at technology companies like Microsoft require. The work that Washington STEM and our local partners are doing to identify best practices in STEM teaching is critical to spreading those practices to more students across the state."

Among the report's findings is that Washington is moving in the right direction with state "common core" education

"This data highlights the need to help teachers swiftly and effectively implement the new...standards and continue Washington's leadership in standards," said Randy Dorn, Superintendent of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

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