Friday, November 24, 2000
Hayden Members of a national nonprofit organization had an opportunity to see firsthand how the money they gave to a local education program is impacting a number of Hayden students and one in particular.
Five officials from the Rural School and Community Trust visited the Hayden School District last Thursday to see how money they donated to the Yampa Valley Legacy Initiative in 1995 is being used.
Visiting the school were Rachel B. Tompkins, the trust's president, and two board members, Jack Murrah and Paul Martinez. After having lunch with school administration, the group was led on a whirlwind tour through the elementary, middle and high schools.
At each school, the visitors were shown examples of how the school district is incorporating place-based education into the curriculum.
Place-based education is teaching students about where they live and using where they live to help topics make sense. It is a method of teaching that uses concepts learned in the classroom that are connected to real-life experiences.
Thanks to a $30,000 grant from the Yampa Valley Legacy Initiative, Lynne Drogosz is helping create a curriculum within the school district that institutes this type of teaching.
The grant is funding supplies and Drogosz's salary for one year.
The first stop for the group was at Christine Epp's kindergarten class. Epp told the visitors how she used wildlife found in the Yampa Valley to teach her class to read and write. The students studied a different animal each week and even took a trip to the Carpenter Ranch to look for wildlife, she said.
"We looked for animals and signs of animals," she said.
Epp believes the method has been successful. "It is valuable," she said. "We can integrate wildlife in all aspects of learning. It also gives the kids more knowledge about where they live.
"The students are also more excited when they are reading and writing about what they are interested in."
The group also found out what projects high school students are doing.
Brian Roddiger's high school environmental science class is compiling a visitor information brochure for the Colorado State Parks campground west of town.
The students also are mapping where river enthusiasts can drop in or take out a kayak or canoe along the river in town.
High school students are mapping out groundwater wells to find out if there is a relationship regarding water levels in the Yampa River. Other projects students are doing for the ranch are a study of habitat in the river and mapping river bank erosion.
Martinez, who is one of 13 board members, was impressed with the work the high school students are doing.
"It is excellent work in the sense it is hands-on learning," said Martinez, who traveled from New Mexico. "In the little I have seen here, the projects they are doing make science real for the students. Not only are they learning about the environment but also applying math and science."
Although the group members were impressed with the work the district is doing, the impact that place-based education has had on senior Nathan Bruggink made it all more real for them.
Bruggink came to Hayden his junior year from Steamboat Springs. At the time, he was experimenting with alcohol and drugs and had no interest in school.
"Place-based education has brought me out of being in trouble," he said. "I was ready to drop out of school."
Bruggink was then introduced to Roddiger, who asked the teen to participate in the groundwater well project.
"It got me really turned onto education and learning," he said. "Things just started clicking."
Bruggink is expecting to graduate next spring and is planning on going to college to become a teacher.
"I would not be here at this school if it was not for this type of learning," he said. "This has taught me that learning can be fun, and the teachers do care."
The Rural School and Community Trust, which was formerly the Annenberg Rural Challenge, partners with place-based education programs in more than 700 rural schools in 33 states.
"We want to continue working with schools like Hayden," Tompkins said. "We like what they are doing."
To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org