Eighth-grade students at Canyon Creek and Jemtegaard middle schools in Washougal are preparing for success at high school and in the real world through two differently specialized programs.Each is designed to help students as they develop new skills and a broader understanding of society and themselves.
The project at Canyon Creek is based on volunteerism. Students choose an area of interest, then are required to write a research paper, complete a minimum amount of volunteer hours that supports their topic, create a poster illustrating their work, and make a presentation to an audience of parents and peers.
“Students come away from this experience with the realization there is more out there in life than ‘my little world,’” said Pete Forgey, CCMS eighth-grade social studies teacher. “They benefit from the experience of working with new people and come away knowing it isn’t so scary out there. Students also realize that there are people who need help, and they can help them.”
According to Forgey, the public speaking component gives the students a sense of accomplishment.
“They have to stand in the gym with a microphone and speak to a large audience of parents and peers. They practice and practice, and in the end say, ‘Wow, I did it!’ It probably overrides everything else in the project in terms of personal growth. I’ve not lost a student yet,” he joked.
Student Morgan Goetz pursued an interest in understanding homelessness and helping families in need by handing out food with his church outreach group.
“It really gave me quite a different perspective on life,” he said. “Homeless people are just like us, except they had a crisis or something bad come down in their life. They are not all on drugs. Many are families.”
He plans to keep volunteering with his church.
Over the past three years, Hana Nekvapil has been treated at Shriner’s Hospital every six months for her severe scoliosis. Her research project allowed her to learn more about the disease and its treatment. Nekvapil’s community service involved helping with the Friends of Doernbecher Annual Spring Brunch and Auction at the Hilton Vancouver. She assembled and labeled auction baskets, labeled them and worked at the event.
“It felt really good to help others by raising money for research,” Nekvapil said.
Jemtegaard Middle School
At Jemtegaard Middle School, students work over a six-week period and investigate a potential career.
“We are giving students a chance to explore the possibility of their dreams,” said Anna Linde, JMS eighth-grade language arts teacher.
Students must complete a research paper about a career and what it takes to become qualified, create a PowerPoint presentation and then present what they have learned to their peers.
The work is outlined in a project guide and is modeled after work that will be expected in high school.
Students conduct research using books, internet and interviews with people working in their area of interest.
“Some students get very excited about their career direction and can start making high school course decisions based on what they’ve learned they will need,” Linde said. “And some, after taking a closer look, realize this is not something they want to do with their life. Both are important things to learn.”
The project opens up lots of discussions in class and at home, she added. Students learn vocabulary pertaining to a career and job, information about wage and salary and what a FICA score means.
“We go through a budget exercise where students find out what you need to earn to be on your own,” Linde said. “They see that what may seem like a large income right now may only cover a family’s basic needs.”
Students also discover the many different types of educational opportunities that are available, other than a traditional college experience, such as trade schools, internships, and training as an apprentice. Some careers studied included police officer, marine biologist, stunt man, underwater welder and anesthesiologist.
Lauren Scott chose to look at novelist as a career. “I was surprised at how little they actually make,” she said.
“It is actually a hard job and most people that do this also have a second job.”
“I was surprised as how much police officers need to know to do their job properly,” said Avery Chan, regarding his research into police work. “You see them pulling people over on television, but you have no sense for what it really takes for them to do their job, like all the detailed reporting.”