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Woodland Middle School receives inaugural grant from Port of Woodland to develop STEAM robotics curriculum

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Woodland Middle School received $7,000 from the Capital Community Development Project (CCDP) grant awarded by the Port of Woodland to purchase 18 LEGO robotics kits for use in core Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) curriculum.

Britt Jud, technology teacher and LEGO TEAM Advisor at Woodland Middle School, helped draft a winning grant proposal to receive funds for 18 additional robotics kit for use in the school's math, technology, and science classes.
Britt Jud, technology teacher and LEGO TEAM Advisor at Woodland Middle School, helped draft a winning grant proposal to receive funds for 18 additional robotics kit for use in the school's math, technology, and science classes.

"Receiving this grant is the result of great collaboration and administrative support forming a powerful partnership between Woodland Middle School and the Woodland community," said Woodland Middle School Principal Jake Hall. "The robotics kits funded by this grant will provide incredible STEAM learning experiences for our students."

Kari DeBower, math teacher, Britt Jud, technology teacher, and Ronni Schaeffer, science teacher, compiled the grant proposal, and presented it to the Port of Woodland's Commissioners who selected the proposal to receive funding as one of the first recipient for the inaugural CDDP grant. "The vision of the Capital Community Development Project is to give back to the community in ways that would meet one or more of the Port's goals of economic development, stewardship, increasing the area's tax base, or improving quality of place," explained Commission President Paul Cline. "Businesses, industries, and services throughout the region are struggling to fill skilled jobs, particularly those requiring technical skills, and offering educational opportunities in STEAM to our students will increase their interest, confidence, and competence in pursuing those jobs."

New math and science standards require students to apply learning to real-life situations by utilizing the engineering process and communicating in teams with hands-on activities to engage students in learning. Research has demonstrated that students become highly interested to learn how to program and control the robots, which increases their motivation to participate as students can determine whether they have correctly programmed their robot by seeing the results first-hand.

James Slayter-Balch (eighth grader), Brady Burns (eighth grader), and Gus Heidgerken (sixth grader) all participate in the LEGO Robotics Team.
James Slayter-Balch (eighth grader), Brady Burns (eighth grader), and Gus Heidgerken (sixth grader) all participate in the LEGO Robotics Team. 

DeBower, Jud, and Schaeffer were members of a team of nine teachers involved who received the training thanks to Angela Campbell, Vice Principal of Woodland Middle School, and Educational Service District 112's STEM Director, Vickei Hrdina, organizing the training. The three were inspired to pursue the grant after Randy Steele, the trainer, encouraged the team to seek funding for additional robotics kits to incorporate lessons into the core curriculum.

After consulting with Woodland Public Schools Superintendent Michael Green who was excited about the prospect of including more STEAM lessons into core classics, Green encouraged the team to investigate the CDDP grant offered by the Port of Woodland. The team's grant proposal included explanations of how the use of funds would benefit the Woodland community by helping prepare a workforce for jobs requiring STEAM skills. "By increasing students' expertise applying these skills, we hope to increase student motivation to take more STEAM courses in high school and beyond so they can apply for these higher-paying STEAM jobs," explained the teaching team. "Furthermore, technology will continue become increasingly important in nearly every aspect of life – students need to understand how technology works and how to use it to solve problems to improve their own lives as well as their communities."

The Port of Woodland developed the Capital Community Development Program to give back to the community and support the Port's mission of working closely with local entities. "The commission feels Woodland Middle School's proposal will advance the efforts of economic development through workforce development and education," explained Jennifer Keene, Executive Director for the Port of Woodland. "The Commission is very supportive of the Woodland School District and the impact it makes on the community through outside-the-box approaches to educating for the future employment and job skills that are needed."

The Port Commissioners selected the Woodland Middle School proposal in part due to the school's successful LEGO Robotics Class and Team who competes in the FIRST LEGO League. The team recently won first place in the Innovative Solutions Category and received the Global Innovation Award at the State Championships at Glencore High School in Hillsboro. "It was a great experience for all of us, and we competed very well despite the tough competition," said Britt Jud, the LEGO Robotics Team Advisor. "The drive of our students is amazing with the dedication they put it in full-force to get so much done and their success demonstrates their hard work."

Ruby Heidgerken, eighth grader, helped her team develop a solution to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a disease affecting bats causing them to wake from hibernation early and often starve to death.
Ruby Heidgerken, eighth grader, helped her team develop a solution to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a disease affecting bats causing them to wake from hibernation early and often starve to death. 

The students in the team appreciate the camaraderie and different aspects offered by competing in the LEGO FIRST League. "I really like how every year is so different with their different themes which create teamwork,” said Ruby Heidgerken, an eighth grader who joined the team in sixth grade. "In order to prepare for the year, we visited caves, spoke with bat specialists, and even started an Instagram page for the project."

Gus Heidgerken, a sixth grader, joined the team this year after seeing his sister's experiences in past years. "After watching Ruby take part in the club in prior years, I really wanted to join," he said. "It's a lot more work than I expected, but we have a ton of fun solving the problems as a team and we really work well together that way."

The LEGO team developed a solution to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a disease affecting bats causing them to wake from hibernation early and typically results in many starving to death. The team's win qualifies them to be considered for the top 20 teams to compete nationally where the winning team receives $20,000 and the two runner-up teams each receive $5,000 to help support team activities and further develop their programs. "The middle school's robotics program has been successful, and with this grant, the staff will be able to offer robotics experiences to even more students," said Cline. "The Port is proud to be a part of supporting Woodland Public Schools to help improve the quality of education in our community."

The teachers involved are incredibly excited about receiving the grant funds. "We're thrilled to be collaborating with the Port of Woodland on this effort to enhance and improve our community by offering students ways to develop novel technology solutions," explained the teaching team who applied for the grant. "Technology is a new fundamental content area for our students which is both futuristic and fun!"

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