Celebrating 10 years of the Gift of Literacy

logoIt’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years, but that first group of first-graders to receive books back in 2006 are now in 10th grade!

“I remember that I was really excited to pick out a book and go to a college campus with all those kids and all those people,” said one of the first students to participate. She said she still has her book, Kitten’s First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes.

And who wouldn’t remember that fantastic day? It’s evolved into an end-of-year Springfield tradition for first-graders across the district, and it works today pretty much the same way it has since the beginning.

“For many of us, this is the most fun day of the year,” says committee chair Liz Degner, a long-time Rotarian and area manager for the SMART reading program. “We’ve seen an awful lot of smiling faces through this program over the years. It’s such an honor to play a role in those magical moments when kids are learning to read.”

jorgenson_07How it works: Each year, hundreds of first-graders swarm the Lane Community College campus in waves on one day at the end of May. The kids are greeted by their favorite book characters like Clifford and Wild Thing, then brought to the auditorium where they hear the story of the Queen Sue shared by John Jorgenson, whose Wyoming “Casper Cares, Casper Reads” book-giving program, created in his late wife’s memory, inspired the Gift of Literacy.

Soon, the auditorium fills with the joyful sound of “Sniggledy sneed, we want to read!” and the kids get to open their brand-new hardcover books, which they had chosen earlier in the school year from that year’s list of 10 books chosen by the all-volunteer Gift of Literacy committee.

It takes a village: The Gift of Literacy program and culminating event require a great deal of volunteers and resources to make happen. A committee led by Rotarians (who brought the idea to the school district back in 2005) and comprised of principals, teachers, public library staff and other community volunteers meet early in the school year to choose books, assemble resources and plan the event. The program relies heavily on hundreds of volunteers each year to manage the event and oversee the children.

BEST_394_07“There are media personalities and legislators and community VIPs who come out year after year to read to the kids,” says Degner. “It means a lot for the kids to see so many important grown-ups who think reading is important.”

The program also relies heavily on businesses and donors to raise funds to pay for books and event logistics.

“It’s such an important and impactful program,” says Ronnel Curry, executive director of the Springfield Education Foundation, which donates significantly to the program each year. “For some of our high-need students, this might be the first book they own. It means so much to these kids to get the books, visit a college campus and meet community members who care about them. We couldn’t do it without our generous donors and volunteers.”

Coming up on May 27: After a year of anticipation from both teachers and students alike, Gift of Literacy is finally upon us, this time celebrating its 10-year anniversary of giving books to the children of Springfield.

That will total 11,736 books given to GOL_infographic_finalstudents, school and public libraries, and area preschools over the years.

It will mean more than 9,000 students touched by the program, nearly 2,200 library cards distributed and more than 27,000 items checked out on those cards.

It will mean 10 years of sharing the joy and wonder and magic of books and reading with children.

To learn more about the Gift of Literacy, visit www.giftofliteracy.org.

Many, many thanks to all of the Rotarians who have tirelessly stuffed book bags and stuck labels on books, to the teachers who shared the books with their classes, to the community members who came out in force to read to the kids, and to all of the hundreds of other volunteers and sponsors who played vital roles in making the program happen year after year!




Centennial Gets Girls on the Run

positive_selftalkCentennial Elementary’s new Girls on the Run program is giving a group of young girls some positive energy.

First-grade teacher Rachel Young started the after-school program at Centennial this year after having helped bring it to Eugene for the first time at her previous school, Coburg Community Charter School.

“Being ‘Tracktown USA’ and all, we thought Eugene would be a good spot for getting this program started here,” said Rachel.

Rachel quickly got approval from the principal and brought in 2nd-grade teacher Anna Van Horn to volunteer, along with a community member.

“Everyone was really supportive and excited about it, and we were able to recruit a full team (capped at 16) plus 5 girls on the waiting list fairly quickly….We’re hoping to be able to have two teams next year,” said Rachel.

Rachel_grls_runningThe 10-week-long program is for 3-5th grade girls and began at Centennial on March 10. The girls meet twice a week after school, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The ultimate goal is for all of the girls to participate in a 5k in Corvallis on May 30, but the program is actually about much more than fitness – it’s about empowerment.

From the website for the national Girls on the Run organization: “Girls on the Run inspires girls to take charge of their lives and define the future on their terms. It’s a place where girls learn that they can. No limits. No constraints. Only opportunities to be remarkable.”

I_Can_Do_ThisAccording to Rachel, a typical practice focuses on one key idea, such as “positive self-talk,” with activities centered on that theme. The group starts with a warm-up activity, stretching and strengthening, then goes on to the workout on the track. The coaches add in different elements to help inspire the girls and make it fun. For example, after each lap they might ask the girls to write on a poster about something they can do to help stay positive, such as “play with my dog” or “call Grandma.” The afternoon closes with a debrief of the lesson and “energy awards” that call out kids for special recognition.

shoutout“This is a critical time to reach out to young girls, right when they are starting to feel more social pressure. We teach them some really concrete strategies for dealing with these issues,” said Rachel. “Plus, they’re getting outside, learning how fun exercise can be, making new friends, and learning how to be confident. Then of course they get to do a 5k, which is something many of them never thought they could do before. It’s huge – the personal growth in the girls is why I keep coming back to it every year.”

The full cost of the program is $150 per student, which covers the cost of the curriculum, materials and administration of the national program, but Rachel is quick to point out that girls who qualify for free or reduced lunch only have to pay $50 – or even less.

“We want every girl who wants to do this program to have the opportunity, and never turn a girl away based on inability to pay,” said Rachel.

The program invites parents to get involved, too. Each day, the girls take home a letter to parents that covers what was discussed in the practice and offers questions that parents can ask their children to keep the conversation going.

“It’s a great way to bridge the school/home connection,” said Rachel.

The program has since expanded to 7 area schools – with more hopefully to come in Springfield, if Rachel has her way.

hoorayforus“My dream is that other schools will want to do it, too,” says Rachel. “I’ve already had another Springfield teacher contact me. I’m happy to help them get started.”

For more information about the Girls on the Run program, visit www.gotrwillamette.org. The website also offers parent resources for tips and advice about raising strong, confident daughters.



SHS Principal José da Silva Receives Spirit of Springfield Award

joseSpringfield High School Principal José da Silva has been tapped by Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg with this year’s Spirit of Springfield Award, which is presented each year during the State of the City address to recognize a Springfield citizen’s contributions to the city.

da Silva, now in his second year as principal of Springfield High, was specifically cited for his efforts to improve his students’ employability via the School-to-Work program, a unique partnership with Lane Workforce Partnership that helps fast-track student connections with local employers. Click here to see the 2015 Spirit of Springfield video.

How it works: The SHS School-to-Work program brings in industry representatives for monthly tours of Career Technical Education, or CTE, classrooms to demonstrate the hands-on skills and knowledge that students are receiving. Students in turn can learn more about work opportunities after high school while forging valuable relationships with local businesses.

“For students who intend to seek employment directly out of high school, the School-to-Work program is invaluable in getting them the skills, and the connections, they need to hit the workforce running,” says da Silva.

In addition to skills, the employers are also able to see in action the attributes that make SHS students even more attractive to potential employers, the school’s “dress-for-success” standards and the critical thinking and decision-making skills outlined in the school’s “Portrait of a Springfield Graduate”:

All students will attain proficiency in the core content areas and graduate from high school prepared for post-secondary and career options. Students will grow into lifelong and self-directed learners and will become proficient in new areas through research and inquiry. Above and beyond academic proficiency and meeting graduation requirements, each student will become a/an:

  • Adaptable and Productive Citizen: Graduates will act as productive citizens by demonstrating responsibility to their community and flexibility in fulfilling personal, professional and community expectations.
  • College and Career-Ready Scholar: Graduates will develop and manage a personal education and career plan, and demonstrate application of academic and technical competencies to a chosen career field.
  • Critical and Innovative Problem-Solver: Graduates will understand the nature of problems, create innovate solutions, and make informed decisions by using critical and creative thinking, logical reasoning, analysis, inquiry, and problem-solving techniques.
  • Ethical Decision-Maker: Graduate will display personal and professional integrity by demonstrating leadership, effective decision-making, and ethical personal and professional management skills.
  • Effective Communicator and Collaborator: Graduates will demonstrate leadership qualities through the ability to effectively communicate, collaborate, innovate, and think creatively.

Career readiness: SHS students are also encouraged to complete the National Career Readiness Certificate, or NCRC, to make themselves even more attractive to employers. The NCRC is recognized by an increasing number of local employers as a reliable way to identify an individual’s real-world, foundational “WorkKeys” skills in reading for information, applied math and locating information – skills the NCRC says are required for 77% of jobs. Gov. Kitzhaber is actively promoting job-seekers to get the certification to be able to designate communities, counties, or ideally the entire state as “work-ready” and thus be potentially more attractive to employers.

“I see more and more businesses understanding the importance of investing in students who have already demonstrated their potential to be long-term, stable employees,” says da Silva.

da Silva says he is working to solidify the partnership with Lane Workforce Partnership to be able to help fund additional training students may need for a particular job.

More opportunities: An offshoot of the program for students outside of CTE classes is the work being done with local software companies. For example, Eugene’s Lunar Logic is sending employees to SHS this year to work directly with four students to develop their technical writing skills. The students will then go on to work in a paid internship with Lunar Logic in the summer.

da Silva says he is also working on creating a Partnership Council comprised of business representatives, parents, teachers and students to work together on identifying business needs to be able to make teachers even more effective as they prepare students for the workplace.


Putting the ART in Partnerships

betsy and students

With artist Betsy Wolfston.

Thanks to grant funding and a fantastic partnership with the Lane Arts Council, students at Hamlin Middle School are getting some unique opportunities this year!

One new grant, a World of Work grant obtained by the Lane Arts Council through the Oregon Arts Commission, with matching funds from Springfield Education Foundation, is giving up to 30 Hamlin 8-graders incredible opportunities to apprentice with area artists and learn what’s involved in of all aspects of an artistic career. Students will share in hands-on projects, develop an understanding of the professional and business side of the arts, and learn skills that will bolster college and career readiness, no matter which field they end up choosing.

apprentices felting

Felting at the Emerald Arts Center.

As many as 30 students will participate this year in three 10-week periods. Students will work with the artists for at least 25 hours over the course of the term.

public art

Students on a tour of public art.

Students applied last spring and were matched to artists according to their interests. In one example, two girls are apprenticing at the Emerald Arts Center, one with a watercolorist and one with a fiber artist. Both girls are also learning gallery management along the way. Also this term, two students are working with artist Betsy Wolfston, of Woofworks Studio; one is at Castle of Games, a comics/arts business; two are working with the manager of the Wildish Theater; and two are at the Lane Arts Council doing graphic design.

Showcase Term 1 Hamlin Apprenticeship ProgramEach group will participate in a culminating showcase of what they learned from the experience. The first showcase is coming up at Hamlin on December 18.

“It has been an amazing experience to not only mentor two of the students from Hamlin Middle School, but also to see other long-lasting relationships forming through a passion for an artistic career,” says Lauren Suveges, arts education program manager for Lane Arts Council.

“While the students are gaining valuable skills the mentors are finding renewed energy in cultivating the interests of our communities young people as they learn and grow into their creativity. To me, this has been an exciting and surprising outcome from our first term of apprenticeships.”



Springfield’s Career Technical Classes Are Thriving

engineerArea industry leaders are highlighting a need for more skilled graduates — and Springfield is well-poised to provide them.

In an era when many other districts have cut their vocational programs, Springfield’s comprehensive high schools have chosen to preserve them. Sporting a wide range of career and technical education (CTE) classes, the schools clearly place a high premium on presenting students with a wide array of experience and options for future education and employment.

“We want students exiting our programs to be self-sufficient and capable of navigating the ever-changing world of business and industry,” says Scott Touchette, Woods instructor at Springfield High.

With the state’s push on “40-40-20” education, setting a goal that 80% of students should go on to two- or four-year degrees in order to be qualified for family-wage jobs, it’s more important than ever to help students find meaningful pathways to future careers.

SPS Stock Photo Day 3_007CTE classes not only allow students to test-drive real-world jobs and gain meaningful, relevant skills, but can also help keep kids engaged in their education so they stay in school. Many classes reinforce valuable STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills that are so important in 21st-century jobs.

Thurston High’s Career and Technical Education area offers drafting (four levels), manufacturing (seven classes, including welding, metal fab, electrical, engines, robotics, and electric cars), and construction (six woodworking classes), along with three early childhood education classes and two culinary classes.

Classes in Springfield High School’s Applied Arts area include drafting (five classes), woods (six), metals (five, including welding, machine tech and computer-aided manufacturing), and mechanics (six), along with five business classes.

SPS Stock Photo Day 3_011“We are very proud that we have maintained our CTE programs while many other districts have lost them,” says Randy Wilson, metals manufacturing instructor at Springfield High. “This puts us in a unique position to offer our students the option of direct entry to the job market or connections to advanced technical training. We truly have something special here.”

In addition to valuable hands-on experience, many CTE classes qualify for College Now credit, allowing students to graduate with a number of college credits already under their belts. Students often go on to Lane Community College for further training or two- or four-year degrees.

SPS Stock Photo Day 3_003Both schools are actively working with area employers to expand opportunities for students.

At Springfield High, leaders have been meeting with a group of employment specialists, local business representatives and educators to come up with a school-to-work program that would help Springfield High School graduates who are seeking career employment opportunities with local businesses in the Eugene/Springfield area. Some of these opportunities may also include future education or training at the employers’ expense.

SPS Stock Photo Day 3_158At Thurston High, CTE students can participate in an innovative program that provides students from several area schools with pre-apprenticeship opportunities. Students who pass a rigorous application process can learn side-by-side with industry professionals in the areas of sheet metal, plumbing/pipefitting, construction, and electricity. Thurston High hosts the electrician program each spring.

“These careers are in demand, as the workforce is aging and needs young, hardworking individuals with technical skills they have gained from these CTE classes,” says Greg Proden, drafting and welding instructor at Thurston. “When I tour businesses, the employers consistently stress the need to hire people that have these qualifications.”

In addition to classes providing hands-on training in industrial skills, both schools offer early childhood education classes that allow students to preview careers working with children. Springfield High offers business classes including beginning and advanced accounting that give students the opportunity to try out and develop their business skills. Thurston High’s culinary classes get real kitchen experience, and even earn money by catering district events.

“Adding skills learned in our CTE areas to academic courses allows students flexibility in seeking jobs that will ultimately lead to good-paying careers,” says Norman Eigner, manufacturing technology instructor at Thurston High.

In further demonstration of the district’s support for these programs, the bond measure that was recently passed by voters includes funds to upgrade some of the shop equipment.

Click here to watch a video created by THS Woods instructor Matt LaBounty describing how he uses technology and online tools to enhance his students’ learning experience.









Near-Peer Mentoring Pairs High Schoolers with Younger Students

The inaugural group of near-peer high school mentors.

The inaugural group of near-peer high school mentors.

As adults, we’ve all likely tried to give helpful advice to a teenager or two and watched as that advice went unheeded. So, how do we reach our 8th– and 9th-grade students to help them be successful as they transition to high school? We pair them with older students with similar backgrounds and experiences.

It’s called near-peer mentoring, and Springfield is using $180,000 in funds from an Oregon Department of Education Student Mentoring, Monitoring, and Acceleration grant to implement the program. The overall goal is to help boost student achievement and graduation rates.

How It Works: Staff will identify 8th- and 9th-grade students who are thought to be at risk of struggling in high school. Indicators used to identify students are poor grades, low attendance and other education-related risk factors. Each student will be paired with an upperclassman and meet with their mentor weekly over the course of two years.

An aspect of near-peer mentoring that sets it apart from other mentoring programs is the focus on pairing students with mentors of similar cultural backgrounds—the “near” in near-peer. By pairing students of similar cultures, the district hopes to have a more profound affect on participating students and, ultimately, keep students engaged throughout high school.

“The idea is that this becomes one thread in the fabric of support we provide our students. If we can find ways to engage kids before they fall behind, we can help them graduate on-time be ready to move on to post-secondary education or into their chosen careers,” said Assistant Superintendent Matt Coleman.

Mentors must have good grades and good attendance and, eventually, the mentees will become mentors themselves as they enter their junior year.

Kick-Off: Students will be involved in the program got a chance to meet each other for the first time at a May 6 kick-off event at the University of Oregon Ford Alumni Center. Nearly 160 students from Thurston and Springfield high schools as well as the district’s four middle schools attended, engaging in group-building activities while learning more about the program.

The program will begin in full swing this fall.


Gateways Teacher Wins Fulbright Teaching Grant

S0436056Gateways High School science teacher Holly Ellingson will fulfill a dream to conduct research in the United Kingdom next year thanks to a Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching grant.

“I decided to apply for the Fulbright grant because I am passionate about travel, learning, STEM education, art, helping students connect with their future (and their communities), and Ireland, and this opportunity fulfills all of those passions for me,” says Ellingson.

The grant will pay for her living expenses while she conducts research, studies, co-teaches and collaborates with educators in her host city for a three- to four-month term in spring 2015. She intends to use the results gained from her research project, Connecting Underprivileged Youth with their Future through STEM Programs and Community Connections, to help her improve science outcomes for Gateways kids upon her return to the U.S.

“Belfast, Northern Ireland, is my first choice,” she says. “I spent some time in Belfast in the winter of 2012, and became enchanted with the city. It’s a thriving, artistic and creative metropolitan area with a vibrant community that is politically active and engaged in moving past conflicts and competing in the world market both artistically and academically. Queens University in Belfast has a strong and vibrant STEM program that includes comprehensive outreach (to local primary and secondary schools) and a focus on the future for students of all ages and backgrounds. It also is host to university teachers who have been conducting research on how to better serve the needs of underprivileged and underserved students from diverse and difficult backgrounds. It’s a perfect place for me to better learn practices that can help my students gain a better sense of community and a desire to learn and achieve at a higher level.”

She expects to hear soon which city she will be placed in. And as excited as she is to go, she also looks forward to coming back.

“I definitely plan to return to Gateways,” she says. “I can’t imagine working anywhere else!  My research will specifically help my students at GHS because many are in the group I am targeting; older, underprivileged, disenfranchised youth who are feeling disconnected from their community. My emphasis is to try to steer students toward STEM career paths or post-secondary educational goals, but I imagine the strategies I learn can easily be applied to most any career path and post-secondary goal.”

Holly’s Gateways colleagues are understandably proud.

“We are very excited for Holly,” says Co-Principal Paul Weill. “She is a terrific teacher who makes a huge difference with each and every student. Winning a Fulbright grant is a tremendous honor and opportunity. Of course, we will miss her while she is gone, but we are glad to know that she will come back to us from her world travels with even more great ideas on how to reach and teach our most impacted youth here in Springfield.”

Holly’s Grant Submission:
My purpose is to learn how Irish teachers teach scientific problem-solving skills to their students through STEM projects, programs, or outreach; to research and learn better ways of connecting older, underprivileged teens with their futures; and to develop a program that will encourage underserved students to enter into STEM career paths.

My objectives are to build and cultivate long-lasting connections with the host country; to observe and study the host country’s methods for connecting young adults with apprenticeship programs, colleges, and jobs; to learn how to set up apprenticeship opportunities for students in Springfield; to develop methods to lead underserved students toward STEM career paths; and to train teachers on similar methods when I return home.

My expected outcomes are: 1) Knowledge of how Irish teachers approach teaching STEM projects, how they design and scaffold their lessons, and how they assess what students have learned; 2) Methods of engaging more, older, and less advantaged students in taking on STEM courses or career paths; and 3) A reduction in students leaving GHS before graduating.

My final project format and content will be concrete, deliverable project ideas that can be used by teachers to engage students in project-based, STEM activities with low budgets and limited supplies, and a toolbox of methods that can be implemented and applied at GHS to help transition students into a viable future that they are invested and interested in.

Read more about the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching here.



Foundation Awards Frank Sherman Grants to District Programs

Connie_and_Katie_crop2Three educators were surprised on April 2 with $1000 Frank Sherman grant awards offered through the Springfield Education Foundation (SEF). The Frank Sherman endowment was created to support health, physical fitness, and outdoor education activities and curriculum for Springfield Public Schools students. Grants will be awarded to the following educators/programs, all of which will take place at the district’s SKYCamp property and offered free to students:
Two Rivers–Dos Ríos Outdoor School: The two-day overnight outdoor school, led by 5th-grade teacher Connie Opsal and a host of volunteers, has been operating for several years. Programming focuses heavily on science activities with additional classes on physical fitness, health, and art for all 5th-grade students at the school, many of whom do not otherwise have access to outdoor programming.
Music in Motion at Thurston High School: Music in Motion, conceptualized by band director Timothy Vian, is a four-day summer camp intended to assist the members of the marching band to improve in physical fitness, leadership training, and physical and emotional confidence.
THS band
ALC Leadership Outdoor School at Springfield High School: The outdoor school, created by special education teacher Tony Lyman, is another new camp designed to prepare 25 special needs students for independent living and social skills such as budgeting, communication, leadership, etc.

The endowment was created in 2011 in honor of Frank Sherman, a long-time SPS administrator of health and outdoor recreation. Sherman was known for his belief that the complete education of students should include healthy lifestyles with plenty of exercise and recreation opportunities and exposure to the outdoors. Sherman, who was also a long-time member of Springfield Kiwanis, was instrumental in building the Springfield Kiwanis Youth Camp, better known as SKYCamp, located near Fall Creek.

Sherman’s widow, Katy Sherman, established the endowment with a $25,000 donation to Springfield Education Foundation, which was invested with the Oregon Community Foundation. Grants are awarded periodically by SEF from the endowment’s annual disbursements.


Young Readers Shine at OBOB Tournament

Twelve Springfield teams were in the mix on March 8 at the Region 3 North Oregon Battle _MG_9821of the Books (OBOB) tournament held at Thurston High. All 48 participating teams were treated to a great mix of excitement and entertainment throughout the day, this the first time since 2011 that Springfield has hosted a regional tournament, which rotates from district to district, and the first time ever for Thurston High.

Smiling faces in the morning told a story of teams of third- through fifth-graders enjoying a festive atmosphere surrounding reading and books, with local juggler extraordinaire Rhys Thomas captivating the crowd during the kick-off assembly with jokes about the 16 books that were featured in the competition. “The Amazing Spaghetti Man” also entertained the troops with his magic, and parent volunteers from Ridgeview Elementary made incredible balloon art. A number of authors also provided videos that were customized for the kids in attendance.

bracketsOut of 48 total teams from northern Lane County, teams from Riverbend, Yolanda and Walterville made the Sweet 16 list of teams with the highest amount of points after the pool play round. Those teams went on to battle in the intense bracket rounds after lunch.

Every battle was close and exciting in rooms packed with team supporters. Yolanda’s first-time, third-grade Jelly Bean Wild Readers were poised and sharp, advancing as far as the Elite 8.

As the bracket play settled into the final battles, the team from Adams landed in fourth place, with the team from Ridgeline Montessori winning the coveted third place by just 5 points, entitling them to advance to the state tournament because of the high number of Lane County teams.

Meanwhile, the top two teams battled in the auditorium, knowing that they would both get to go to the state competition at Chemeketa Community College in Salem on April 12. After a tense and close battle (78 to 77!), Eugene’s O’Hara Catholic School emerged as the winner, with Edgewood Elementary coming in a close second.

Congratulations to all the kids for their hard work, and to all the staff and students in Springfield, especially the dedicated district-wide OBOB committee and folks from Thurston High who hosted, for creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for young, passionate readers from the greater Eugene-Springfield community! Many thanks also to the event sponsors, including Springfield Education Foundation, Kendall Subaru and The Cressey Family Charitable Trust, for providing funding that covered the cost of books, t-shirts and entertainment, to Brenda Hansen of Horace Mann Insurance for donating two Kindles as prizes, and to Jennifer James-Long Photography for the excellent photos!

Already thinking about next year? Check out the books that have been already selected here!

Click on any of the photos in our gallery to view them full-size.

Photos courtesy of Jennifer James-Long Photography:



Pardon Our Mess – Learning in Progress!

DSC_0025Project-based learning is all the buzz these days as schools work to prepare kids for 21st-century careers. The concept makes sense: by tackling real-world problems and challenges, students are more actively engaged in their learning. They learn how to work in teams, use tools and exercise their creative and critical thinking skills.

But look out—it doesn’t look, or sound, like your grandfather’s classroom.

DSC_0049Hammers were flying in Jen Butler’s 7th-grade science classroom at Hamlin as students spent their class time yesterday building the high-traction footwear they designed as part of a four-week unit. The students’ charge for the “Polar Challenge”: “I can be a biomimic and work with my team to engineer a device that attaches to a shoe and gives me better traction on ice. Or, maybe you’ll sell them to the 2020 U.S. bobsled team.”

DSC_0024Holding up a sample of the shoes that are currently being used by many ice rink employees, Butler said, “We all tried these, and they clearly don’t work well. Who knows—one of you might be the next millionaire who sells new shoes to ice rinks.”

DSC_0031In the project-based learning model, teachers act more as facilitators rather than lecturers. Students assembled in teams to research animals from wintry climates and see if they could design footwear to mimic the animals’ success. They studied a variety of animal foot adaptations and then tried to mimic them on the shoe attachments. They also used a force sensor to test their prototype’s static and kinetic friction and compare it to a regular shoe.

The project itself was a model of collaboration. In addition to the two science teachers (Butler and Ben Muir), the 7th-grade language arts classrooms embraced the spirit of the project by creating potential advertisements to sell the newly designed footwear. And all 7th-graders will join the science students on a field trip to the ice rink to test the new traction shoes.

The Eugene Generals were more than happy to assist with the project, even inviting students to discounted tickets to watch a match.

Funding for the project was received through the Content in Context grant. The grant, a collaboration between several area school districts in conjunction with a variety of local science-based businesses, provides training and resources to teachers to develop project-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons for their science classrooms that simulate real-world problem solving.

The instructors participated in Project-Based Learning coursework with SPS Science Specialist Dara Brennan last summer to guide their lesson planning. Hamlin teachers Ben Muir and Jen Butler, along with two teachers from the Bethel School District, experimented with various materials on their own this fall to help develop their lesson plans.

Read more about the unique Content in Context projects at www.stem.lane.edu. Find out more about STEM in Springfield at www.springfield.k12.or.us/stem.