WASHOUGAL — A series of new, after-school classes at Washougal’s Jemtegaard Middle School are helping students in east Clark County broaden their horizons.
Prior to the start of the 2016-2017 school year, the only after-school learning opportunities at Jemtegaard Middle School (JMS) were the types of individualized tutoring course found at many middle and high schools.
Principal David Cooke says the three new, after-school offerings came about after parents involved in the school’s Highly Capable Parent Committee decided their students — all part of the school’s cohort of accelerated learners — could benefit from additional learning experiences.
“I also wanted to offer equity, so the programs not only meet the needs of highly capable but all students,” Cooke says.
At the start of the school year, JMS began offering three new after-school programs. One, led by Cooke and Washougal High School Counselor Owen Sanford, focuses on world languages and cultures. Another develops hands-on engineering skills, and the third teaches computer programming using the Raspberry Pi 3 platform.
All of the programs have attracted a diverse array of students, Cooke says.
“The goal of JMS was to get as many kids involved in extracurricular activities as it has a great impact on students’ academic and social success,” said Cooke. “Currently we have over 100 students involved. We plan to add more classes throughout the year such as dance, art, writing workshop and crochet. Parent volunteers are always greatly appreciated.”
An Australian citizen, Cooke has brought guest speakers into his and Sanford’s World Language and Culture Club and says the goal of the program is to help open the students’ eyes to the world’s many languages and cultures.
So far, the students in the World Language and Culture Club have used the popular Rosetta Stone software to learn languages like Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Tagalog, Farsi and Gaelic.
“Students have also heard from guest speakers [from Australia and South Korea] who share their experiences living in other countries,” Cooke says, adding that the students will meet speakers from China, Great Britain, Japan and Iran later this year.
JMS science teacher Darin Kohn teaches the new Maker Space program, which lets students learn hands-on engineering skills and develop greater problem-solving abilities.
“There are 20 members in this club so far, primarily sixth graders,” Cooke says. “It has been a great way for our new students to make new friends.”
And Paul Keeler, an engineer and chairman of the parent advisory group for JMS’ highly capable students, oversees the Raspberry Pi Club, which gives students an introduction to the type of computer programming skills so necessary in today’s technology heavy workforce.
Drawing on his nearly 20 years’ worth of engineering experience, Keeler tried to develop a program that could give the students a leg up for engineering and other STEM related fields. Utilizing the Raspberry Pi 3 computer programming platform was the first step to developing such a program, Keeler says.
“The Raspberry Pi became the kernel of that thinking that I sold to David [Cooke] at the end of summer,” Keeler says. “We put together a proposal, obtained a grant and have been moving forward ever since.”
Fellow engineer, Mike Payne, also helps out with the Raspberry Pi Club and Keeler says he’s already picked out a few “diamonds in the rough” who may be perfect engineers in the future.
“After so much experience hiring engineers over the years, you begin to identify people who are going to be the standouts and have a lot of potential and looking at the group of kids there are more there than I anticipated,” Keeler says.
He adds that the after-school Raspberry Pi Club is quickly evolving.
“I seem to always have a new face or two every week. In upcoming weeks they will start wrapping up the first of the planned session topics, and will start taking on more ownership and working on projects,” Keeler says. “I am very excited to have the chance to enable these kids, and there is so much potential in both the kids and what we can easily expose them to with just a little effort. It’s amazing.”
For more information about the new after-school programs offered at JMS, visit the school’s website at www.washougal.k12.wa.us/jms/home/school-homepage.