Monday, March 14, 2016

WHS Knowledge Bowl Team earns Third in Regionals

High school Knowledge Bowl is where education meets competition. The new program at Washougal High School recently buzzed in an impressive third place Regional finish on February 22 held at Lower Columbia College in Longview.  Their sights are now set on the State competition on March 19 in Arlington, WA.

Pam Crockford, WSD Substitute Teacher, is the new WHS Knowledge Bowl coach after a previous coach left the district.  Crockford has coached the WHS Science Olympiad team for 3 years.  The Science Olympiad team recently earned a second place title at its regional competition also at Lower Columbia College in Longview.  That State meet will be at Eastern Washington University, April 16th.

“I am just learning about the logistics of coaching Knowledge Bowl,” Crockford said.  “But it is not about me. It is about the kids and they are the ones who make it all work.”

Sophomore Emma Hein is the WHS Knowledge Bowl captain.  She and other teammates had come from strong Washougal middle school programs.  As captain, Hein gives the final team answer in competition. “I also help to facilitate which answer is the correct one if several people disagree on the team,” she said. According to Hein, it is difficult to study for competition due to the huge range of questions.  But practice in thinking quickly and working together does help.

Asked if the competitions feel like a sport, Hein agreed that they could be considered mental athletes and they do work as a team.  “Chemistry between team members does impact how well you do,” she explained.  “I‘d say we finally nailed it at regionals.  We worked together and it showed.”

Crockford agrees. “Chemistry is important and so is having fun and enjoying who you are teamed with,” she said. “Having a variety of knowledge backgrounds is a real plus.  It is also good to know who on the team knows what topics really well.”

“At competition a student can buzz in even if you don’t know the answer but they know a teammate who probably does,” explained Hein.  “You have to be fast to push the button.  It can be very strategic.”

This year WHS also has enough interest to field a Junior Varsity team.  “They are a group of kids who really enjoy each other,” Crockford said.  “And they were very strong against some big competition.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Gause First Graders Catch the Learning Bug

First graders in Marvina Bugajski’s class at Gause Elementary became “bug experts” on a wide variety of insects and then shared their knowledge with other students, parents and the community at an Insect Showcase, February 12.

“The students completed their research for this informational writing lesson about insects using books and the internet,” said Bugajski.  “This year we did a lot more research online.  They used what they found for writing the poster information at school and then created a diorama as a family project at home.”

Parent Kristie Williams was impressed with how much daughter, Sawyer, knew about bugs and took leadership in the family project to create her diorama.  “I took her to the store but she knew what she needed like trees and grass because that is where the insect lives,” she said.  “Her dad helped cut the dowels used for trees and hung the butterflies and sister even donated the box.  It was fun to work together on.”

“The students get so excited about the insects and love to share it with their family,” Bugajski said.  “They really take ownership of the project and then love to tell people what they learned.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Washougal Middle School Students Get the Fact Drugs and Alcohol

Schools all across the country took part in National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week January 25-29.   NDAFW is a national health observance for teens to promote local events that use National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIDA) science to shatter the myths about drugs.  More than 1,800 events were held across the country and internationally that week.

“We are taking advantage of this week in Washougal to start conversations about drugs and alcohol with youth,” said Wendy Butler C.W.D.P., Student Assistance Counselor from Educational Service District 112 working in Washougal. “The focus on drug and alcohol information has changed since the days of using scare tactics for kids. Now our information is more evidence based facts.”

Butler spent two days each at Canyon Creek and Jemtegaard Middle Schools talking to students at lunch time.  “They would line up for a chance to read a slip of paper with a fact about drugs or alcohol on it,” Butler explained. “They would read the fact and then paraphrase the information back to me.”  Stating the fact in their own words helps students to understand and retain the information.

“We are not with these kids every second so they need to be prepared with the tools to think on their own,” Butler said.  “It is best to give them information to process so they can make their own decisions.  We are approaching our kids on a more mature level.”  An outcome of the fact sharing is also to create student interest in Prevention Clubs starting at both schools.

“I think it is cool and interesting to hear these facts,” said CCMS 8th grader Alexis Brock.  Brock’s fact was about e-cigarettes, a topic she was already aware of. “I have talked with my family about how it is not right that e-cigarettes can be sold to kids when it is really the same stuff in them as regular cigarettes!”

CCMS 8th grader Casey Rappe’ said he found the facts interesting to think about.  “My fact was on alcohol blood levels,” he said.  “Some kids don’t realize that what you drink gets into your blood.  That is what makes you woozy but it can also kill you if you have too much.  It is kind of scary that know that alcohol goes into your blood.”

Facts were presented in several categories including marijuana, tobacco and nicotine, synthetic drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol.  “Kids are surprised by the information about prescription drugs and that it is the source of most drug overdoses,” Butler said.  The danger of additives in synthetic drugs is also new to many.

“We want to let them know the most important thing they have is their brain and they should not harm it while they are still growing,” Butler said.  “My job is really to empower kids to make positive choices.”

Monday, February 1, 2016

WHS Unified Team Offers Opportunities for Youth

Playing youth sports and being a part of team competition provides life lessons that extend far beyond the play field.  Now that Special Olympics Washington Unified Sports has come to Clark County, there are opportunities for high school students with special needs to have the experience of being on a team and playing competitive sports.    

The Unified Sports model combines Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities) as teammates on sport teams for training and competition.  The Unified Team provides students an opportunity to use sports as a way to bond, create friendships and working together as a team.

Washougal Teacher Dani Allen began coaching the Unified soccer team at Washougal High School last spring and is now coaching the new basketball team.  “Being a part of this program has been life changing,” she said.   “It is touching on so many levels.  These kids are able to build friendships and camaraderie that you just can’t do in the classrooms.  Some of what you see can bring you to tears.  The sportsmanship, the athletes, the partners’ interaction.  It’s amazing.” Allen taught Special Education for 15 years, with seven of those in Washougal.  She started at Hathaway Elementary and then taught at WHS. She is currently the art teacher at Jemtegaard Middle School.

“It has been great to play basketball,” said team athlete and WHS senior, Shawn Fredericksen.  “We have a positive attitude and work together. It is fun being a part of a team.”

Fredericksen also gave credit to his coaches.  “I like my coaches,” he said.  “They are fun and teach us new things.   We are getting better each week.”

Allen is helped by assistant coaches Lin and Greg Guiles of Washougal.  “They are an important part of the program,” said Allen.  “I am not sure what I’d do without them!”

 “Being on the team provides surprising benefits and life lessons for these kids,” said Allen. “Like having to have their uniform washed and ready for games or to remember to bring shoes and clean shorts and shirts with you to school on practice days.  Those are responsibilities these kids are having to step up to.”

 The team members also enjoy recognition at school during morning announcements that tell about the games and posters on the wall with their names on them.  “Being on a team is a huge self-esteem booster for these students,” said Allen.  “And the interaction with the general education kids who help as partners is positive and great to watch.”

 WSH junior, Tyler Bowlin, got involved as a partner on the Unified team at the recommendation of a friend.  “I’m glad I got involved. It is really fun to come out and help these kids who genuinely want to be here and try hard,” he said.  “What we are doing is all for the athletes. It is not for the partners to better ourselves in the sport.  It feels good to help the athletes gain self-confidence so they see they are just as good as everyone else. The amount of happiness that shows in their face when they make a shot is just amazing. It’s a great feeling for everyone.”

“We have good spirit, we fight hard, and have team work,” said WHS senior athlete, Mikey Nuketuk.  “To not give up and to have a positive attitude are the most important parts to the game.  We have a good team. We try our best and we all pushed hard. But you don’t always win.”

 Although the players are working to win, there is a high emphasis on sportsmanship.  In a game against Camas in January, a Camas athlete made a basket and came to the Washougal bench to celebrate.  “Our whole team cheered and gave him high fives,” said Allen.   “It was awesome.”

 Allen has been struck by the pride the families are showing for their student athletes.  “Some parents are seeing skills that they had not known their child had,” commented Allen.  “One parent commented that they did not know their son could run so fast.  This is first time many of these students have participated in an organized sport programs and had their parents on the side line cheering them on.  The parents are very supportive.”

 “My family thinks that is it cool that I am playing basketball,” said Fredericksen. “And they know it is fun for me to be with my friends.”

The WHS team has competed at several tournaments and its next is Saturday, February 6 at Kelso High School and then February 13 at Prairie High School. One of the challenges is to get fans in the stands at these games.   “We are planning to do a scrimmage during a high school game half time or during a pep assembly,” Allen said.  She also commented that after the WHS cheerleaders attended a Unified game one of the squad members commented, “Everyone needs to see this.”  The games are free to attend.

Unified Sports compete in two divisions.  Division one are those teams that are very competitive and division two are more recreational players.  Washougal started with a single team but has grown to have a team in both division.  Camas also has a team in each division.

 According to Allen, Special Olympics helps with funding through a $2,000 grant for equipment and uniforms.  WSD Special Education pays the rest.  The coaching is all volunteer and there is no fee for students.

Monday, December 21, 2015

VFW Essay Winners

Veterans of Foreign War members recently traveled to Washougal and Camas schools awarding the winners of their yearly essay contests.

Elementary students competed in the State Junior Essay contest by supporting the statement “Why America is My Favorite Country.”  Winners at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary were fifth grader Nolan Johnson with a first place and fourth grader Keagan Payne with a second place.  At Gause Elementary, Anna Chaffee won first place for fourth grade and Emelia Warta from the fifth grade received an Honorable Mention.  Winning the third grade competition were Madison Dodge, first place; Aidan Hasselbush, second place; and Brooklyn Lowe, third place.  Hathaway Elementary did not participate this year.

This year, all 3rd grade contest winners came from the classroom of Gause teacher, Jim Schroeder.  “Consistently, year in and year out, he produces more winners for his grade level than anyone else,” said Gause Principal Rex Larson.  “Jim had also been the 3rd grade teacher for this year's 4th and 5th grade winners from Gause.”

“Taking part in this contest helps students to understand that our rights and privileges in the United States are not the same as in other parts of the world,” said Schroeder.  “Students begin to recognize that they are very lucky to be living in a free country, and to honor those that have fought to keep it that way.”

Schroeder has been surprised by how many students incorporate personal stories into their essays. “There many stories that demonstrated how living in our free country has touched, or had an impact on their own family's life history,” he said.

Middle school winners of the Patriot Pen Essay contest at Canyon Creek Middle School were second place winners Thomas Hein, eighth grade and Simone Velansky, sixth grade.  Seventh grade winners were Bryce M. Holmes with a third place and Charlotte Baker was awarded an Honorable Mention.   Jemtegaard Middle School did not participate this year.

At the high school level, students competed in the Voice of Democracy competition.  Washougal High School senior Taylor Brown won first place and a $500 check.  Winning fourth place and a $100 check was senior Aisha Marcos. WHS Honorable Mention winners were seniors Courtney Shelley and Christian Mishler and junior Mitchell Leon.

All winners of 1st, 2nd and 3rd places from all grade levels will advance to the state competition. High school students can advance to nationals were there is a $35,000 college scholarship for the top prize.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Hathaway students visit Two Rivers Heritage Museum

Second graders from Hathaway Elementary School had the chance to take a peak at people who helped shape the local community at the Two Rivers Heritage Museum on a field trip Thursday, June 11.  Groups of students stopped at several stations where museum docents would describe artifacts and stories of early residents. "This is a wonderful opportunity for students to get an appreciation for the local history and past community leaders," said Debbie Kramer, Hathaway second grade teacher.

Donuts with Dad at Gause

Donuts and a good book were on the menu at the annual "Donuts with Dad" breakfast at Gause Elementary, Friday June 12.  The event is meant to encourage reading and create a special time with dads and their students.

"It is a lot of fun to be here," said Gause father, Zane Dillion, who was the guest of daughters Abby, kindergarten, and first grader Emma.  "And I love books," he added.   Dillion was reading poems from Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” captivating his young girls’ attention.  Daughter, Emma, also enjoyed the special morning and said, "I like the books and seeing everyone walk by with their dad."

The event, now in its fourth year, keeps getting bigger and has outgrown the library where it began and now packs the cafeteria.  The morning also featured drawings for books and prizes courtesy of the Gause Boosters.