Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features >  Voices

Eagle Scout project gives students hands-on learning

Strips of wood carved to show the basic curves and lines of letters offer a tangible way to teach early elementary and special education students how to write letters.

Thanks to an Eagle Scout project completed by a Central Valley High School junior, Patrick Croskrey, several students will now have a chance to use sets of these wooden shapes, also called manipulatives. For the project, Croskrey got the material donated and spent 90 hours helping carve 650 pieces for 25 sets. Each set has 26 pieces carved in the shapes of long lines, small curves, short lines and big curves.

“I thought it was a really good Eagle project,” said Croskrey. “This one is just unlike any I’ve seen in the way it can help kids.”

Last week, Croskrey was invited to see students use the manipulatives for the first time in a special-education class at Greenacres Elementary School. Occupational therapist Jeanne Englund set up pieces on a table before a small group of students in teacher Junei Michelbook‘s class.

“Big line,” Englund said as she set down a piece, followed by another one, “Big curve,” she said. The students recognized the letter D.

Later, Englund can lead students through exercises in handwriting with the children forming the same shapes on chalk boards for each letter. They then move on to paper.

As Michelbook watched her students work with Englund, she said the manipulatives help students learn how to form each letter correctly. “It’s a tactile approach to learning,” she said. “It helps them to use the shapes of letters. With those four shapes, they can make all the letters.”

Croskrey said he got the idea for the manipulatives from a friend who goes to his church, Kathy Poffenberger, a kindergarten paraeducator at McDonald Elementary. England had introduced the idea of the letter manipulatives to Poffenberger and other McDonald staff during teacher collaboration time.

“She (Poffenberger) approached me,” Croskrey explained. “It can help kindergarten and special-ed kids with their writing and their motor skills. My grandpa helped me. He has a workshop and showed me how to use tools to cut the wood and the sanding tools.”

As part of his project, Croskrey coordinated the work and secured the materials and donations. “Windsor Plywood donated all the wood,” he said. “The boxes were done by Action Packaging and Shipping. I got a lot of help.”

Englund said the sets will likely be used at McDonald Elementary and by occupational therapist who work around the Central Valley School District.

Students achieve top scores in ‘Math is Cool’

Several Central Valley middle school students performed well at the recent Eastern Washington “Math is Cool” regional competition. They qualified as individuals and teams for the state tournament by achieving top scores regionally.

Individuals were tested on multiple-choice and open-ended problem sets. Students who placed in individual events included:

D.G. Kim (sixth-grade, Greenacres Middle School) – fourth place, pre-algebra

Brandon Lorentz (eighth-grade, GMS) – seventh place, algebra

Alexandria Moore (seventh-grade, Horizon Middle School) – second place, algebra

Alex Wende (seventh-grade, GMS) – first place, pre-algebra

Teams competed in open-ended problem sets, relays, pressure rounds, mental math and college bowl rounds. Students who placed in team events were:

Seventh-grade team, Bowdish Middle School – third place – Nash Archer, Brenna Carveth, Jessica Demchuk, Carly Garza, Catharine Judkins, Sydney Kaster, Dustin Liu, Ally Ramirez, Eric Roe, Victoria Tobin, Abby Tupling, Mandy Wiberg and Jordon Wing.

Eighth-grade team, Evergreen Middle School – fifth place – Danica Beschta, Brandon Carter, Seth Johnson and Stephen Lucas.

Eighth-grade team, GMS – second place – Ryan Downing, Brandon Lorentz, Natasha Saric, Adam Shaw, Brittany Thomas and Andy Wiggin.

Seventh-grade team, GMS – fifth place – Desiree Bernhard, Anthony D’Amico, Allison Dimmler, Beth Hotchkiss, Alexea Hovren and Alex Wende.

The Spokane district competition is one of three regional “Math is Cool” contests for students in grades 4 through 12. The regional competitions for elementary school students will be held in the spring. The state “Masters” competition will be held this month in Seattle.

Firm chosen to help with superintendent search

The East Valley School District has selected a superintendent search firm, McPherson and Jacobson, to begin finding candidates.

Board members have met with the firm and will hold staff and community meetings during the process, said EVSD board president Kerri Lunstroth.

“We will start meeting with community and staff at the end of January in focus groups,” Lunstroth said “I’m assuming by the end of April we’ll make a selection but we want to find out what our community and staff want. We really want to keep it an open process.”