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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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At Titantic Experience, 6th-Graders Learn Team-Building, Making Choices

Two happy sounds rang out in Monday’s drizzle.

A chorus of frogs ribbeted away from a marshy spot on Karl Wilkinson’s property. And up the hill, a chorus of sixth-graders giggled and hollered.

Sixty-some students from East Valley Middle School were embarking on two days of leadership and team-building exercises, called a Titantic Experience. By the end of the week, all 220 of the school’s sixth-graders will have gone through the outdoor program. Day 2 of the program focuses on the ropes course at Camp Lutherhaven.

East Valley counselor Kara Woods described the roots of the program succinctly: “We needed civility.”

Teachers and principal Ken Woolf wanted their sixth-graders to start taking control of their own lives, to cooperate, to exercise good choices, both in their own lives and in deciding whom to trust as friends.

Wilkinson, an East Valley School Board member and professional mediator, was a natural to help teach the students to become captains of their ships. His land, out toward Newman Lake, was chosen as the first-day site.

East Valley Middle School hopes to develop the program into a three- or four-day annual event for sixth-graders, presented each fall. This is a pilot session, Woods said.

Monday’s voyagers took a break, sitting in a semi-dry pine grove, and listened to Wilkinson talk about helping each other versus ignoring each other.

The ground was cold and damp. The kids were damp, many of them dressed in sweats, soggy windbreakers or garbage bags.

“Do we really have to sit down?” they asked. It took a while for them to concentrate on Wilkinson’s message.

He talked about the beauty inside each person, beauty that many of us don’t get to know. To illustrate, he used an orange, dropping it to the ground, again and again, until finally its skin broke. Inside, an orange is sweet; outside, its skin is bitter.

As the sixth-graders settled in, a few kept up the fidgets. Others leaned, back to back, against each other for warmth and support. One girl, who looked drenched, leaned her head against her neighbor’s shoulder.

One of his points was the importance of friendship. Wilkinson told a story about his son Kwin Wilkinson to illustrate.

He told of Kwin’s efforts as a sixth-grader to befriend an unpopular boy who came from a tough family situation.

Just 10 years ago, he said, Kwin was target shooting on the hill, only feet from where the kids sat.

He slid and accidentally shot himself. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair.

Sure enough, while Kwin was in the hospital, it was that friend who came through, bringing much needed cheer, books and magazines. And a card that said: “Kwin, you were there for me when I needed you. I’ll be here for you when you need me.”

As Wilkinson talked, the kids drew into such a quiet, you could hear the chorus of frogs down the hill.

Finally, Wilkinson said, “Well, I think it’s time to keep going on our journey.” The quiet disappeared. The kids burst to their feet. And they climbed on up the hill.

Award for preschool teacher

Diane Knowles, director and teacher at the Redeemer Lutheran Preschool, has been named Early Childhood Professional of the Year by the Eastern Washington Association for the Education of Young Children.

Knowles has led the Redeemer program for 20 years.

Optimists honor youngsters

The Spokane Valley chapter of Optimists International recently honored one student from each grade school and junior high school in the Valley.

Each school used its own criteria, including grades, leadership and service, to pick one outstanding student. The recognition luncheon was held March 12.

Honorees included: Emily Fisher, St. John Vianney Catholic School; Johnathan Le, St. Paschal’s Catholic School and Brian Roark, Orchard Prairie Elementary.

Shelby Scofield, Millwood School; DJ Mackie, Ness Elementary; Andrea Jackson, Orchard Center Elementary; Michael Hauschild, Pasadena Park Elementary; Christy Longhofer, Seth Woodard Elementary and Luke Gerrells, Centennial Middle School.

Janelle Rettig, East Farms Elementary; Christi Clark, Otis Orchard Elementary; Meagan Nuchols, Skyview Elementary; Alex Davis, Trent Elementary; Erin Dennis, East Valley Middle School and Brandon Bucher, Mountain View Middle School.

Gavin Griffith, Broadway Elementary; Katie Joe Murray, Chester Elementary; Julie Nania, Greenacres Elementary; Jason Burningham, Ponderosa Elementary; Stephanie Tintinger, Progress Elementary; Jessica Moore, South Pines Elementary; Suzanne Almeida, University Elementary; Kelly Wieber, Greenacres Junior High; Sara Steblaj, Horizon Junior High; Dan Hayward and Jeff Hayward, North Pines Junior High.

, DataTimes MEMO: The Education Notebook is the spot The Valley Voice devotes to telling our community about students’ accomplishments, about learning in classrooms across the Valley. Teachers or parents whose students have earned honors, feel free to toot your horn. Contact Marny Lombard at the Valley Voice, 13208 E. Sprague, Spokane, WA 99216. Call: 927-2166. Fax: 927-2175. E-mail: MarnyL@spokesman.com

The Education Notebook is the spot The Valley Voice devotes to telling our community about students’ accomplishments, about learning in classrooms across the Valley. Teachers or parents whose students have earned honors, feel free to toot your horn. Contact Marny Lombard at the Valley Voice, 13208 E. Sprague, Spokane, WA 99216. Call: 927-2166. Fax: 927-2175. E-mail: MarnyL@spokesman.com

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