Community well will be maintained

A $20,000 STEM Lighthouse grant awarded to Skamania School District for the 2018-19 school year will support outdoor learning and teaching plans for its long-held 38-acre piece of property.

“Our idea is to develop it into an outdoor classroom,” said Emily Hopple, who co-teaches kindergarten through second grade and coordinates STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—studies. “We’ll be able to visit and look at the health of the forest and observe animals, making it an extension of our classroom.”

The land is walking distance from the school but difficult to access. The district plans to install a trail or a road, and a shelter where students and staff can conduct research.

In 2018, the School Board established project goals—that it will provide educational benefits, responsible land management and a financial benefit to the school. The district gathered community input, established a 15-member task force and addressed community concerns.

One concern was related to a community well, which the district and task force have determined will be maintained in a protected zone. A logging survey found that some trees will need to be thinned and others removed due to disease. This will produce revenue and contribute to the health of the forest.

Meanwhile, school staff consulted with other districts and STEM resources across the state to learn how to engage students in field studies in many subjects and to incorporate neighborhood partnerships.

Skamania seventh and eighth graders are already studying stream quality, and fifth and sixth graders are researching what components make a healthy forest. Students will have opportunities to assist with everything from writing letters to the Department of Natural Resources to improving the land.

Skamania School District will be sharing its story and using it to inspire and encourage STEM education in other districts across the state.

The Lighthouse grant is managed by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and recognizes Skamania’s innovative practices and ability to reach students with STEM education.