College in the Classroom - by Marlene Farrell
Did you know that you can earn College Credits for courses offered at Cascade High School?
Students ready for college level classes or interested in career development have an array of opportunities at Cascade High School in Leavenworth. With Career Technology, AP and dual credit classes with several regional universities, the high school, despite its relatively small size, has something for everyone.
In a recent class of Advanced English (dual credit through Eastern Washington University), teacher Andrea Brixey gave her students 90 minutes of guided inquiry, requiring them to engage, discuss, consider and reconsider. In other words, she gave them a mental workout.
The class listened closely as Brixey recited, from memory, a Marilyn Nelson poem entitled, “Not My Bones.” After the students gave a round of finger-snapping applause, discussion ensued about the meaning and metaphysical implications of the poem, centering around one impactful stanza: “We are brief incarnations/We are clouds in clothes/we are water respirators/we are how the earth knows.”
Students suggested the poem implied a person is more than just their physical being. “The body is just a vessel,” one person said. “And after you die you aren’t really gone, you exist in what people think of you.”
Next, half the class at a time sat in a circle of desks for a “Socratic Seminar” on a chapter of the war novel, “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien. Brixey literally taped her mouth shut, letting the students be their own discussion facilitators.
While the conversation bounced around, Brixey drew lines on the whiteboard between the names of students, showing the growth of the constellation of ideas. Students who shared the most ideas became the brightest nodes on the conversation map.
Everyone gained a deeper understanding of the text and the author’s intent. It was a communal, not oppositional, exercise. One conclusion drawn by the students was that the author purposefully alternated the tone from resigned to joyous to match the dramatically swinging circumstances of a soldier’s life.
“I’ve used Socratic Seminars for probably a decade,” Brixey said. “Done well, they seem to be one of the most powerful and effective teaching strategies.”
High expectations of another sort could be found in the computer lab. As students entered, they spread out among the computers, each equipped with dual screens. Wearing headsets and facing miniature cameras, the students interacted with their online teachers seamlessly. They could see each other’s faces and the teacher can peer at anyone’s screen at the touch of a button.
The current variety of offerings and rigor of the computer science classes are due, in part to the Technology Education and Literacy in the Schools (TEALS) program. TEALS is a nationwide effort to bring computer science courses and the associated skills to high schools via industry volunteers. Cascade High School and teacher Tammy Murphy are in their second year of TEALS mentoring.
Thus, the classes are taught remotely by software developers from Microsoft. These professionals also drive over from the west side to visit a few times a year. The current AP course, Computer Science Principles, focuses on understanding the fundamentals of networks and interconnectivity. The emphasis of another course will be coding. If the three students taking the current class pass the AP exam, they earn college credit.
The other computer science classes, including Intro, Digitools and Web Design, are dual credit, meaning the curriculum is the same as what’s taught at Wenatchee Valley College (WVC). Students who earn a C or better can also earn college credits and potentially reduce the overall price of college.
“Each year we work to meet the needs of students as they seek post-secondary opportunities,” said Principal Elia Ala’ilima-Daley. “We also want to keep students on campus for the high school experience.”
At the same time, the school is seeing the loss of some students to Running Start at WVC. “We have about 49 total students at Running Start this year with a few of those taking classes at CHS and WVC,” said Ala’ilima-Daley. “I did a survey of the Running Start Juniors. The AA degree and more flexible schedule were the main reasons given. Some students do not even step onto campus, as WVC allows online classes now.”
Senior Emma Kampen-Palmer did Running Start last year, but now she’s back at Cascade, for the social aspects, and to take classes like AP Art. Kampen-Palmer’s focus is on 2D art and design, with her favorite techniques including painting, drawing, water color and wash, a hybrid she described as “between water color and paint, depending on how thick you mix it.”
Technology comes into play as well. Her teacher, Teara Dillon, said, “She will be using digital programs to elaborate onto her hand rendering and to create digital images as well.”
During a yearlong independent study, Kampen-Palmer will create pieces in the first semester. During the second semester, as Dillon explained, “There is more focus on elaborating, artwork selection and working on the written descriptions. I try to challenge the artist to try new media and styles. I hope to push them beyond their comfort area and create art that evokes a feeling or thought from the viewer.”
Kampen-Palmer’s portfolio will then be put to the test as it’s judged by a national panel, who will determine her AP score.
Students who seek an extra challenge can find it at Cascade High School. From academics including AP Chemistry and Chicano Studies, to technical classes like Fire Science and Engineering, the opportunities to explore one’s passion while also becoming prepared for college and career, are many.
Caption from the image above: Emma Kampen-Palmer enjoys working on figures. “I want to get the form perfect,” she said.
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