Education on the Edge Part 2: Interactive Teaching - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Education on the Edge Part 2: Interactive Teaching

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MATTAWA, WA - In our continuing series this week, Wahluke School District teachers get creative to make sure their students - many of whom are still learning English at some level - don't become disengaged with school in the process.

"The kids are always talking," said U.S. History teacher Joel Dugan. "You're not going to walk into my classroom and see a silent classroom. It's going to be loud, they're going to be smelling tea, they're going to be touching fur."

Dugan teaches 8th grade U.S. History and is an ASB Advisor at Wahluke Junior High. After a year teaching in the Seattle School District, Dugan came to Mattawa, where he's been for seven years. Seven years of making his history classes aggressively interactive to cater to the students of Wahluke.

"I'm a hunter," Dugan explained. "I bring in buckskins, and I bring in antlers and I bring in a bearskin...and all of a sudden, the fur trade becomes a real thing."

Dugan quickly realized that having the class read a chapter about the Boston Tea Party wasn't doing the trick, so it was off to Boston Harbor...or, the Wahluke football stadium.

"Yesterday we went outside and threw a bunch of boxes onto the track and pretended it was the water, and shouted 'No taxation without representation!' They're going to remember that a lot longer than reading it out of a book," said Dugan.

It translates to every class at the school. English Language Arts teachers integrate Lego Story Starters into their lessons as visual aides. $150 per set, ten sets per classroom, eight classrooms...that's $12,000 worth of Legos, and the deal included getting a representative from Lego to come train the teachers this fall. A lesson on creating story arcs? Build each stage of the story with the Legos and let's see it come to life.

The school's science teachers say they feel lucky that science is interactive to begin with, but again...hands-on learning is the way to go here. Experiments, observations, and discussions.

"Any kid can look through a microscope, no matter what language they speak," said Cyndy Kuebel, an 8th grade Science teacher. "Any kid can drop a ball and measure forces no matter what language they speak."

"Students are naturally curious about the way things work around them, so I think that's one way our content is lucky to be able to generate buy-in," said Chuck Hubbard, a 7th grade Science teacher.

"I have an Explorer Club I've started here," said Mike Bosko, a 6th grade Science teacher. "The goal of that is to get our kids out of Mattawa. Mattawa's a great place, but 50 miles around us is desert; it's all the same terrain. So that's what they know. So my goal is to get them out, up in the mountains, into the streams, walking on the cobbles and it's just exciting to see that. So, trying to get them those experiences."

Wahluke has a teacher shortage, and tomorrow you'll see why: distance. But you'll also see why Wahluke teachers are in demand at other districts around the state, making it tough to keep the teachers the district does have.

For the next Education on the Edge segment, click here:

Education on the Edge Part 3: Wahluke's struggles to hire and keep teachers

For the previous Education on the Edge segment, click here:

Education on the Edge Part 1: Superintendent Discussion