Arlington residents take field trip to get to know their public schools

ARLINGTON – Elijah Moore, an eighth-grader at Post Middle School, smiled. A robot on his computer screen smiled back. When he frowned the computer frowned.

Meanwhile, at Weston High School, juniors Bianca Athen and Aleena Harris showed their “better-built mouse trap and mini catapults constructed of popsicle sticks and a plastic spoon.

These creative assignments were seen on a “Know Your Schools” tour Tuesday, led by Superintendent Chrys Sweeting. Parents, staff and others were provided an in-the-classroom glimpse at learning in action. This was Sweeting’s first tour herself after taking the helm in July.

She addressed training for staff and professional development for teachers this year that focuses on better understanding trauma as it relates to students and their ability to learn without social or emotional stumbling blocks getting in their way.

“We believe a student is a whole person,” Sweeting said. “Yes, education is a big part of that, but it’s also about the social and emotional aspects, and interventions for behavior, as well as academic.”

The tour took guests on a visit to Weston High School, Post Middle School and Eagle Creek Elementary, three of the 10 schools in the district.

Weston High School

This school offers project-based learning for students so they can achieve more and have a better experience outside a traditional education model. The focus is hands-on, providing a full curriculum built around college and career readiness, collaboration and communication, creativity and critical thinking.

For free-thinking students like junior Bianca Athen, Weston is a better fit. “I feel a lot better at Weston and am a lot more confident about myself.”

Athen was one of several student tour guides for the day. Weston exists with a culture that uses a variety of ideas to encourage positive behavior at school. The leadership class, for example, hosted a Halloween Dance, while Panther Bingo offers reward tickets for good deeds that key into the school’s overriding them to be respectful, encouraging, accountable and persistent. A bingo can bring rewards such as an extended lunch period or ice cream feed.

Athen and Harris displayed some of their hands-on handiwork, including mouse trap and mini-catapults.

Weston has the usual classroom layout, computer lab and other features of a general high school. However, another benefit unique to Weston is that the school has opened its doors to become the site for the Advanced Manufacturing Training &Education Center north to support the flagship campus at Everett Community College. That partnership has expanded to include EvCC continuing education classes at Weston in off-hours. Both offer students a viable vocational career track in machining and milling for the aerospace manufacturing industry.

Post Middle School

With developing dreams and using the mind high on Post’s list of essentials, the tour stopped by teacher Robin Foster’s computer and technology class. While students worked busily on computer graphic-design projects, one student drew extra glances for a high-tech headset.

Elijah Moore, an eighth-grader, demonstrated the class’s Emotiv Brainwave headset, using his brain to control a computer.

As part of the brain-control interface, the headset picks up the electrical impulses generated by brain waves, and the software teaches the computer what the wave means.

Moore first concentrated on trying to get a small orange floating cube on the computer screen move the direction that he wanted, almost daring him to try. Manipulating objects is one of the skills gained by using the software.

The software is also designed to read facial expressions and emotions. Moore, still in the headset, demonstrated the technology by facing a small robot face on the screen. He smiled and frowned, and the robot responded in kind.

Eagle Creek Elementary

Students this year are on a quest to attend school eagerly, read voraciously and persevere proudly.

At the top of the priority list is the school’s Attend Eagerly quest, which was presented to the school board last week as a successful program that is helping boost attendance.

The goal is to “strive for five (days),” as student track their attendance using a calendar. The school is tracking month-to-month attendance by filling up the bricks on a large medieval castle pinned on a wall in the school’s lobby. And, whenever the school hits 95 percent attendance, a large, green, flying dragon gets more of its scales colored in for what could be a grand prize at the end of the school year.

Any missed school is missed learning, school officials said.

Absenteeism is a big issue that school districts statewide are battling. Washington state ranks No. 2 in the nation for worst rates of chronic school absences, behind only Washington, D.C. Arlington’s chronically absent rate of 14.96 percent is slightly better than the state average of 16.44 percent, and markedly better than Marysville School District’s 23.65 percent.

Through the Attend Eagerly initiative, one student said she was absent 24 days last year. This year she has only missed three days.

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