Monday, March 25, 2024

Powerful Perspectives for Life's Complexities

     I like quotes, analogies, and brief proclamations that inspire, motivate, and remind me of some of the important factors in navigating life. I think they also help me to understand complicated thing. Being an educator and administrator I've often used them to offer a different or needed perspective to both students and teachers. On occasion I'm also able to employ them in conversations with parents. With this blog being available to all our White Pine stakeholders, I care to share some quotes, analogies and brief proclamations that resonate with me, that align with our mission and vision, and hopefully offer a different perspective on the complexities of teaching and learning. The accompanying comments I've written come from a place inside that I don't often reveal. I hope there is some value, for you the reader, in what follows. 

Monday, March 11, 2024

Empowering Minds: A Day of Triumph and Unity at the Science & Engineering Fair

     It was dark and calm as I entered the opulent Melaleuca International Headquarters on Thursday, March 7th. The building was quiet, and I was the only one in the event center. I took a few minutes to myself just to breathe. I had been up since 4:00 a.m., and I intended to go over all the details in the quiet space by myself and enjoy my breakfast smoothie before anyone else arrived.

    Before 8:00, judges started to arrive, just as I knew they would, a little bit early. They were engineers, scientists, psychologists, cybersecurity specialists, and other esteemed volunteers. They were taking time out of their busy schedule to help judge the Idaho Science & Engineering Fair for 6th-12th grade students. There was a low hum of excitement as professionals began meeting each other. They were given name tags and asked to write how the would like to be addressed for the rest of the day. Very few of the esteemed guests chose doctor, professor, Mr. or Mrs., and most wanted to be referred to by their first names. One such intelligent judge recently retired and wanted to be called Jeff. My son, Parker, was very fond of Jeff's wife. She was his kindergarten teacher at White Pine. Parker's 9th grade class at White Pine was the first year we competed in the ID Science & Engineering Fair.

    As I was reminiscing about these sweet memories, the soft low hum that encompassed the event center in the presence of the generous and humble judges changed. It was replaced by the electric charge of the competitors arriving. High school students were first to enter. They came in with a confidence and swagger that is common in high school athletes. Cue the fog machine here...maybe that was actually a cloud of Axe Body Spray. Behind the cloud/fog of Axe, the grand hall at Melaleuca welcomed the younger competitors. Their eyes were a bit scared. They were a bit unsure, tangled with nervous excitement.

    Soon confidence, swagger, fear, uncertainty, and nervous excitement all blended as judges started making their way around the room. Students presented their Science & Engineering projects to an authentic audience. Some had spent months working on their projects, some had spent hours. One White Pine team had tried unsuccessfully to 3D print their project many, many times. They must have ended up with something to present because one of the judges approached me in the hall to tell me how amazing the project was and how marketable the idea was. I swelled with pride, inside only. On the outside I was calm, cool and collected because they judge did not know which school the project originated from. The day went both too slow and too fast.

    Melaleuca staff dimmed the house lights and turned on the stage lights. Not one announcement was made. Exhausted volunteers, students, and teachers made their way to  seating for the awards ceremony. There was a nervous, relieved, excited, and funny vibe in the room. The judges were running late and every time someone walked down an aisle, students erupted in rowdy applause.

    Thirty minutes late, the main judge walked up to the microphone. She apologized and explained that the projects were so good, the judges could not decide on a Best of Fair. You could hear a pin drop. There was no talking. All students faced forward, and there were no phones out. Everyone held on to the words the soft-spoken main judge said. She called up one of the young winners from White Pine 6th grade. The crowd erupted. The CROWD ERUPTED! This crowd leading the ebullient cheering was not from White Pine. The Axe Body Spray high school crowd was applauding and whooping it up for OUR STUDENTS. They all were. The whole crowd, close to 200 people, cheered and shouted his name. They were genuinely sharing in his joy. This single moment will live with me for a good long time. It was powerful. This moment stuck with me more than all the awards White Pine students won that day (and it was impressive. We did really well, y'all!). I was the last one to leave the event center. I double-checked to make sure it was just as clean as when we got there, picked up my untouched breakfast smoothie, and realized I was hungry! 

    Hungry or not, I love being engaged with our students and teachers. I love being a part of a STEM community that believes in giving students opportunities, even if we have to create them. I love being a part of a STEM community where students cheer for winners, even if they are competitors. 

Happy STEM Matters Month, everyone!

By: Heather Smith
White Pine Community Outreach Coordinator, STEM Coordinator and former WP parent 

Thursday, March 7, 2024

A Transplant's Two Bits

     Having just celebrated our first anniversary as Idaho residents, I look back at this year in awe at how quickly it zipped by. Whoosh! It seems like just yesterday we were refugees from the Eugene, Oregon. We've learned a lot in the last year about Idaho, about our new (and first ever) Charter School, and about ourselves. 

    When we started researching the schools in the area, I came across White Pine and we were ecstatic that a close-knit, wholesome, family-oriented, success-driven, morally competent educational facility existed in the 21st Century.  Overall, I must say our experience has exceeded our expectations in many ways. We're beyond grateful for the countless hours the teachers, staff, and parent helpers put into the collaborative environment at White Pine.

    Upon volunteering in my daughter's kindergarten class, I promptly noticed the entire class stand and participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. My  mind instantly teleported back in time to my own elementary school days when we would likewise show respect and dedication to our great Nation. It has been many years since I've seen a classroom so respectfully honor our Nation's flag--and they're five year olds! It makes my heart smile to see how patriotic people are here. 

    I've also been impressed with the amount of community involvement White Pine has has. Parades, service projects, the food drive, and more. It is vital for our children to see us participate in community service. Not only will it give them a sense of pride and accomplishment over their hard work, but it will also instill a desire to look beyond themselves and at the bigger picture.  In this selfish, instant gratification world, it's rare to see children so invested in something more than sports, video games, and social media. 

    We have a unique, exemplary community here at White Pine that is full of endless potential! This is, after all, why most families chose this route for their child's education.  We want our children to bloom in the fertile soil of respect, teamwork, and integrity that cannot be found in many traditional public schools.

    As you know, success doesn't appear out of a magician's top hat. It takes consistent and coordinated effort by the entire Cougar Community. Our administration, staff and teachers spend countless hours fulfilling their role in our schools. Even still, we cannot have the peak quality of education for your child without YOU. There aren't enough hours in the day or dollars in the budget to fulfill our Cougar dreams. So, thank you for your generous participation in fundraisers, activities, classrooms, field trips and more.

    After all, it takes the proverbial village to raise a child!

    For those that don't know, funding for charter schools works differently than traditional schools so it is quite limited. We're small which creates a beautifully close-knit community, but it likewise limits the available budget. Some activities and programs that are readily available at traditional public schools aren't. (Think: band and choir). Nevertheless, our incredible school is evolving and growing every single year and we're hard at work to grow and improve upon our programs.

    The good news is we have a bounty of opportunities for our Cougar Families to be involved! Remember, every family is asked to serve the White Pine community a minimum of twenty hours per school year. Some families promptly completed their allotment back in September! Others have yet to find their niche-- and that's okay! We still have 1/3 or the school year left to jump in and make a difference in your child's school experience.

    Statistics show that parental involvement dramatically improves student behavior, raises their grades, and transforms their overall attitude about school. Who doesn't want a positive, dedicated, intelligent student? Not only will this impact your child at school, but I've seen firsthand how it can also give your family a morale boost at home, too!

    Whether you're a behind the scenes participant or the next PFA president (we are recruiting), there are ample opportunities for all interest and skill levels available. Please join us at our next PFA meeting or ask your child's teacher for ways you can help today. You won't regret investing your time and effort in your child's future. Every little bit of help combines and expands to move mountains.

    Thank you for being a part of our Cougar Community. It wouldn't be the same without you!

By: Melissa Candland

White Pine parent and PFA member AND published author of Second Chances (MJ Candland)

White Pine Student Interest Essays: Science

 Welcome back to our Middle School English Class, where our students continue to amaze us with their insightful essays! Following our initia...