Building a healthy school community

Doreen McKercher : September 23, 2016 3:04 PM : News

‘Walk, Talk and Rock Like a Leader,’ comes to Dorothy Fox Elementary

Students in a circle with a raised hand

Dorothy Fox students learn more about each other during a team building exercise at the school wide leadership workshop for fourth- and fifth-graders. (Danielle Frost/Post-Record)

Cathy Sork has always had a passion for leadership, dating back to her days as student teacher.

When she became an administrator and earned a doctorate, that passion was put aside for awhile.

But a few years ago, the Dorothy Fox Elementary School principal decided to form a Student Leadership Team, with a focus on service, teamwork and school improvement.

“I’ve found that student leadership is a strong fit with even the youngest kids in the system,” Sork said. “Student leaders at Dorothy Fox have helped to make our school a better place. My meetings with fourth- and fifth-grade student representatives are the best meetings I attend as a principal.”

One of the issues she and student leaders have addressed is playground equity. This has resulted in a “buddy bench” being installed on the playground. If students are lonely during recess, they can sit on the bench, and fellow students will come over and talk to them.

“We have a real focus on being inclusive at our playground, because that is where it all begins,” Sork said. “A lot of times, if there are issues sharing or with a certain game, some elementary schools will just decide, ‘Well, we aren’t doing that anymore.’ We talk about it with the students and try to come up with a solution.”

With that in mind, Sork applied for and received an $1,800 Camas Educational Foundation grant to bring leadership training to all fourth- and fifth-graders.

The “Walk, Talk and Rock like a Leader,” half-day workshop teaches students to understand what a caring school looks like, sounds like and feels like. They learn to recognize and report bullying, and to create a culture of acceptance and belonging.

“I really believe that when students think of themselves as leaders, it changes how they feel about themselves in the school community,” Sork said. “Our student leadership team gets to do a lot of team building and problem solving, and I wanted to bring that to all of the fourth- and fifth-graders. They are the leaders in the school and set the tone, so it has a trickle down effect.”

Read the full story a the Camas Post Record.

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Healthy Youth Survey provides important information about adolescents

Doreen McKercher : September 21, 2016 8:32 AM : News

Healthy Youth Banner Ad

The Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) is a collaborative effort of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Department of Health, the Department of Social and Health Service’s Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, the Department of Commerce, and the Liquor Control Board.

The survey provides important information about youth in Washington. County prevention coordinators, community mobilization coalitions, community public health and safety networks, and others use this information to guide policy and programs that serve youth. The information from the Healthy Youth Survey can be used to identify trends in the patterns of behavior over time. In October 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016, students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 answered questions about safety and violence, physical activity and diet, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, and related risk and protective factors.

The Camas School District will administer the Healthy Youth Survey to sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade students during the week of October 10-21, 2016. This year, the HYS will include optional questions regarding sexual behaviors, orientation, and abuse. Information about the enhanced survey can be found in this parent flyer.

The district uses the data collected from the survey to make informed decisions around safety and student growth. Parents who wish to opt-out of participation of this survey may do so by contacting your student’s school office.  If you have questions, please contact Glenn Hartman, Intervention Specialist, at 360-335-3000 ext. 78407.

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State of the Community

Doreen McKercher : September 13, 2016 2:46 PM : News

City of Camas, Port of Camas-Washougal and the Camas School District officials will come together to present the State of the Community address Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m., at Camas High School.

The fourth-annual event will include presentations from representatives of the three entities, followed by an open house where the public will have the opportunity to mingle with and ask questions of elected officials and staff.

State of the Community

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Camas native trains to be a U.S. Navy pilot

Doreen McKercher : September 8, 2016 4:31 PM : News

Image of Robert Pierce

2008 Hayes Freedom graduate Robert Pierce.

A 2008 Hays Freedom High School graduate and Camas, Washington, native participates in the lengthy and rigorous training process that transforms new U.S. Navy Officers into Naval Aviators.

Ensign Robert Pierce is a student naval aviator with the “Rangers” Training Squadron (VT-27), based in Corpus, Christi, Texas, that operates the T-6B Texan II aircraft. As a student, Pierce is responsible for learning to fly both multi-engine and land based aircraft both effectively and efficiently to become one of the finest aviators in the Navy.

“One of the highest points for me here at this command is the people, I’ve never met a more professional and motivated group of peers in my life,” said Pierce. “When you have individuals this great around you, you can accomplish anything.”

The T-6B Texan is a training aircraft that is powered by a 1,100 shaft horsepower, free-turbine, turboprop single-engine, four-bladed propeller, with a cruising speed of 310 mph.

VT-27’s primary mission is to train future naval aviators to fly as well as instill leadership and officer values, Navy officials explained. Students must complete four phases of flight training in order to graduate, including aviation pre-flight indoctrination, primary flight training and advanced flight training. After successfully completing the rigorous program, naval aviators earn their coveted “Wings of Gold.”

Read the full story here.

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CHS Presents Chemo Girl

Doreen McKercher : September 8, 2016 4:08 PM : News


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Hall of Fame seeks 2005 Football team

Doreen McKercher : August 10, 2016 8:17 AM : News

2005 CHS Football Team

The CHS Hall of Fame will have their induction on October 1, and the Committee is trying to contact all members of the 2005 Football Team!  If you know a player from this team, please have them contact Marcia Johnson at Camas High School,, or visit the Camas Athletic Boosters website for more information.

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Camas School District closes on purchase of Sharp property

Doreen McKercher : July 6, 2016 8:33 AM : News

Building will be home to new project-based-learning middle school

Sharp Labs Building

The former Sharp Laboratories of America building will be home to a new project-based learning middle school in the Camas School District. (The Columbian files)

The Camas School District’s purchase of the former Sharp Laboratories of America building and surrounding property is official, after the district signed closing papers on Tuesday and the deed was recorded later in the week.

The district announced it was working on the purchase in an email to parents in early June. The $12.5 million purchase includes the 55,000-square-foot lab building, 5750 N.W. Pacific Rim Blvd., Camas, and about 30 acres of land. The money for the purchase will come from a $120 million bond voters passed in February.

“With the acquisition of the Sharp property, we meet an important bond outcome: purchasing property for future schools,” Superintendent Jeff Snell wrote in an email. “The property also provides a building that can become a school at a fraction of the price of new construction.”

The Sharp building is move-in ready and will be home to the district’s new project-based-learning middle school. It will open to 60 sixth-graders and 60 seventh-graders starting next school year, giving the district immediate and much-needed help with overcrowding at Liberty and Skyridge middle schools. Within five years, it would grow to approximately 400 students.

Project-based learning allows students to collaborate on complex questions, problems and challenges over an extended period of time. The projects cover multiple subject areas and typically address real-world issues.

The purchase of the Sharp property could change some of the district’s plans for the bond money, part of which was marked for construction of a project-based learning high school on the current Camas High School campus, a replacement for Lacamas Heights Elementary School and purchasing property for future schools. Once the Sharp property purchase became a possibility, the district started floating the idea of building the new high school there instead, and creating a new project-based middle school to help with the crowd at both middle schools.

“In a bond package that promised two new schools, we’ll be able to deliver three for the same cost to our taxpayers,” Snell wrote. “That’s a huge benefit for everyone in the community.”

The district reconvened an advisory committee of citizens, teachers, staff and students who met leading up to the bond vote to discuss the new high school location. The committee suggested moving plans for the high school to the Sharp property for a few reasons, such as forming synergy between the middle and high school programs, greater opportunity for outdoor learning and helping to alleviate the usage of the current high school campus.

The school board will vote on the issue at its July 25 meeting.

The district sought out public opinion on the move, holding two listening posts where residents could come to the district and talk about their concerns, and sending out emails to staff and parents.

Read the full article at The Columbian.

Background information shared at the public hearing June 25, 2016.

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School Bus Safety Poster Contest winners announced

Doreen McKercher : June 30, 2016 11:23 AM : News

Shalaka Deshpande-poster

Poster by Shalaka Deshpande, third grade.


Poster by Shaunak Deshpande, kindergarten.

Camas School District Transportation Director Laura Nowland announced the following Safety Poster contestants won at the regional level:

  • Shalaka Deshpande – 3rd Grade – Grass Valley Elementary
  • Shaunka Deshpande – Kindergarten – Grass Valley Elementary

As the regional division winners, Shalaka and Shaunka were awarded $50.00 each, and their posters will move on to compete at the state competition.



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Undefeated Lions finish strong

Doreen McKercher : June 16, 2016 11:39 AM : News


Congratulations to all Liberty Track & Field athletes on an undefeated season and district championship!


6th grade: Tyler Dinh in the 800m  and 1600m; Tristan Curl in the shot put

7th grade: Aurora Espinoza Chaney in the 100m and 200m; Sammy Geiger in the 800m and 1600m; Katie McCann in the 400m; Grace Varsek in the 1600m; Sophia Doumitt, Katie McCann, Aurora Espinoza Chaney, and Lucy George in the 4x100m relay; Mark Harimoto in the long jump; Anna Bedont in the high jump; Lucy George in the hurdles;

8th grade: Dauda Woodruff in the 100m and 200m; Halle Jenkins in the 800m and 1600m; Mason Gross in the 400m and 800m; Becca Knight in the high jump; Connor Flannigan, Charlie Bump, Bryce Leighton, and Dauda Woodruff in the 4x100m relay


  • 6G – 7th PLACE
  • 6B – 1st PLACE
  • 7G – 1st PLACE
  • 7B – 2nd PLACE
  • 8G – 2nd PLACE
  • 8B – 1st PLACE


The Liberty Lions took 1st place overall at the district meet, for our second district championship in a row!


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2016 Graduation Ceremonies

Doreen McKercher : June 15, 2016 11:23 AM : News

Camas High School

Hayes Freedom High School

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Congratulations Mr. Nerland!

Doreen McKercher : June 6, 2016 3:19 PM : News
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Sharp purchase, PBL HS relocation study

Doreen McKercher : June 2, 2016 7:05 PM : News

Integrated, project-based learning is the focus of the new high school approved by voters in February

Our district newsletter, The Flyer, will be in mailboxes of every household within the Camas School District boundary by the end of this week. In it, you can read about plans to address overcrowding at the middle school level and create innovative learning opportunities for students through the acquisition of real estate. You’ll also see an invitation to a listening post on June 9.

In the bond approved by voters in February, money was set aside to purchase property to address the needs of our growing district. We now have a purchase and sale agreement in place to acquire the vacant Sharp Labs building located in Camas at 5750 NW Pacific Rim Blvd. If this sale is finalized, 100-120 middle school students from Liberty and Skyridge will have the opportunity to spend majority of their day in a project-based learning (PBL) setting in this building beginning this fall. More information about the middle school program can be found here.

We’re currently in the planning and design stages for the PBL high school which was a significant component of our bond program. With the recent development of the Sharp property opportunity, a question has been asked: “Would our students be better served if the new PBL high school were constructed on the Sharp property instead of at the Camas High School site?”

“The more we considered it, the more it seemed the question had merit and deserved further exploration,” commented Deputy Superintendent Jeff Snell. “Since the bond program was grounded in the work of our facilities committee, we brought them back together for an initial look,” he added. The FACTSS (Facilities Advisory of Citizens, Teachers, Staff and Students) committee reconvened on May 24 and May 26 to ask questions about the idea and give feedback.

Below are some factors the FACTSS committee considered during these workshops.

CHS Campus Program Advantages

  • Opportunity for “crossover” courses like AP, Electives, and Physical Education, etc.
  • Familiarity with campus and crossover opportunities may help with recruitment
  • Potential staff sharing (certificated and classified)
  • Transportation costs

CHS Campus Program Challenges

  • “Crossover” courses ties Project Based Learning program to CHS schedule – less flexibility
  • Traffic congestion
  • Strain on common facilities (PE, Cafeteria, etc.)
  • Easier to revert to traditional practices in the shadow of a large comprehensive HS
  • Lack of outdoor learning space
  • Increased density of use on the CHS campus

Sharp Campus Program Advantages

  • Synergy of a 6-8 and 9-12 campus with a Project-Based Learning focus
  • Opportunity for shared common facilities and staff between HS and MS
  • Proximity to industry for partnerships
  • Traffic reduction at CHS campus
  • More opportunity for outdoor learning
  • Program autonomy (scheduling and culture, e.g.)

Sharp Campus Program Challenges

  • Limited access to CHS offerings and electives
  • More difficult for CHS programs to potentially use space in new HS building
  • Potentially harder to recruit students to a new campus
  • Changing the location from what was communicated to voters in the bond campaign

Key Themes from FACTSS meetings

  • Largest concern is public trust – the location for the school isn’t what we promised; is the benefit of a possible change of location great enough to overcome that?
  • Overall support for moving the PBL high school to Sharp – changing the location brings additional questions about cost and budget.
  • Logistical concerns (traffic, parking, access, environmental) for whichever site is chosen that need to be worked through and that impact different stakeholders in different ways depending on the site selected.
  • Program considerations about moving to Sharp: positive is the autonomy/connection to PBL middle school, negative is the loss of cross-over opportunities with CHS.

Regardless of where the PBL high school lands, traffic improvements and the new east parking lot will go forth as planned at Camas High School.

Community Input is Paramount

In the current edition of The Flyer, we invite everyone in our community to share their perspectives on this question at two public listening posts scheduled for Thursday, June 9, at 10 AM and 6 PM in the Zellerbach Administration Center Board Room: 841 NE 22nd Avenue, Camas. Childcare will be provided at the morning session.

Knowing that families are busy, especially at the end of the school year, we created a place for our stakeholders to communicate their thoughts and questions about moving the PBL high school to the Sharp campus. After reviewing the information above, please let us know your thoughts here. This form will be open through June 9, so please respond by then. We’ll share the thoughts of all stakeholders at a public board workshop prior to the board meeting on June 13. If the board members think the idea has enough community support, there will be a public hearing on June 27.

We would greatly appreciate your feedback at one or more of the opportunities listed above.


Middle School Pilot Program Background

In February, the District asked and received approval for a $120 million capital bond from voters. While the bulk of the funds will address overcrowding at the high school level and planned growth at the elementary school level, funds were set aside for land acquisition and a plan to begin addressing middle school capacity issues.

“The original plan was to invest in modular structures with four classrooms and some shared ‘maker-space’ at Liberty and Skyridge middle schools to provide crowding relief and to launch a small pilot program at each school,” commented Skyridge Principal Aaron Smith. “When the bids came in at roughly $4 million for these projects, the return on our investment wasn’t what we’d hoped.”

While considering costs as well as concerns related to zoning regulations, District staff began exploring off-campus opportunities. The vacant, 55,000 square-foot building at Sharp Labs in Camas became the focus of the exploration. The nearly move-in ready facility is well situated for District needs and includes 30 acres of land for future use. Funding set aside to acquire property in our bond program made the purchase of the Sharp site a possibility.

“The District is in the final stages of closing the $12.5 million transaction,” commented Superintendent Mike Nerland. “I can tell you that if all goes well, it will be an incredible investment for our community and a great opportunity for our middle school students and staff,” he added.

“In addition to providing an additional option for our students, it will provide relief for Liberty and Skyridge much sooner than waiting for our next bond cycle to build a new building at a significantly higher cost,” said Smith.

What’s inside?

Wheels are in motion to launch the project-based pilot program on the second floor of the building in the fall of 2016. The program will begin with a team of two teachers each for sixth and seventh grades in the 2016-17 school year. The following year, the District plans to add two eighth-grade teachers and possibly additional sixth- and seventh-grade teams. Within five years, the program is intended to be a fully self-contained, autonomous school with approximately 400 students. Students who enjoy participating in the program may likely matriculate to the new project-based learning high school set to open in the fall of 2018.

Who will attend?

While details are still being determined, District staff know that: there will not be a qualification process for the pilot program – it is open to all sixth and seventh grade students with an interest in tackling real-world problems through project-based inquiry; student transportation will be provided; both grade levels will have access to electives, health/fitness, and extracurricular activities at Liberty and Skyridge.

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Camas girls roll to second at state

Doreen McKercher : May 31, 2016 4:21 PM : News

Golfers achieve all their goals together

L to R: Hailey Oster, Connie Wang, Emma Cox, Coach Bob Foster, Lauryn Tsukimura, Elise Filuk, and Abby Jiang

L to R: Hailey Oster, Connie Wang, Emma Cox, Coach Bob Foster, Lauryn Tsukimura, Elise Filuk, and Abby Jiang

Elise Filuk, Hailey Oster, Connie Wang, Emma Cox, Abby Jiang and Lauryn Tsukimura aced all of their objectives on the golf courses this spring.

The Camas girls won the league and district championship trophies.

They beat Union all four times this season.

And, they surpassed their top five finish at the state tournament initiative.

“All the girls were able to read their goals out loud and realize we accomplished every single one of them or exceeded them,” Filuk said. “I’m really thankful for this last season we had together. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out.”

With five finalists playing their best golf of the season at the same time, Camas rose to second place at state.

“We were told this was the best finish by any 4A school in Southwest Washington,” said head coach Bob Foster. “That was really quite a thrill for these girls.”

Filuk shot an even par 72 on the Sun Willows Golf Course Wednesday, to wind up in sixth place at the state tournament. The Seton Catholic College Prepatory High School senior finished 2-under on the back nine. She eagled the 15th hole, made a tricky up and down putt for par on 17, and then got a friendly nudge into the 18th cup for a birdie.

“I was 2-over at the turn, and knew I needed to rally back,” Filuk said. “I think of it as just 18 battles. It was on to the 10th battle. One hole at a time. One shot at a time.”

Filuk avoided the bunker on the 445-yard 15th hole and reached the green in two. Her approach shot landed just a few paces from the pin.

“I just wanted to take a mental picture of it,” she said. “You don’t get a tap-in for eagle very often.”

Read the full story at the Post Record.

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MST Magnet Imagine Tomorrow 2016 Results

Doreen McKercher : May 25, 2016 4:36 PM : News

magnet-sliderCamas High School’s MST program made the annual sojourn to the WSU Imagine Tomorrow competition this past weekend with a select group of 8 projects from this year’s crop of student project work. The results were impressive.  Out of approximately 135 projects submitted from about 35 schools from across Washington and Idaho, four of our projects earned recognition, with Camas kids taking home a 1st, 2nd, and two Honorable Mention awards!  Congratulations to all who won awards, but I’d also like to offer kudos to each team for qualifying and representing Camas with pride and integrity.

Here are the results:

  • Sophomore Sarah Wells-Moran took home a first place for her Building a Living (Outer) Space project that was submitted in the Boeing Aerospace challenge category.
  • A team anchored by juniors Calvin Taylor and Phoebus Tsai and supported by sophomores Gabe Mukobi and Duy Vuong earned a second place in the Build Environment challenge category for their Riffling Thermal Pollution project.
  • Also in the Build Environment challenge category, a freshmen team made of Quan Ho, Sydney Jenkins, Yuanju Tsai, Eric Wu, and Christopher Xia got an Honorable Mention for their Unlocking the Wind’s Potential with Creativity project.
  • Freshmen Monica Chang and Jessica Bretz also earned an Honorable Mention in the Food, Energy, and Water category for their project titled Measuring Ecotoxicity: The Effects of Triclosan on Aquatic Organisms.

Read more and view photos at the MST website.

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Camas School District announces new hires for educational leadership positions

Doreen McKercher : May 25, 2016 4:10 PM : News

Charlene Williams

Charlene Williams

At its regular meeting on Monday, the Camas Board of Directors approved the hire of individuals for two leadership positions.

Dr. Charlene Williams will join the district on July 1 as the Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services, which is a new position in the district. Williams comes to Camas from Portland Public Schools where she held positions including Senior Director of School Performance, Principal/Small School Administrator, and Director of Education.  During her tenure she played a key role in a $482 million capital bond program and was the district leader for teacher evaluation.

Williams earned her Bachelor of Science in mathematics from North Carolina State University, her Master of Education from Wake Forest University, and her Education Leadership Doctorate from Lewis and Clark College.

“Charlene’s experiences in district leadership and educational services will serve Camas well and her work in Portland Public will bring a unique perspective to our district. We are extremely pleased that we could attract and hire Charlene for this important position,” commented current deputy and incoming superintendent Jeff Snell.

Jasen McEathron

Jasen McEathron

Jasen McEathron joins the district as the new Director of Business Services, replacing Donna Gregg who will retire in June. McEathron is currently the Auditor/Manager of Finance and Administration at Public Utility District #1 in Skamania County where he supported a capital bond, information technology, and energy conservation programs. Previously, he worked for 10 years as the Audit Manager for the Washington State Auditor’s Office.

McEathron earned his Bachelor of Arts in accounting from Western Washington University.

“We’re excited to welcome Jasen to Camas. It was not only his business knowledge that impressed the team, but also his previous experiences as an auditor.  Jasen’s experiences and education have developed into a skill set that allows him to examine every angle of the budget; he completes a very strong district team,” said Snell.

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Join us for the CamTech Showcase!

Doreen McKercher : May 20, 2016 8:17 AM : News

camtech-dropThe CamTech Program would like to invite you to attend our first annual Showcase Night here at CHS on Tuesday May 24, 2016, starting at 5:40 PM in the CHS Theater. At 6 PM we will migrate across the hall to our CamTech labs where students will be demonstrating skills and sharing a variety of projects they’ve done this past year in program. Come check us out and see if we might be a fit for your son or daughters future needs. We look forward to seeing you there.

CHS CamTech Staff,

Derek Jaques, Ron Wright, Kelly Williams, Doug Huegli,
Mathew Chase, Will Ephraim


CamTech Website

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A New Project-Based Learning Middle School Program Opportunity

Doreen McKercher : May 18, 2016 4:21 PM : News

As you may have heard, we are launching a new Project-Based-Learning (PBL) middle school program for Camas students in the fall of 2016!  While we are still working on the details and in the final stages of purchasing the facility, we are excited to invite you to learn more about this opportunity.

Why Project-Based-Learning?

The world we are preparing students for is far different than when we were in school. Our global economy is calling for employees who can collaborate, create, design, and problem-solve more than ever. If we wish to prepare a generation of students who can solve real-world problems, we must give them real world problems to solve.  If we want to graduate students who can manage their time and collaborate with others, me must give them guidance and practice managing their time and collaborating with others.

Project Based Learning is an effective, meaningful, and enjoyable way to learn and to develop these skills for college, career, and life. In a PBL classroom, students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. Projects address content standards through an integrated approach and focus on additional success skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and self-management. Here are some additional benefits to consider:

  • PBL makes school more engaging for students.  Projects provide real-world relevance for learning.  By providing a vision of an end product, PBL creates a context and reason to learn and understand the information and concepts. This is further enhanced through presentations for an audience beyond the school.
  • PBL builds success skills for college, career, and life.  Students learn how to take initiative and responsibility, solve problems, work in teams, and communicate ideas, thus increasing their confidence and transforming how they think of themselves as learners.
  • PBL helps address standards. The Common Core and other state standards emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, such as communicating in a variety of media, and speaking and presentation skills. PBL is an effective way to meet these goals.
  • PBL connects students and schools with communities and the real world.  Projects provide students with opportunities to interact with adults and organizations within their community.  They are exposed to workplaces, adult jobs, and can develop career interests.

Projects vs. PBL

Projects have been a recognized part of instruction for many decades.  In most classrooms, teachers cover topics with a combination of instructional approaches and then assign a project once the topics and skills have been covered.  Students often complete these projects on their own at home.  Projects are then displayed in the classroom and the unit culminates with an assessment emphasizing factual recall. In this example, the project was more of a “dessert.”

In PBL, projects are the “main course.”  In other words, students learn the material from completing the project, which has multiple products, assessments, and feedback along the way.  Consider the following brief project examples:

  • Design it Clean: In the Design It Clean project, students work in teams to develop water filters that are dependable, affordable, and can provide clean water for specific communities in the real world.
  • A Great Place to Visit: In this project, students have the opportunity to develop a walking tour of downtown. Teams identify community landmarks that should be included on the tour, research history surrounding those landmarks using primary and secondary resources, and communicate their findings by writing and recording a narrative that will guide their tour.  They will present their tours to the Chamber of Commerce.

Below is a comparison chart to further explore the differences between a traditional project and PBL:

Can be done at home without teacher guidance or team collaboration. Requires teacher guidance and team collaboration.
Can be outlined in detail on one piece of paper by the teacher. Includes many “need to knows” on the part of the student and teachers.
Are used year after year and usually focus on a product (make a mobile, a poster, a diorama, etc.) Is timely, complex, covers many standards and skills, and takes a team of teachers a significant amount of time to plan and implement.
The teacher work occurs mainly after the project is complete. The teacher work occurs mainly before the project starts.
The students do not have many opportunities to make choices at any point in the project. The students make most of the choices during the project within the pre-approved guidelines.
Are based upon directions and are done “like last year.” Is based upon Driving Questions that encompass every aspect of the learning that will occur and establishes the need to know.
Are often graded based on teacher perceptions that may or may not be explicitly shared with students. Is based on a clearly defined rubric made specifically for the project.
Are closed: every project has the same goal. Is open: students make choices that determine the outcome and path of the research.
Cannot be used in the real world to solve real problems. Could provide solutions in the real world to real problems even though they may not be implemented.
Are not particularly relevant to students’ lives. Is relevant to students’ lives or future lives.
Do not include scenarios and background information or are based on events that have already resolved. The scenario or simulation is real.  If fictitious, it is realistic, entertaining, and timely.
Are sometimes based around a tool for the sake of a tool rather than of an authentic question. (Make a Prezi, e.g.) Is presented to a public audience encompassing people from outside the classroom.

When addressing the misconception that PBL is the same as “making something,” “hands-on learning” or “doing an activity,” John Laramer from the Buck Institute of Education says:

“PBL is often focused on creating physical artifacts, but the artifacts are not as important as the intellectually challenging tasks that led to them. For example, it’s not truly PBL if students are simply making a collage about a story, constructing a model of the Egyptian pyramids, or analyzing water samples from a lake. These artifacts and activities could be part of a rigorous project if they help students meet a complex challenge and address a Driving Question. And not all “projects” involve creating a physical product. A broad definition of PBL includes projects in which students solve a complex problem and defend their solution in an oral presentation or in writing.”

Logistics for 2016-17

During its first year, our new middle school program will serve approximately 60 sixth and 60 seventh grade students. Students will work with a team of two teachers at each grade level and access Liberty and Skyridge for their electives, health/fitness, and extra-curricular activities. Transportation will be provided.  Enrollment will be open to all students in the Camas School District; there will not be a qualification process. If interest exceeds capacity, a lottery system will be employed.  After the first year, an eighth grade team will be added along with the potential for additional sixth and seventh grade teams.  Ultimately, we anticipate the program to be a fully self-contained autonomous school with approximately 400 students within 5 years, with many students likely choosing to attend our new project-based-learning high school set to open in the fall of 2018.

In regards to location, we are in the final stages of securing a property for the program. If all goes well, this will be an incredible investment for our community and a great opportunity for students and staff.  It will also help us address middle school capacity issues much sooner than waiting for our next bond cycle to build a new school at a significantly higher cost.  As it sits, the facility in question is essentially move-in ready to begin our pilot program.  In fact, we currently have a team of 6th graders helping us reimagine the space.  They have some very creative ideas!

*Note: If the purchase of the facility falls through for some reason, we will begin our PBL pilot program with a team at Liberty and Skyridge.

Additional thoughts

While PBL will be at the heart of our new program, we will also employ traditional instructional practices to ensure that our students are showing proficiency and progress on all of the same standards as their peers at Liberty and Skyridge. This will also include differentiation strategies to provide the proper level of support and challenge in the area of mathematics.

In addition, our new program will offer a unique opportunity to learn in a small and personalized learning environment.  Because of the nature of PBL and the size of our new program, our staff will get to know our young learners on many levels.  We are excited to develop relationships with our students and families and to involve them in creating a school community from the ground up.  On top of it all, we will get to work and learn in an innovative and inspiring space!

Please feel free to attend one of our information evenings listed below or to contact me directly with additional questions by phone at 360-335-3000 ext. 79139 or email at If you’re already on board, please fill out a Student Interest Form now! Interest forms are due by 3:00 p.m. on June 6.  We look forward to hearing from you!


Aaron J. Smith, Principal
Skyridge Middle School and PBL Pilot

Upcoming Project-Based-Learning information events:

Monday, May 23           Coffee Hour with Mr. Smith – Skyridge Middle School – 9:00 a.m.

Thursday, May 26          PBL Information Evening – Skyridge Middle School – 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 1       PBL Coffee Hour with Mr. Smith – Liberty Middle School – 9:00 a.m.

Want your student to try PBL on for size and get to know our new program staff?  Consider signing up for our two-week summer program through Camas Community Education.

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Camas DECA Success at International Competition

Doreen McKercher : May 6, 2016 3:15 PM : News


Nashville, TN- Camas High School DECA students recently returned from competition at their International DECA Conference (April 23-27). Three students from Camas High School placed in the top 10 in their competitive categories at the event.  Cameron Vega and Noah White were in the top 10 in the Automotive Services category while Kendall Mooney placed in the top 10 in Restaurant Management. This was the third time in four years that Vega has placed in the top 3. Other finalists surviving the first day of competition to compete in the finals were Kevin Chen, Jack Kelly, Quentin Lebeau, Michael Jurna, Amanda Lebowsky, Kendra Horvath, Satya Hariharan, Elizabeth Schwartzkopf, Luke Huckvale, and Ben Peterson.

Students competed in role play and written events against some of the strongest marketing students from the U.S. and Canada.  Each competitive category had approximately 130 competitors, which was then trimmed down to 20 for a final round of competition.  In the final round of competition, the top 10 students were awarded medals and the top 3 received plaques.

In their spare time, students took in a concert at the Grand Ole Opry and enjoyed some great southern hospitality and cooking.  Students reported being very impressed by the music scene and said it was a great location for the conference.

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