The 16 students in the first year physical education class at Nederland Middle / Senior High School didn’t have to travel far to access the trails as they practiced to climb one of the fourteen students in Colorado. .
Their teacher, Theresa Redmon, used the extensive network of trails behind the school to prepare them for the climb up Mount Bierstadt, the primary goal for the school’s new class of Colorado Fourteeners. After completing the climb earlier this fall, the students focused on their personal strength goals.
“Our goal is to get them out as much as possible,” said Redmon, who is also teaching a hiking class this semester. “That’s what makes it real.”
Nederland reinvents existing classes and creates new ones after adopting a vocational and technical education model for its high school.
“Where we are has a lot of potential,” said rookie Lauren Schrader. “We have a community that the grandes écoles cannot really have. I like that they use the place and the nature. All of those mountain kids might not want to go into business. It’s cool that they recognize it.
Students have the opportunity to take courses in three main pathways: Outdoor Leadership, Resource Conservation and Environmental Science, and Engineering and Construction. They can focus on a single track or on mixed courses.
The school administration had previously decided to focus on career and technical education as the best option to reverse a declining trend in enrollment and better serve students. The school has this year 117 students enrolled, while the college has 108 students.
“Ultimately, we would like to see it become a magnet for the whole region for children interested in these areas,” said Daniel Wade, science teacher in the Netherlands, who helped develop the program. “I’m glad to see where this is going. “
Classes “for the place where we live”
One of the reasons for offering technical education courses, school leaders said, is that it is difficult for mountain students to access existing technical education programs in the district, as they are primarily offered at the Arapahoe campus in Boulder. Many new classes are also taking advantage of the school’s mountain setting.
“These courses are ideal for where we live,” said Wade. “Where we live that was our inspiration. We were really trying to think about how we benefit from our local community and our environment.”
As Nederland expands its program, Boulder Valley is moving forward with an initiative to expand CTE offerings district-wide.
Arlie Huffman, director of professional and academic relations for Boulder Valley, said a team of educators, along with a representative from Front Range Community College, are working to identify areas for the first phase of expansion to autumn.
In addition to more high school classes, the plans include more options for career path exploration for elementary school students and more specialized classes in colleges.
“We want to get students to make decisions as they go into high school,” Huffman said. “The goal is for every student to leave Boulder Valley with a plan. The diploma will not be just a piece of paper saying, “Hey, I survived 13 years”. They will have had workplace learning experiences and internships.
Nederland got its required CTE class approvals and started developing classes in summer 2020, deciding not to delay the program even though the school year started with distance classes in fall 2020 due to the pandemic.
Last year, a distance learning course was Orientation and Itinerary Finding. Redmon had the students study topographic maps online and then go on hikes on their own. The students also participated in a geocaching event and, for their finale, participated in a scavenger hunt using trails outside of the school.
Other courses have been offered this school year as part of the three-year rollout of the program, including courses in hiking, natural resource management, snow science and construction. In the coming years, it is planned to add courses in IT and in business and entrepreneurship.
The school integrates some of its core classes into technical education classes. All freshmen, for example, take grade fourteen to earn the district-required PE graduation credit, while there is an option to replace introduction to natural resource management with education. required biology class.
‘It was worth it”
Freshman Kendall Zotti said she was excited about the fourteen-year-old class because she was able to spend time outdoors. The hike to Mount Bierstadt “was really tough,” she added.
“I approached the top,” she said. “Once I got to where I was, I realized it was worth it. “
Her classmate Laila Waldron said she enjoyed hiking, but still found Mount Bierstadt difficult.
“We had snow,” she said. ” It was cold. At the top you thought you were going to get kicked off the mountain.
Students taking advanced core courses can also take core technical education courses in the same area as electives – taking both AP biology and natural resource management, for example.
Several classes have the opportunity to earn industry certifications, including the Wilderness First Responder certification required for multiple outdoor jobs. On the construction and engineering side, certification options include certificates in heavy equipment operation and project management.
Mark Mabbett, the construction and engineering course teacher, started with two courses this semester: Construction 1 and Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing. In his construction class, students build a greenhouse constructed from materials that Boulder Lumber helped the school buy just before the pandemic began. After a two-year hiatus, he said, students now have the option to complete the project.
During a three-year cycle, students can learn about basic framing, electrical systems, HVAC, plumbing, architecture, heavy equipment, and sustainable construction, he said. declared. In the fourth year, the objective is to set up internship opportunities.
“I wanted to expose students to different high school choices outside of the traditional four-year college course,” he said.
As the program grows, the school works in partnership with local businesses like Eldora to add internships and work on other opportunities. Another goal is to work with a community college to offer concurrent enrollment courses so that high school students can earn college credit.
“Students can put their toes in the water before making post-secondary decisions,” Wade said.
The “Challenge and Adventure” class, an optional physical education class taught by Kira Badyrka, uses the school’s climbing wall to teach rock climbing. Four students are enrolled this semester, the number of enrollments being limited to 15 students for security reasons.
Badyrka, a climber herself, developed the course curriculum to focus on the most critical safety measures and climbing skills, including belaying, knot control, communication, holds and reading. ‘an ascent. Students also analyze past climbing accidents.
“It’s a fun class,” she says. “It’s a very different kind of learning.
Adaptation to student interests
Wade is teaching the “Weather for Outdoor Professionals” course this semester, which is the foundation course for outdoor leadership and resource conservation pathways, as well as a prerequisite for the “Snow Science” course. .
He said students who take snow science courses can earn certification in avalanche safety through Colorado Mountain School, as well as work with graduate students from the Mountain Research Station at the University of Canada. Colorado to Boulder. Potential jobs and career paths include ski patrollers, outdoor guides, rock climbing, research, and field work.
Weather class student Eirwen McClish said all of her sports – running and backcountry skiing – and her jobs were outdoors. She also plans to take snow science courses, with the aim of obtaining certification in avalanche safety.
“It made sense to try and figure out the weather,” she said, adding that she planned to major in environmental science at the university and work in fire mitigation during the course. of summer.
Senior Zach Weiner, who also takes the meteorology course and plans to take snow science courses to earn avalanche certification, said he liked being able to find ways to tie his interest in engineering to this. that he is studying.
He developed a project on better designs of solar panels and wind turbines to protect them from weather events. Learning about the weather and avalanche dangers, he added, is important as a Nordic skier.
“You can adapt it to whatever you want to learn,” he said. “Our school is the perfect place for that. This gives our little mountain touch a lot of compulsory lessons.