Featured Class: Preschool

Here at Tualatin Valley Academy, Preschoolers are engineers. They are scientists. They are musicians. They are artists. They explore the world around them through play, guided by a creative, interactive curriculum and an amazing staff of 3 teachers. 

TVA's preschool program is very popular with parents, and for good reason. Allison Moor, the preschool program director, uses a curriculum that challenges her students to learn while allowing them to be kids. The curriculum is dynamic and unique. They tackle one theme a month and learn about it through STEAM-based projects such as engineering parachutes out of half an Easter egg, straws and coffee filters, designing catapults and shooting pom poms from them to discover what makes the pom pom fly the farthest, using bread as petri dishes to discover why hand washing matters, creating 3D moon paintings with paper mache, doing baking projects and making jellyfish that dangle from the ceiling of the classroom. 

Topics taught include everything from the desert to the ocean to life skills. Not only do the students learn about the world around them, but they are taught about it through the lens of how God created the world they interact with. 

Another unique characteristic to Mrs. Moor's classroom is that she has incorporated wobble stools at all the tables the students work at. This allows kids to be kids - to wiggle and move while they work without being disruptive. It improves their focus and attention to the task at hand.

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The class is led by three amazing, patient and dedicated teachers: Mrs. Moor, Mrs. Werner and Mrs. Connell. They find joy in working with their students and are focused on teaching them not only academics, but how to treat each other and a host of other life skills as well. They take pride in getting to know each student and their family and are often heard asking about siblings, parents and family events. 

In addition to the class teachers, the preschool class has buddies from both third grade and sixth grade. They sit together in chapel, read together and do fun activities. This allows the preschoolers to get even more individual attention and helps the third and sixth graders learn leadership skills through mentoring someone younger than themselves. 

In TVA's preschool, kids are challenged to grow not just academically, but spiritually and as leaders as well. Creativity and critical thinking are encouraged. TVA's preschool cares for the whole person, and it shows!

STEAM at TVA

Recently, during my walk-a-bouts in the classrooms of TVA, I found students working on a variety of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) projects. Here are a few pictures and a little info about two of them. 

In Mrs. Beck's Algebra I class, students are using pendulums to study standard deviation. They first took measurements using a "standard pendulum" and recorded its periodic movement. 

The second pendulum was designed by the students to be different from the standard pendulum in at least one way. Changing the length of the string, the length of the bob, or the amplitude (the angle of release). 

They will compare that data to the standard pendulum to determine which variable affects the period of a pendulum -- length, weight, or amplitude. Attached is a graph showing our original data (time for 5 periods of the pendulum). 

In Mr. Kahler's Seventh and Eighth Grade Science classes, students have been studying magnetism. During science lab this week our 7th and 8th grade students used Vernier Software's LabQuest 2 data loggers and magnetic field sensors to explore the strength of Earth's magnetic field, determine magnetic north, and calculate declination. the LabQuest 2 data loggers help students collect data and graph it in real-time. Current technology like Vernier's sensors and probes bring interest and excitement to our students as they conduct their scientific investigations. 

Movements in the Earth's liquid outer core produce a magnetic field that protects us from the harmful effects of the solar wind, allows us to navigate with a compass, and helps birds find their way during seasonal migration. True north is the geographic location at Earth's rotational axis. Because magnetic north moves (currently in northern Canada), we need to know the difference between the two when using a compass. The difference between magnetic north and geographic north is called declination.

This is the kind of quality teaching and student learning that is a regular and daily part of the experience that students have at TVA. Our teachers continue to create and provide outstanding learning experiences for our students. You will notice that up to date digital equipment as well as common items like strings and washers are used to explore important scientific and mathematical concepts. Guided by dedicated professional teachers, our students experience the best that education has to offer. 

Featured Teacher: Sara Beck, 7-9 Mathematics

When a close friend of Mrs. Beck's was unable to pursue his dreams in college because he couldn't pass the necessary math prerequisites for his major, she determined to become a math teacher so that she could help other students pursue their dreams by teaching them solid math skills. 

"I want all students to gain the math and reasoning skills needed to pursue their dreams."

With 10 years' experience, a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics with minors in Education and Chemistry, a Master of Science in Teaching Mathematics and Professional Teaching Certificates in Advanced Mathematics (Middle and High School) and Chemistry, Mrs. Beck is definitely well-equipped to make an impact on Tualatin Valley Academy students' education! She has taught subjects ranging from Pre-Algebra to AP Statistics, and is always pursuing new ways to capture students' interest in her math classes. 

When asked what she loves most about her job now, she says "I enjoy being able to openly worship and pray with my students. I am grateful to work at the same school my children attend. I am excited about the possibilities as we expand into high school."

We are excited that Mrs. Beck is pouring her knowledge, dedication and passion for learning into our 7th, 8th and 9th grade math students!

Fun Facts About Mrs. Beck: 

Bucket list item: Take my daughter scuba diving with manta rays
Proudest accomplishment: Developing a proficiency grading system and program with the technological support of my husband
Snack of choice: Dried young coconut and mangoes
Qualities I most admire about others: Work/Life balance
What inspires me: Possibilities
One thing I hope to achieve in my lifetime: Writing Pre-Algebra and Algebra textbooks
3 words to describe myself: Observant, purposeful, prepared
In my free time I like to: Contemplate, plan, cook, watch cooking and travel shows, read, spend time with my family
Favorite place I've travelled: Cook Islands or Little Cayman
This store has a lot of my money: Costco
My at bat song would be: Multiplied by Needtobreathe
If calories didn't count I would eat or drink: Haagen-Daz or Ben&Jerry's ice cream and Dr. Pepper or Cherry Coke
Favorite color: Turquoise

STEAMing Ahead!

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During the last week of June, twelve TVA teachers and three of our pastors traveled to Loma Linda University to participate in an EXSEED conference. EXSEED (Excellence in STEM Experiential Education) "is an innovative and collaborative program designed to enhance integrated Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in Adventist K-12 schools."

We spent the week in classes and workshops led by experts in science, technology and mathematics. Topics included Human Anatomy, 3D Printing, "Wacky Science", Advances in Cancer Research, Geology and Enrichment Topics for Mathematics. Visits to a medical simulation lab and a workshop with live venomous snakes kept the excitement high! We also completed assignments in groups of 3 or 4 that included recording video and editing it with sound and titles into a short 3 minute film that was shared with the whole group.

Our TVA teachers are excited about increasing our use of STEM activities in our classrooms. We already do many projects that are STEM in nature. From making catapults in Preschool to our Working Models class in grades 7&8 we already have many STEM components being taught. 

Our teachers want to include Art in their projects, which turns STEM into STEAM! This was a key part of one of the projects done in grades 5&6 last year where each student studied an animal and created a clay representation of it as part of their presentation.

Our ninth grade students will experience a problem based learning class this next year that will immerse them in the application of STEAM learning. We are excited about the future of increased STEAM learning at TVA and are committed to making it an important part of our curriculum.