Susie Scientist For The (Learning) Win!


Susie Scientist visited our first and second graders last week! She brought with her energy sticks, which conduct electricity. Susie talked about how neurons make connections, and how the energy stick helped connect the class.


Students worked in groups, holding hands with each other and the energy sticks to learn about closed circuits and open circuits. They held hands in a big circle and sure enough, the machine buzzed and lit up!


What a great way to learn!


3rd and 4th Grade International Fair


Wednesday, May 24 Tualatin Valley Academy's third and fourth grade classes took students on a trip around the world.

Hands on learning has been proven to be the most effective, so each student researched a country, learning about things like that country's culture, food, clothing, economy, government and places of interest. They then made a presentation board and did an art project to represent their country. The day of the fair they dressed in traditional clothing from that country and brought food for their classmates to try.

Students presented their countries to other TVA students, family and friends who toured the fair.

A great time was had by all!

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.


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!

Featured Class: Mrs. Youker's Third Grade

Mrs. Youker is excited about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math). She attended the EXSEED Conference in Loma Linda, CA last year and brought home a lot of new, exciting ideas she was excited to try out! 

Always one to be on the cutting edge of education research, one of the first things she did was add stability balls to her classroom instead of chairs. Research has shown that kids need to be able to move while they learn, and she wanted them to be able to have that flexibility as needed. The kids enjoy the ability to move during class, and one parent observed that even though everyone in the classroom seemed to be moving, they were all quietly focused on their work. 

My child thinks ‘science’ so intuitively this year as a direct result of Mrs. Youker’s focus on the thought processes involved such as ‘asking questions, experimenting, trying new things’. By the 3rd week of school, my child was seeing ‘science’ in everyday activities and I loved it.
— Third Grade Parent

The other STEAM emphasis Mrs. Youker is doing this year is adding as many science experiments to her curriculum as possible. The class science textbook has many fun experiments to do to complement the materials they are learning. The class has enjoyed looking through dirt, testing the hardness of rocks, and running around the school's track to learn about acceleration, just to name a few. 

One Friday a month all 3rd grade students get an extra science experiment. When they do this experiment each month, they talk about the Scientific Method and use it to guide their learning. 

Mrs. Youker's class has had a lot of other fun learning experiences this year too. At Christmas they took part in a play with other 3rd and 4th graders called "Star of Wonder", which showed how Jesus came to this Earth to be born for us. They have also taken exciting field trips to the state capitol and OMSI. The class has learned about their communities and the 3 branches of government. They are learning cursive and handwriting. And, most importantly, they are studying about the Bible and Jesus' life on Earth. 

As a parent, I very much appreciate the moments when Mrs. Youker connects with my child to model solid Christian values of respect, kindness and integrity. During a video presentation she’s not hesitant to call out moments that conflict with the greater values she wants the kids to internalize. For example, on one occasion she stopped a video and was explicit with the class to say ‘This is a way of speaking to each other that I will not have in this classroom.’

I appreciate her commitment to learning new technologies and implementing them within the classroom such as the stability balls. The stability balls are AWESOME! She’s also expanded the Bible and Math curriculum. She embraces parental involvement without sacrificing the strong role of the teacher. That’s difficult and she does it with creativity, grace, fairness and strength. I highly value that skillset and the value I know it provides my child.
— Third Grade Parent

Mrs. Youker is working hard to prepare her students well not only for 4th grade, but for college and beyond. She is guiding them through this school year with an eye to each student's future, and her students have benefitted greatly from her guidance. 

Featured Class: 9th Grade STEAM


Getting students excited about learning can be hard. Sometimes it's not easy to see how algebra or geometry will impact daily life, or how certain parts of science have real-world application that will impact a student directly. 

That's where Tualatin Valley Academy's STEAM* class comes in.


The STEAM class is taught to TVA's freshmen, and it's designed to get kids excited about learning in a fun new way. The class is based on Project Based Learning (PBL), a technique that has students identify a real-world problem or need and look for ways to solve it. STEAM is dynamic, engaging and solution-focused. Students learn skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork as they work together on various projects. 

This year's 9th grade class is passionate about producing videos and writing music, so Michael Blackburn, the STEAM instructor, is teaching different technology skills to students through the lens of a music video. 

How can 3D modeling be used in a music video?
What do you need to learn to use MIDI and instrumental recording?
If you're going to use time lapse in this video, what math do you need to use to figure out how you're going to do that?
A Rube Goldberg machine in the video does sound cool. How do science and engineering impact the machine you want to make?
Can computer programming be used to do slow motion or stop motion for the video?

By researching and learning these various techniques, students are building a foundation of needed skills for bigger projects to be accomplished in the years to come. For example, the students learning computer programming have chosen to learn Javascript specifically so that they can explore creating a computer game in the future. 

Student individuality is embraced in this class. Not every student will learn extensively about every component of what will go into the video they are writing and producing. Students are encouraged to pick an area or areas of interest to focus on. Some prefer computer programming. Others prefer learning how MIDI works. The end goal, however, is one group project that will combine all of their talents, skills and abilities. 


Each student in the class is exposed to each technique being taught at some point. The whole class spent all of first quarter and half of second quarter learning 3D modeling in SketchUp. They will continue to have mini lessons as a group on this skill and others throughout the school year so that they are exposed to different technologies, can develop a few basic skills in each area, and decide if they are interested in learning more about it or not. 

Ultimately, this class is about 2 things: Getting kids excited about learning via technology and helping them develop skills for college and life. To that end, each student has set up a "locker" - an online portfolio where they can store their projects and work for the next 4 years to use in the college application process. 

It has been exciting to watch the 9th graders develop new skills and find that they enjoy things that they never thought they would like. Things are not always easy. Much of what they are learning is brand new to them, and that comes with some frustration. They are learning skills often taught in sports - perseverance, teamwork and dedication. But most importantly, they are learning that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. 

We are excited to see that video at the end of the year!


*STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math

Featured Class: 6th Grade Outdoor School

Every year Tualatin Valley Academy's 6th grade class, led by Mrs. Springer, has a four day adventure at Big Lake Youth Camp. TVA focuses a lot on experiential education, and Outdoor School is full of both experiences and education! 

This year's Outdoor School took place from Monday, October 10 to Thursday, October 13. Students at Outdoor School stay in cabins with counselors and participate in classes that teach about the incredible world God has created while students experience it firsthand. Studies surround four main topics: water, trees, Earth and animals. 

Learning isn't all done in a standard class format. On one afternoon students learn about the predator and prey cycle by playing Life and Death in the forest, a game they talk about for the rest of the school year! 

Social interaction with students from other schools is an important part of Big Lake's Outdoor School curriculum. Students play nighttime Capture the Flag, go on a night hike, and study the stars together. 

Outdoor School is not just educational. It is an experience that the students will never forget. The things they learn, the friendships they make and the bonds they strengthen within their own class are truly unforgettable. 

Featured Class: 9th Grade Science

At Tualatin Valley Academy, we focus on teaching students as much by experience as we do from a textbook. That's why the Freshmen class headed out on a Marine Biology Trip in mid-September, led by Mr. Phil Kahler. Students had 3 days jam-packed with learning, including fossil hunting at the beach, engineering ROV's (remotely operated underwater vehicles), exploring mud flats, salt marshes and tide pools and taking a boat trip to whale watch and collect specimens to examine for their Marine Biology class. Students camp during this trip, and each evening closes with a campfire and student-led vespers. 

"It was amazing, a beautiful experience."

Mr. Kahler teaches Middle School and High School Science at TVA. When asked about his teaching philosophy, he answered "As a science teacher I don't want to just sit around and teach my students about science. I want my students to experience science and to do their own scientific investigations. I want my students to be scientists! To make this happen for our students, we must leave the confines of the classroom from time to time.

Our Marine Biology Trip is much more than another activity in the curriculum, it is an experience that I hope will inspire these students for a lifetime of exploring the wild and wonderful things God has created. There is nothing quite like breathing in the cool salty air as you hear the ocean waves crashing on the shore. It really does not matter how many books you read or how many documentaries you watch on TV; something as wonderful as a California Gray Whale will always be an abstract concept until you have seen one surface right next to your boat. You always knew whales were big, but this creature is crazy HUGE! And it is a breathing, living thing that moves and does what it wants."

The Freshmen science curriculum is Physical Science, made up of Marine Biology, Astronomy, Electricity & Magnetism, and an Introduction to Chemistry. The course is a hands-on laboratory based continuation of the integrated sciences covered in earlier grades. Students explore their world and gain a solid foundation for what they will study in Science over the next 3 years. 

Students on the Marine Biology Trip kept journals of their findings and favorite activities. One of the students' favorite activities was building ROV's at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. The class was divided into teams (girls vs. guys!) to craft their ROV's out of PVC pipe with a magnet attached to them. The girls dubbed theirs Charlotte, the guys, Tera-DACT-yl 3000. They then had a competition to see which team could collect more magnetic items from the bottom of a pool. A student reflected on building the ROV's:

"Making a submarine was the coolest, not knowing we were using engineering the whole time."

Another favorite memory across the board was the Discovery boat tour. Students studied creatures from plankton to whales and even got to try their hand at driving the boat! 

"When we were on the boat we got to learn more about the importance of the ocean, which made it much more interesting rather than just reading about it." 

"You could see God's majesty through His beautiful creation."

Building students' relationship with God was central to the trip. When studying science, it is hard not to see God's hand in all of His creation. One student commented: 

"...and seeing how beautiful the sea is and the life that lives there made me reflect on how perfect of a job God did in crafting this amazing world."

God's amazing world, indeed. 

For photos, links and more information, check out Mr. Kahler's Marine Biology page here!

Featured Class: Mrs. Wendt's First and Second Grade

Mrs. Wendt, one of TVA's first and second grade teachers, is taking science to a whole new wacky level this year! Her Wacky Science curriculum, which is taught every Thursday, has first and second graders on the edge of their seats and clamoring for more.

Professor Susie Scientist teaches the class, complete with a lab coat, goggles and wacky white wig. Students perform experiments like watching skittles dissolve and bleed color when placed in water, in the process learning about things like what water solubility is and much more. 

Another project involved water beads, teaching students about how to form a hypothesis. If food coloring was introduced into the water, would the water beads absorb it or would they stay clear? Students journal their findings, combining reading, writing, art and drawing skills with their science lesson. 

Wacky science lessons are woven into the larger curriculum that Mrs. Wendt teaches. For example, the week the class did the water beads experiment, they had read "The Invisible Boy", a story about including others. They talked about how the clear beads disappeared into the water and related it back to the book. This week the class experimented with Mentos and Diet Coke, learning about this week's "word to live by", cooperation. They got to see firsthand how well Mentos and Diet Coke cooperate!

Mrs. Wendt has brought STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) into her classroom in several other ways. She has iPods with educational apps on them for student use. She created STEM bins with things like 3x5 cards and tape for students to build structures out of, or popsicle sticks of various sizes with velcro on the ends for students to create fun new shapes and structures during free play.

First and second graders in Mrs. Wendt's class are sure to sharpen their science skills this year, and they (and Mrs. Wendt) will have a lot of fun in the process!