Over the past two weeks some community listening sessions aimed at gaining feedback and insight on a range of topics have taken place at various venues.
The Methow Valley School District began a series of listening sessions on Oct. 2 at TwispWorks. It was the same night as the candidates’ forum at the Twisp Valley Grange, so unfortunately many people had to choose between events. I attended the school forum with a half-dozen other parents. I will let the school summarize and compile the findings and the take-aways. But I’ll share my general insight from what I learned from listening.
We place very high expectations on our public schools to educate and prepare students for the future. We as parents want the best for our kids. That’s a given, but in this modern age, what we define as “best” or “good” is complicated, complex and diverse. This makes schooling a monumental challenge, and I want to applaud our district for listening.
Educators have known for decades that there are different learning styles and differently abled learners. More and more, each learner has individual needs. Some kids need hands-on learning, some kids need more rigor and challenge, some kids need content delivered in multi-media format, some kids work better in groups, some need external motivation, some kids need cues to stay focused. The list of ingredients in the recipe for success goes on. For a small district, providing all the services, expertise, and access to diverse needs is a major challenge.
Layering these differences with varying emotional needs in a single classroom and reaching each kid in a meaningful way is nothing short of a miracle. No single teacher, counselor or educator has a magic wand, but what I can see our schools is inspiring. The Independent Learning Center is making great strides reaching kids who don’t thrive in traditional classroom environments in the upper grades. And in the elementary years, adoption of the International Baccalaureate promotes buy-in through inquiry-based learning. Kids are still required to use and develop basic skills, but they are encouraged to seek knowledge and information from different disciplines, and apply their skills and information in the exploration of real-life concepts that interest them. The kids get to choose, which creates buy-in. My son became a mini-expert in nuclear energy last year — a project he really enjoyed. Another student introduced the fourth grade to black holes — a recently proven physical reality that was merely hypothetical until recent years.
If you didn’t make the sessions that are scheduled this week, you can fill out an online form at the methow.org website to provide feedback, and voice your concerns or aspirations to our school leaders.
The other listening sessions were hosted by Methow Trails at the grange as their first steps in an outreach process to plan for the Twisp-Winthrop recreational trail. Or is the Winthrop-Twisp trail? Either way, you get the idea. Methow Trails was seeking input to begin to piece together the complicated and ambitious project of connecting our two major population centers, ideally through the school campus.
The first session was geared to gain feedback and to answer questions to landowners along the highway corridor whose participation will be critical for trail development. The second session was for the community at large. Both sessions were well attended with a lot of positive support and response. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions, and Methow Trails will take the project in-house for a while as they develop it further, based on the feedback. Stay tuned for their next roll-out of the project progress — to be scheduled sometime, somewhere in a community near you! Don’t forget that the early-bird offer for reduced prices of the annual (ski) pass will expire Oct. 31.