Students talk about STEAM at Ronan School Board meeting

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Pablo third-graders presented STEAM projects at the February school board meeting with teachers Sunny Sifford and Ryan Delaney on Monday. (Carolyn Hidy/Lake County Leader)

This month’s student/staff presentation at the Ronan School Board meeting Monday night featured third-graders from Pablo Elementary and their teachers, Sunny Sifford and Ryan Delaney. The students shared some of their creations from the hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) program they have developed. The program aims to encourage the creative process of experimental problem-solving, with the students working alone and in teams to plan, devise, test, and improve project solutions.

A “gumdrop bridge” was displayed, built strong enough out of toothpicks stuck into gumdrops to hold a cup of 96 pennies suspended underneath. Also shown were aluminum foil boats that demonstrated surface area, and a hoop glider that takes the paper airplane concept to a whole new level. Other projects have included rockets, parachutes, catapults and a Lego challenge. Students often take the projects home to make improvements.

Sifford said there is a strong emphasis on relating the projects to real-world situations and cultures while integrating with other parts of the curriculum.

Maintenance and snowplow crews were thanked by several administrators for keeping the school grounds open and safe. Superintendent Mark Johnston explained the many considerations that go into making the decision to close or delay school for a snow day, including acknowledging the difficulties posed to working parents who may not be able to adjust schedules. “This is not a decision we take lightly,” said Johnston.

Indian Education Director Jessica Johnson thanked the school for welcoming tribal community members to the school in a visit last November, and said they are discussing how to expand that idea throughout the school year. She showed a T-shirt developed for the Arlee schools with inspiring words written in Salish, an idea that helps normalize the use of the traditional language in our culture.. “We are developing gear kids can wear that is totally relevant to the Salish, Kootenai and Flathead languages and culture,” Johnson said.

Ronan Middle School recently took second place in the Academic Bowl, finishing behind Polson by only two points.

High school staff are discussing ways to better help freshmen integrate into high school. They also report receiving a grant from Lowe’s that will be used to create a garden in back of the school, featuring native plants and other learning opportunities, a greenhouse, and benches.

The retirement of PE/Health teacher Crystal Pitts was accepted, and she was acknowledged for 39 years of service to the schools. Madison Wassam was hired to replace Pitts at Ronan Middle School.

The contract with Missoula Bone and Joint was renewed for their help with sports injuries.

A proposal to change the fifth/sixth-grade football program from full tackle to flag football was discussed, citing difficulty in finding coaches and other schools to play against. The program’s intent had been to start building enthusiasm for the football program from an early age, but has not seemed to have had any impact on future football player numbers.

Special Olympics is sponsoring a Polar Plunge in Ronan on March 2. The event is challenging schools, public servants, and other community members to create teams and raise funds for the highly successful program. Information is available at somt.org/plunge.

Kicking Horse Job Corps Center lost its federal contract and will be closing the end of February, causing job losses that will affect many area families.

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