Hillsboro students to get more hands-on learning

Staff writer

Graham Pankratz showed off his projectile, which he made in his engineering class, to the USD 410 school board Tuesday.

“I loved this class,” he told the board members. “It’s my favorite I’ve taken so far.”

Pankratz is just one student at Hillsboro High School, who has benefited from the school’s hands-on approach to education. Principal Max Heinrichs said the 2013-2014 4-year plan of study includes many more of these opportunities for Hillsboro Youth.

The school currently supports 20 Career and Technical Education Pathway programs, and three of the four STEM pathways that the Kansas State Department of Education supports for Kansas Schools.

The programs allow students to gain career skills and, because it is a nationally recognized system, it gives students greater access to scholarship opportunities. The possible career pathways include: agricultural science, communications, business, consumer science, health sciences, production, cartography, and engineering.

Students can begin taking the course as early as their freshman year and continue until their senior year. In that time, Heinrichs said students will gain the necessary skills to pursue many careers, including welding.

“It will give them a certificate in the end,” he said. Then they’ll be employable in Hillsboro or wherever else they want to go work.”

However, he also said that if a student comes to Hillsboro in their junior year, they can also benefit from the program by taking a few classes.

In order to make this happen, the high school accepted a $57,825 grant from Project Lead The Way in hopes that they will be able give their students a world-class education, and an advantage when preparing for their future careers. The grant will give the school enough money to provide quality training to instructors, cover all equipment costs and necessary upgrades.

Heinrichs said four instructors — Lance Sawyer, Creigh Bell, Sonya Roberts, and Ruth Baldner — will travel to different locations across the nation to receive core training in their respective educational area. They’ll go through a two-week intensive, where they will go through the program that they will be teaching their students.

By 2015, they plan to offer the following classes: intro to engineering design, principles of engineering, engineering design and development, computer integrated manufacturing, digital electronics, biotechnical engineering, principles of the biomedical science, and human body systems.

USD 410 plans to study the possibility of adding PLTW Gateway to Technology curriculum at the middle School and the biomedical sciences curriculum at the high school.

Additionally, Heinrichs said he is implementing Work Keys Assessment Program in 12th grade, so that students will have a certificate in hand, which will helps students gauge their readiness to enter the workforce, employers during the hiring process and it will also give the school more student data.

USD 410 Superintendent Steve Noble said he is pleased in the work Heinrichs is doing to prepare Hillsboro High School students for life after graduation, saying that he is in the forefront of Kansas educators who are trying to implement these changes in their schools.

In other business:

  • Hillsboro Middle School Principal Greg Bowers announced that spring parent-teacher conferences went smoother this year.
  • Hillsboro Elementary School Principal Evan Yoder said the book drive was going well, and that they might have to re-look at their earlier decision to not have it another year. He also said that he was struggling to find volunteers for the walking school bus, but would still make it happen even if he was the only one doing it.
    The school board also approved the TEEN and MCSEC interlocal agreements and extended the lease contract with Grace Community for use of the school building.
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