The 2016–17 school year marked the return of ninth grade to Tualatin Valley Academy in Hillsboro, Ore. This year’s freshmen pioneered a creative new high school program at TVA, one that emphasized experiential education particularly focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).
Students started the year off with a marine biology trip on the Oregon coast. They had three days jam-packed with learning, including fossil hunting at the beach, engineering ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles) and exploring mud flats, salt marshes and tide pools. They also experienced a boat trip to whale watch and collected specimens to examine for their marine biology class. Students camped during this trip, and each evening closed with a campfire and student-led vespers.
Classroom learning this year was creative as well. One of the activities the algebra I class tackled was using pendulums to study standard deviation. They worked hands-on with the pendulums and used data to determine how changing the length of the string, the length of the bob or the angle of release impacted the swing of the pendulum. The data was then graphed, demonstrating the overall impact of those changes.
A technology class that was specifically STEAM-focused was introduced this year. Students worked on 3-D modeling, computer programming, video editing, digital music production and photography. A special field trip to a Daimler research facility showed students how science, technology, engineering, art and math all come together in the professional world.
At Tualatin Valley Academy, we want to teach students more than just academics. In February TVA’s seventh- through ninth-grade students teamed up with students from Scappoose (Ore.) Adventist Christian School to work at the Oregon Food Bank. They packed 4,983 pounds of oats to be distributed to people in need, which is the equivalent of 4,153 meals.
It was an exercise in teamwork, as packing food at the food bank works something like a well-oiled assembly line. It also opened students’ eyes to what they themselves can do to serve others, just like Jesus did. That afternoon the students headed over to Beaverton Church to continue the day of service and teamwork, where they learned about the church’s community center and both local and global Adventist missions.
Mentoring has been at the core of this year’s success. The class size was small, which allowed more individual attention. Teachers in the high school program genuinely care about mentoring their students, coaching them as they grow both academically and as they grow their relationship with God. High school students are encouraged to mentor younger students as well by leading out in group activities and by participating in Family Groups — groups of students of all ages at TVA who work together during various activities throughout the year. Parents have mentored our students as well with their participation in a variety of activities. One parent volunteered to coach Futsal for seventh-ninth grade.
God is moving at Tualatin Valley Academy. He has provided an amazing first year for this program and we are excited to see what He does next year as we expand to 10th grade.
Tualatin Valley Academy Gleaner correspondent