HJ/EDMarch 20, 2006

Lester Prairie Schools: breaking tradition

By Jenni Sebora

Cutting edge technology classes and programs for top learners are some of the good things happening at Lester Prairie Schools to prepare students for their futures.

When Lester Prairie School’s technology education teacher Joe Scoblic learns about an “up and coming” learning opportunity that would benefit students, he doesn’t just talk about it, he acts upon it.

Although the technology education classes offered at Lester Prairie include the traditional courses, such as woods I and II, welding I and II, and small engines, many other less traditional high school classes are offered.

Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) I and II are two such courses that have been added to the venue of offerings during Scoblic’s 16-year career as teacher at Lester Prairie.

CAD, which is a program that businesses use, involves two-dimensional mechanical drawing, height and width. Advanced CAD begins to introduce students to three-dimensional, height, width, and thickness, Scoblic explained.

“Many career fields, such as engineering and medical research, involve skills learned in these classes,” Scoblic said.

The credits earned from successfully completing these CAD courses are also accepted at all the technical school, in Minnesota, Scoblic noted.

“This saves kids time and money,” Scoblic said.

Next year, the CAD program at Lester Prairie Schools will go a step further and include an 18-week inventor course offering.

“This is a true three-dimensional program and is at the cutting edge of what businesses are using,” Scoblic said.

After attending a course on the inventor program, Scoblic was so enthused about its possibilities for students that he brought the information back to the school administration to consider offering it as a class at Lester Prairie High School.

“We just have to purchase the software for the class. Our computers are strong enough to handle the software,” Scoblic said.

Class tours of businesses and post-secondary schools, such as NIT in Eden Prairie, Millerbernds, Ridgewater College, and Hutch Technology, are also part of the learning experience in some of Scoblic’s technology education classes.

Scoblic noted that these business tours allow students opportunities to observe first-hand what businesses are doing and and helps form connections between the business world and the education world, which in turn, keeps Scoblic on top of what is going on and what is “up and coming” in the technology field.

Next year, Scoblic will take this “first-hand” experiential learning a step further with work experience program to be offered next year.

Although the details are not set, the program will include a work component, where students will work at an area business, such as Ram Buildings, Big Don’s, or Lester’s.

“It will be a work-based learning program that will primarily be hands-on, but will include a classroom aspect also,” Scoblic said.

Since Scoblic will be the learning coordinator for the program, he will be responsible for communication with each student’s employers about the student’s work skills and habits, as well as observing students at their work sites.

Aside from woods I and II, a construction class, which involves students building sheds, is also a new class that has been offered.

“We worked out a deal with Ram. They supply the materials, and the students build the sheds for them. It gives the students experience,” Scoblic said.

Another class that Scoblic has set in motion over the years is an energy and power class that focuses on problem solving.

“Businesses have shared that problem solving is a skill that kids are lacking in. The energy and power class is a problem-solving class, and kids love it,” Scoblic said.

Technology education classes for seventh through ninth graders have been offered, as well. These technology education introductory classes include an introduction to machines, tools, some problem solving, a little CAD, and a small project, Scoblic explained.

The secret to the success of the technology education program at Lester Prairie Schools is the relationship between the school and area businesses, and the classes and school administration.

“We have developed friendships with the various businesses, and they inform us of what is up-and-coming,” he added.

“The school has been very good at supporting me, and supportive of the technology education program,” Scoblic said.

Such hands-on learning and new classes take a lot of work, but it’s a challenge Scoblic welcomes.

“I love coming to work every day. No two days are ever the same. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he said.

Scoblic has also been the head football coach at Lester Prairie for the past 16 years. His family consists of his wife, Cathy, who is also a teacher in the Lester Prairie school district, and their two children who attend Lester Prairie Schools.

Junior Great Books

On the elementary side of the building, Lester Prairie Schools also offers programs beyond just “the basics” for its younger students.

Junior Great Books is a literature enrichment program that focuses on inquiry learning. It is for students in second through sixth grade who are in the top part of their classes and have been recommended by their teachers.

Great Books allows students to investigate readings, state their own ideas, and hear classmates’ ideas.

“It is for students who are in the top part of their class and for those that can benefit from that type of learning,” Principal Pam Lukens said.

The program, which runs once a week, January through May, offers opportunities for students to get a wide variety of literature, and involves an inquiring method of learning.

“Many times, there are no right or wrong answers, and it allows students to explore learning and language,” Lukens said.

Learning and exploring takes place in small groups with volunteer adults.

“At the most, there are 10 students in a group,” Lukens said. “It is a volunteer program and is an ideal way for parents to get involved.

It is also a volunteer program in the aspect that students participate based on teacher recommendation and parent approval.

Great Books is a well-established program that has been in place for about the past 10 years at Lester Prairie Elementary.

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