Learning outside the lines

Students at Webster City High School to grow through J-Term

—Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Adri Sietstra Webster City High School instructors Ayn Eklund, left, and Kurt Veldhuizen, right, help determine which instructors should be paired with students for their J-Term passion projects Wednesday afternoon at WCHS. The two-week education project will be giving students and educators an opportunity to learn outside the lines. J-Term is comprised of two components: teacher-led instruction and student-led passion projects.

Students at Webster City High School are taking learning into their own hands this January. For the second year, students will be spending two weeks identifying and working towards potential careers or pathways they are passionate about.

This two-week period, also known as J-Term, is made up of two educational components: teacher-led courses and students’ individual passion projects.

J-Term begins on Tuesday, Jan. 2 and goes through Friday, Jan. 12. During last year’s J-Term (which was originally called Spring Term) students went through the learning experience in March. J-Term was moved to January because Iowa Central Community College classes are not in session at that time.

A wide variety of teacher-led courses will be available for students to explore. Students can delve into career exploration, service learning, science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics or athletics. In the mornings, teachers have designed either 90-minute or 180-minute teacher-led courses. These are project-based learning experiences.

For example, students can take Adapting SEW Many Clothes with Special Education instructor Amanda Nichols to make adaptable clothing for those who have difficulty controlling fine motor skills. Those who have a love for seeing the world can take Travel on a Budget with Mrs. Ryan. Here, students will work on creating a positive travel experience on a budget. Students can take other hands-on courses like Clawbot Battle Royale with Mr. Kennedy and learn how to build and modify their own robot, or make a Rube Goldberg Machine with Mr. Fisher.

Webster City High School Guidance Counselor Sally Greenfield examines a student’s passion project outline request on Wednesday afternoon at Webster City High School.

The second portion of J-Term, student-led passion projects, will focus on students taking charge of an idea or career interest they have. With the help of teachers/facilitators, students have outlined their two week plan that will help them achieve their goals. Pending facilitator approval, students will take to the community and enlist the help of external experts in the real world.

“We learned a lot last year. Some things went well, some things we knew we needed to improve, said Webster City High School Principal Brent Jorth. “We’re really focusing on three areas for improvement.”

According to Jorth, the three areas of improvement faculty will be working on to make the second J-Term as beneficial for students as possible are: increased communication, increased structure and growing partnerships.

Kurt Veldhuizen, AG instructor at Webster City High School, explained that J-Term is a positive way to create life-long learners. Students have to work to create a two-week plan, communicate their intentions with instructors and take their skills to the real world.

“J-Term’s concept breaks down the traditional walls of education,” said Veldhuizen. “Over time, we’ve become accustomed to education occurring only in a building and that’s not what real life is.”

Veldhuizen will be teaching Agriculture… It’s Everywhere: Veldhuizen’s students will be touring real-world ag industries and businesses over the course of two weeks. Possible stops include VeroBlue, the Monsanto plant in Huxley, John Deere and more.

“We’re trying to show the kids the real world career side,” said Veldhuizen. “In agriculture, we have seven different pathways and that is what we are trying to get them experience in.”

Students will then select one career pathway they are interested in and create a career spotlight/advertisement.

“This year we are trying to get the kids to be advocates for those areas of agriculture that they are actually interested,” Veldhuizen said.

With an assortment of destinations for tours and job shadows, J-Term gives ag students an opportunity to explore a multitude of potential career paths. Veldhuizen went on to explain that positions are open in the agricultural field at all education levels.

“Ag businesses are really great to share with the high school kids entry-level positions, bachelor-level positions, PH

.D.-positions and things like that,” Veldhuizen said.

“Project-based learning – in the ag classroom – that’s really what it’s rooted in and that’s why I’m one of the biggest supporters of J-Term,” said Veldhuizen.

Students will present their passion projects to classmates on the Thursday, Jan. 11 and to the public/community on Friday, Jan. 12.