Breitung schools get Lego grant, kits to teach early robotics skills

STUDENTS INVOLVED IN the robotics program at Woodland Elementary got a first look at the spoils from the First Lego League Jr Discovery Edition education grant awarded to the school. From left are Ryan Gibbons, Ryan Lorch, Talon Lorch, Kieran Hempel, Trevor Ryan, Ava Gibbons, Mira Johnson and Kainsley Mollick. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo)

KINGSFORD — Breitung Township Schools recently received a $15,000 Lego Education grant that will provide more than 200 kits that students, especially kindergartners, can take home to learn early robotics skills.

The district is one of only six in the world participating in the First Lego League Jr Discovery Edition pilot program.

“I’m kind of excited about this one because, as you know, I do a lot with robotics, but there hasn’t been a lot for the really little ones. Those kids really love robots, but it’s a little bit beyond their grasp,” Amanda Gibbons, the district’s STEM/Robotics 21st-century learning coordinator, told the school board Monday.

The school received 49 Lego kits that can be spread out between early kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms, and expect nine more pallets of kits in the future.

“Lego, as a thank-you for us piloting, also sent us these cute little six bricks boxes that we get to send home with the kids to keep. There all kinds of activities that parents can do with each kid and I’m pretty excited about that,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons also reported on the Project Lead the Way seminar, a forum for discussing elementary school science programming across the western Upper Peninsula that took place at Kingsford Middle School last week. The district had 22 Woodland and KMS teachers at the media center Monday and Tuesday. Staff from Carney-Nadeau, Iron Mountain,

Norway and Gwinn also participated.

“It’s a new approach to science, more hands-on — students taking on a more active role. The idea that the teacher stands in the front and sends that knowledge out is not the way that science is moving, especially with the new standards, and we want to stay one step ahead of what the standards are requiring of us. We had amazing feedback,” Gibbons said.

In other business, the board:

— Authorized nine new hires for the 2019-20 school year. Tracy Rutter becomes girls tennis coach, Audrey Sholander a speech-language pathologist, Kristen Burrelle a four-year basic substitute, Karen Hackstock a kindergarten teacher, Sara Tregillis as special education instructor at the middle school and four educational assistants — Jessica Gallup, Aimee Perron Walker, Megan Phillips and Katie Recla. The district still needs a middle school secretary.

— Approved two reading and math support courses for early kindergarten through 12th grade and added rhetoric composition, anatomy and physiology to the high school catalog and a Bay College West dual enrollment college class on research report writing to meet the English 12 requirement.

The board also added the On-track seminar as a new course that assists students struggling academically or socially. “It’s support with math, language arts, but more importantly diagnostic stuff to find where kids are having troubles and the mediation part comes in. Just getting kids on track that are falling behind. When we do our gap analysis, a place where we haven’t been hitting the needs are those at-risk types of kids that aren’t labeled special education, we are trying to hit that gap of kids that are slipping through the cracks a little bit,” Superintendent Craig Allen said.

— Revised the athletic code to make a third-offense violation result in losing a year of participation rather than terminating an athletic career. Any further offense would mean an additional year lost. “We are trying to not end the kid’s career based on a bad freshman year,” board member Mark Pugh said.

“Taking a year out of a four-year high school career is pretty big, but we want to make sure that we do provide those third chances or fourth chances when they are appropriate,” Allen said.

— Learned from Steve Terrian interest remains in a JV softball program and the group still is trying to organize a team. They will make an appointment with athletic director Chris Hartman in the next couple months.

The next board meeting will be 7 p.m. Sept. 9.