A new way of doing school: Vanguard Academy of Moses Lake leaders welcome prospective students

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MOSES LAKE – Elijah Brown and Dawniella Castleton are focused on the task at hand.

They each have six square wooden blocks and they must put them together so that each block only touches two other blocks. And there is not just one single solution.

“It’s interesting and I’m trying to figure it out,” Castleton said as she shuffled and stacked the blocks on the table in front of her.

“It really makes me think,” Brown added.

Dan Beich, the music director of Moses Lake High School, who will begin teaching at the Moses Lake School District’s new Vanguard Academy at 740 E. Yonezawa Blvd., this fall, watched over the two prospective students. He gestured to a computer screen in front of the two students.

“So, do you see the solution?” Beich asked them both.

The block exercise, Beich said, is an example of the types of exercises and tests Vanguard Academy will have to challenge its students as part of the school’s approach to project-based learning. once it opens at the end of August.

“These are little brain games you can play to spark lateral and sequential thinking and insight, and a whole host of ways of thinking that have nothing to do with what we normally associate with school,” said Beich said.

There were plenty of these brain games on display for prospective students to touch, fiddle with and even splash at the Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center on Wednesday night as MLSD held a busy open house for prospective Vanguard Academy students. when the new school is expected to open for freshmen and sophomores this fall.

“Our staff are all hand-picked and they’ve worked very hard to create opportunities for families,” said Kelly Cutter, director of planning for Vanguard Academy.

Cutter said she hopes to have between 400 and 450 students at Vanguard Academy her first year — all freshmen and sophomores — and slowly expand the upper classes over time. The incoming class will be split into three “houses” of around 150 students each, with the school day split into three separate sessions with a school-wide check-in session every morning and a check-out just before heading home at home, Cutter said.

“There will be a lot of flexibility,” she said.

As the school creates its own juniors and seniors, they will get internships and do job shadowing at local businesses, Cutter said.

Professor Drew Kostelnik stood behind a computer hooked up to wires draped in small plastic containers filled with water. Splashing water triggered a note on a virtual piano keyboard, an activity according to Kostelnik designed to show how electricity flows.

Part of how Vanguard will teach students will deliberately create problems in its projects to force students to think about what might be wrong and then fix them.

“That’s what we’re looking for,” Kostelnik said.

“I’m very excited about the turnout tonight, it’s more than we expected,” said MLSD School Board Member Shannon Hintz. “People seem really engaged with the material we’ve released, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for Vanguard Academy.”

For some of the parents in attendance, the new school represents a new opportunity for their children in the Moses Lake School District.

“We’re looking into it,” Castleton’s mother, Julirae Gunter-Castleton, said. “That’s how she thinks. It’s very different, and high school doesn’t quite fit his way of thinking.

And when asked if the block-arranging exercise is something he’s more interested in, Castleton doesn’t hesitate.

“Yes,” she said firmly.

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