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TAF@Saghalie’s Jumpstart provided incoming 6th-graders a peek into project-based learning

TAF@Saghalie’s Jumpstart provided incoming 6th-graders a peek into project-based learning.

For the last four weeks, approximately twenty-five incoming 6th-graders forwent the free-time afforded by summer vacation to participate in the Jumpstart program at TAF@Saghalie, of Federal Way Public School (FWPS) district. The program aimed to help acclimate new students to the school’s culture and set learning and social expectations for the school year and beyond. It also allowed new students to form bonds with peers and teachers before entering the school year, helping to ease new-student jitters and offer some sort of familiarity among the unknown. Today, families joined students on campus for the final student exhibition and celebration.

TAF@Saghalie, a 6-12th-grade neighborhood public STEM school co-managed by TAF and FWPS, specializes in providing underserved middle and high school students access to college and career preparation as well as STEM learning opportunities created through a project-based model. One of the most pivotal elements of the school has to do with its co-managing parent nonprofit’s rich relationships with STEM companies, a fact that allows for students to explore career pathways that are largely dominated by white, male professionals.

This year’s Jumpstart was a bit different. Raisa Baker, a TAF@Saghalie 6th-grade math teacher named 2018’s Best Middle School Teacher of Federal Way by Federal Way Mirror, has been an integral part of the program for four years. In contrast to years prior where students solely focused on college and career readiness, she explained that this year project-based learning would take the forefront. After all, most projects at TAF@Saghalie are a collaborative effort and students need to learn how to work together just as most professionals do within the workplace.

The participating students explored three social and community issues during the program and were tasked with coming up with ways to address them. With the first project, centered around food, students chose their teammates. For today’s final project, groups were assigned at random, similar to how it will be done once school commences.

“Our students were looking at the ways parks impact their communities and how they could improve the parks in the community to be more fitting for the people around them,” Jumpstart and TAF@Saghalie 6th-grade science teacher Ms. May explained. “They researched how parks impact the community, why parks were made, and then they got a specific park in Federal Way and modified it so that it could be more beneficial to the community based on what they learned.”

The parents who attended were proud to say the least. And many had much to say about the new opportunities they are excited for their student to receive by attending TAF@Saghalie. One mother shared her enthusiasm about the school saying, “When I heard TAF was coming, I was knew it was very big. It’s just like the Academy,” she said. “There’s more engineering learning and I’m very interested in things that have [better] learning for the kids. My daughter was actually assigned to another school but she got an offer to go here and I jumped on it right away.”

And, it wasn’t just the parents who walked away from the program in confidence. “When I first came here I was kind of nervous,” one Jumpstart participant relayed. “But, when I actually spent more time around the teachers and the people that are going to be coming here I felt more apart of a community and know that I know the teachers more,” she added. “I’m going to feel more confident about talking to them when I need it and being around my peers that I’ll be around when school starts.”

Nila Griffin, the TAF Student Engagement and Support Coordinator that headed this year’s Jumpstart, left some parting words with incoming 6th-graders and their families after the exhibition and following that, was a celebration with special food and treats.

TAF@Saghalie’s first day of school is Tuesday, September 4th. This coming year, students will have everyday access to robotics, engineering, and design classes during the school day.


Check out Jumpstart’s Student Exhibition pictures from today:

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