It is time to officially welcome the Griffons to the Camas School District. This past school year Odyssey Middle School has been added to the list of available schools in the district. Odyssey Middle School is a project-based learning (PBL) campus situated in the old Sharp Industries building. The curriculum at Odyssey offers a new creative way of incorporating hands-on, creative learning and group work to the typical school setting.
The focuses for the program are to increase student engagement, make an atmosphere that constantly applies to the real world, create problem solvers, let creativity flourish, and maximize communication with groups. Current Principal Aaron Smith, who is spearheading the new campus, says, “[Our program] does not leave these factors up to chance.” One of the driving forces that made Mr. Smith want to create the PBL site is the fact that while in high school he was not super engaged with schoolwork, but thrived when creation projects and group work was introduced into the picture. He believes that this atmosphere of learning helps students to enjoy school and help them to learn more that connects to later on in life.
There are currently 200 students in attendance with up to 225 spots available. Mr. Smith says, “To do something that’s a new start, you must start small. This allows for a dedicated group to go in a new direction and you get to see the students flourish.” The PBL campus has a STEAM focus which is Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math. The main goal for students is to have an active participation in school work within a small community that helps apply what students learn to the real life. It is very similar to the magnet program currently offered at Camas High School, but with an emphasis on the arts. The school is looking for outside of the box thinkers who want to create meaningful relationships with each other as well as with the teachers.
The passion that connects those in charge of the campus is reflected in the students’ outlook on the new learning style. Students make the building their own by painting murals, re-purposing the furniture, creating adventure based lesson plans, and even writing on the walls– yes, vandalism is allowed.The design of the open area classrooms maximizes group learning and encourages creativity. Almost all of the desks and chairs are on wheels which allows for movement from project to project, and most of the walls are made of whiteboard material so each student can add to the lessons and create artwork.
In this aspect, the kids own the school. It creates a sense of propriety and pride within the student body. Mr. Smith remarked on the community being the most important part of the school and makes sure that all classes allow for students to become a close-knit group. One of the students actually came up with the idea of the mascot of the griffon. Since the other two middle schools have a skyhawk and a lion for mascots, a griffon is the perfect mixture of the two. Current Odyssey teacher Mrs. Morrissey says, “The best thing [about being a teacher] is being a part of the inspiring, good energy.” She even said that her dream job would be to work exactly as she does at Odyssey, because it is fun, energetic, and free.
The small PBL campus will grow bigger next year with the addition of Discovery High School. Discovery will be a bit more structured- as they have to deal with more class requirements- but will focus on internships and projects. This will help to get students with more experience working outside of school, but still with a fun twist. There are already 130 freshmen confirmed for next fall, with a max occupancy of 600 students comprised of both freshman and sophomores. Joining one of the two schools is easy; students submit an interest form online with the only requirement being they must be a student in the Camas School District.
The opportunity to develop deeper and meaningful memories is shown in every aspect of Odyssey and soon to be Discovery because eventually students will not remember the tests they took, or the grades they had, but rather the experience and the relationships they made.