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FW educators travel to Ghana and Michigan on study missions

Decatur High School Principal David Brower watches as a villager processes palm oil in Ghana during a recent trip in November. - Courtesy of Vince Blauser
Decatur High School Principal David Brower watches as a villager processes palm oil in Ghana during a recent trip in November.
— image credit: Courtesy of Vince Blauser

A handful of Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) officials recently traveled to Michigan and Ghana on "study missions."

The trip to Ghana was part of the school district's partnership with Free the Children, which encourages students to perform local and global service projects.

Four local educators visited the West African nation from Nov. 2-11. As required by the program, the trip's purpose was to screen locations in Ghana for safety before Federal Way students embarked on future service projects.

Vince Blauser, executive director of secondary schools, was joined by Todd Beamer High School Principal Joni Hall, Decatur High School Principal David Brower, and TAF Academy Dean of Students Ryan Preis. The four educators helped build and paint schools in villages, all while looking for "transformative" opportunities for Federal Way students, Blauser said.

Another eye opening experience, he said, was replicating the daily ritual of gathering water in a typical Ghanaian village where people live a subsistence lifestyle.

"We needed to screen the educational component of the trip," Blauser told The Mirror. "It was transformative for me, just seeing the needs of people that aren't as fortunate. ... It's 2013, and people are still struggling with access to clean water and exposure to water-borne diseases."

Blauser said the plan is for one of the aforementioned four educators to return to Ghana with Federal Way students, either in the summer or fall of 2014.

"Our hope is that one of us goes back with kids," he said. "It's not a scary place. It's really a place for opportunity."

The school district funded the trip at a cost of $3,150 per person. The cost covered airfare, ground transportation and lodging, according to district spokeswoman Deb Stenberg. The travelers also had $296 each to cover expenses for nine days. Total cost was $13,784 plus travel insurance.

The four educators who traveled to Ghana will share their experiences during the next school board meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 26 at City Hall council chambers. Another team of four educators will travel to Ecuador this month with a similar purpose. The Mirror has requested more details about the Ecuador trip.

(Pictured: Decatur High School Principal David Brower paints a school in Ghana during a recent trip in November.)

Michigan trip

In September, three Federal Way educators traveled to Michigan to visit a pair of schools.

Blauser also attended this trip Sept. 20-21 along with Miguel Perez, assistant principal at Federal Way High School, and Pam Ashe, a FWHS teacher.

The purpose was to look specifically at how the schools use their building designs to facilitate learning, said Blauser, who leads the curriculum committee for the new FWHS set for construction in 2014. The committee informs the district and FWHS architects about the curriculum and programs desired for the new school.

The committee located two schools in Michigan — Holland Christian High School and Kent Innovations High School — with designs that could "support unique pedagogy." The three Federal Way educators visited both schools, then visited a factory called Steel Case, which is a leading school furniture company, Blauser said.

Upon returning to Federal Way, the three educators shared their findings with SRG Partnership, which is the architecture firm that's designing the new FWHS.

"We also shared the pictures and learnings with the current FW staff over a week of meetings, by department," Blauser wrote in an email.

Total cost for the trip was $4,564.22. The price included airfare, lodging, car rental and meals, according to Stenberg.

 

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