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EDUC 450 / 486 Setting & Context

Poudre High School, Fort Collins, CO


Poudre High School is one of four comprehensive general grade 9-12 high schools in Fort Collins,
Colorado, and the namesake high school for the Poudre School District system. Unlike the other district high
schools, which serve AP courses as their exclusive form of concurrent enrollment, Poudre offers the
International Baccalaureate program (and the associated Middle-Years-Program) in addition to an AP
program. This makes Poudre a magnet school for students seeking this program as well as placing Poudre in a
curious position with regards to demographics. By attendance zone, Poudre High School is the second-most
diverse high school, trailing Fort Collins High School by 2% for the most recent year (2012-2013) that districtwide census data is available. It however has the highest enrollment of economically disadvantaged students,
at 27%. This qualifies Poudre as the sole High-Needs High School in Poudre School District. Poudre is also
the high school that serves the entirety of Larimer Countys northern farms. As a result of this, Poudre has a
magnified sense of community polarization, with ethnically and economically different students from other
attendance areas using school-of-choice to attend the Poudre IB program. These unique assets are clearly
visible in Poudres Vision and Mission. Their stated vision, Poudre is a place of learning where shared
decision making prepares students for the pathways of the world, and their mission, Through Rigor,
Relevance, Relationships, Poudre High School educates every child, every day, show the influence that the IB
program and their diverse community have on their goalsetting.
As a comprehensive high school, Poudre offers services and extracurricular programs commensurate
with that status. What services Poudre does offer the deviate from standard academic and athletic
expectations focus almost solely on ELL/ELA, economic, and community support. In recent years, Poudre has
joined the rest of the district in a one-to-one laptop initiative. As a result, every student has a district issued
computer to use at their discretion for school and personal needs. This dovetails with enhanced use of
LMS/CMS (Learning & Classroom Management Services), such as Blackboard and newer web technologies.
The school has begun use of Google Classrooms to facilitate student academic achievement. The use of these
programs has required significant outreach to parents in both the school and the district. Where involvement
was traditionally restricted to academic and athletic volunteer support and parent-teacher conferences,
parents now attend training sessions offered by the district focused on the introduction of student-owned
laptops. The aim of this program is to provide parents the tools to guide their children in responsible use, as
well as to bolster the technological skills of parents themselves to further the district goal of educating every
student in digital citizenship.
My personal experience at Poudre High School focused on observation, interaction, and teaching Alan
Charters Metals I course, located in the Manufacturing Room 505, colored in yellow below, in the south
section of the facility.

Figure 1Poudre High School Tech-Ed Facilities

This classroom is accessed via room 504 (green), the Woodworking Laboratory at Poudre, and is directly adjacent to one
of the schools four dedicated computer labs in room 508 (blue). Directly adjacent to this once more is the Technology
Education Department Office, in room 507 (purple). This is a typical arrangement for most high schools, where the
Technology and Engineering facilities are self-contained in one wing of the school. This is due to technological needs
and financial prudence. Rooms 504 and 505 share a common ventilation system independent of the school at large, so
that dust and fumes are kept out of the atmosphere. To maintain three simultaneous classrooms, and for responsible
laboratory setup, the woodworking, metalworking, and computer machines are in separate rooms. This allows either
classroom to use the computer lab as needed, without impeding the other class. Each classroom has a minimum of two
egress points, and each classroom has enhanced fire and chemical safety measures. This is to recognize the enhanced
danger presented by a manufacturing classroom. Combustibles, such as the Acetylene Gas used in Oxyacetylene
Welding, are kept outdoors in a secured cage. Inert gases, such as Argon for MIG welding, are allowed in the classroom,
but are fastened securely.
Alans Metals I is the introductory metalworking course at Poudre. In this, students construct six predetermined
projects using the two primary manufacturing tools, the lathe and vertical mill, the sheet bending-brake, and three
forms of welding, including MIG (metal-in-gas), Arc, and Oxyacetylene. While the class is open to all students in grades
9-12, it is primarily populated by 9th and 10th grade students. Engineering Explorations, a course offered at both the High
School and Middle School level is a prerequisite for entering both the metals and woods program at Poudre High School.
As such, students have some experience using hand tools and maintaining safety in a laboratory but have yet to
experience any metalworking tools. As safety is a critical concern in these classrooms, class sizes are lower, and rarely, if
ever exceed 25 students to a teacher. This is additionally determined by tool availability. Poudre High School has the
largest woodworking and metalworking facility in Poudre School District. As such, its class sizes are the largest. Alans
classroom specifically for the spring 2015 semester is representative of the school at large with regards to demographics
except in one key aspect. Consistent with most technology education programs in the nation, female enrollment is less
than 20%. In this case, Alans 24-student classroom has one female student. This is a topic of no small concern to
educators, universities, legislators, and society at large. This course has a mixture of IB and non-IB students, as it fits
into the program as an extra-curricular. However, as IB has strict requirements at higher grade levels, participation in
technology education courses drops off sharply. Also consistent with comprehensive high schools, participation in
musical programs and technology education programs is roughly mutually exclusive, except when required. One
student in particular requires ELA support, and albeit typical, the freshman students new to Poudre show a marked need
for behavioral management from the instructor. As is typical, the farm-community students show noticeably increased
comfort using power tools and mechanical implements. The chief concern in this classroom will be motivating students.
Many students only show passing interest, and are eager for a no-work classroom. Four students show predisposition
to trying to sneak out of class, and another four to six show strong tendencies of avoiding teacher instructions. These
tendencies are almost entirely independent of skill level and demographic, rather being behaviorally based.

Alans course is structured such that students spend the first four weeks studying safety and learning how to use
tools via teacher demonstration. The remaining twelve weeks are spent working on one tool at a time for two weeks,
then switching to a new tool. Students who previously used the tool reinforce their peers by doing a new miniature
demonstration, describing difficulties, and making recommendations. Via this method, every student acts as both a
learner and a teacher, reinforcing their education. As my entrance to this classroom comes in week five, most of my
involvement will be relegated to observation and laboratory management. Keeping an eye on students, helping with
tool use, and maintaining safety will be primary concerns. The key here is that I cannot use direct instruction at this
point. This part of the class is focused on student practice. Every point of assistance I provide must be as a guide, as the
students must learn to use these tools themselves. Direct instruction may only be used when safety is at stake, or when
extreme intervention is needed to redirect learning. In a way, this class is very collaborative, as students ask other
students (who have finished the project) for advice. There is also a strong element of trial-and-error. Using many of
these tools is both a science and an art, which can only be learned via time and exposure, which can only happen inside
the laboratory, not in the textbook.
I plan on focusing my lesson plans around measurement in manufacturing. Many students display only
mediocre skill at using calipers, with far more displaying a propensity to eyeball it. I feel direct instruction in using
calipers, micrometers, rulers, tape measures, and DRO (Digital Readouts) would be beneficial to their success.