BOARDMAN — A new program at the Sustainable Agriculture and Energy Center in Boardman this fall will provide students with classes and opportunities that have yet to be seen on the West Coast.
The Amazon Web Services Think Big Space allows K-6 students the opportunity to tackle real-world problems through programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math. The program, which will begin late next fall, is the first of its kind on the West Coast.
“We are extremely fortunate and excited that we were selected,” said Kalie Davis, the director of workforce development for the Port of Morrow.
New facilities for the program are under construction at the SAGE Center. Amazon Web Services and other entities around the county are funding the program, which the Morrow County School District will oversee. K-6 students and pre-kindergarten students will be able to use the facilities, which will accommodate 25 to 30 students at a time.
The port also is constructing a community Think Big Space for workforce initiatives, providing hiring events and secondary educational opportunities for residents. Davis said the second space will follow the completion and start of the space for students.
The first Think Big Spaces started in Virginia and later expanded to Ohio, Davis said. When Amazon Web Services was looking to expand west, the Port of Morrow and the Morrow County School District submitted a proposal to bring the program here.
“We felt that the SAGE Center was an ideal location,” Davis said.
Davis said the program is meant to foster the principles Amazon holds, including innovation, simplification, leadership, curiosity and challenging the status quo. Students will use laptops, wobble chairs and other supplies to put their ideas into action through hands-on learning.
The school district now is looking to hire a full-time head teacher for the program. The curriculum will be tied in with Oregon’s standards for education as well as the curriculum used in the program in Virginia.
Davis added the classes will be personalized to what students are comfortable with and will accommodate non-English-speaking students and students with special needs.
“We want it to be accessible and something that is beneficial to all students, no matter what their background is or learning ability,” Davis said.
Davis said there are Think Big Spaces being constructed across the globe, and those will allow students in Boardman the opportunity to interact with students from other countries about their ideas, interests and experiences.
“It’s a number of things that students don’t necessarily always get in their regular classroom,” she said.
Davis added the program will introduce students to things that are “outside the box and, hopefully, help inspire them and get them to think about something they might be able to do.”