Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mathematics at Sorenson's Ranch School

There are two questions every math teacher answers repeatedly. “Why do I have to do this?” and “When am I ever going to use this?” At times it is difficult to help students understand why we do difficult things, and it is even harder to help them understand when they may use math in life.
Let’s start with the “why mathematics” question. The purpose of mathematics is to train the brain for critical thinking and problem solving skills. Mathematics requires that creativity and common sense work together to solve complex problems. Mathematics follows the basic, real-life model for problem solving below:
1) Explore
Examine problem.
What do you know? What do you need to know?
2) Plan
How do facts relate to each other?
Make a plan to solve the problem.
Estimate your answer.
3) Solve
Use your plan to solve the problem.
If your plan does not work, start over.
4) Examine
Is my answer reasonable?
Does it make sense?
If not, try again.
Although we use mathematics to teach this problem solving strategy, it is clearly a way to approach any problem one may encounter throughout life. From financial decisions to fixing a car, the decision making process learned from mathematics is critical to productive living.
Now let’s look at the “when” question of mathematics. It is true that many people will not use many of the things that they learn in mathematics after graduation from high school or college. We will use the basic math skills and problem solving abilities forever, but not many of us will need to know how to write the standard form of an equation of a hyperbola. This is what makes the “when” question difficult to answer. Truthfully, unless you are going to be an engineer, computer scientist, actuarial scientist, doctor, business administrator, or many other high-paying jobs, you won’t need higher level mathematics. Nineteen of the twenty highest paying and highest demand jobs rely heavily on math. One of the comments I like to use is: “If you don’t learn something, it is certain that you will never have the chance to use it.” Those who know more are able to do more, especially knowing mathematics. Encourage students to do well in all subjects, even if they don’t like them or feel that a given area of study is too difficult. There will be opportunities for them to use the knowledge they gain, and they will thank you later.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Science at Sorenson’s Ranch School

My primary purpose as a science teacher at Sorenson’s Ranch School is to make science and technology go hand in hand. Field trips and hands-on experience helps me tremendously to accomplish this task.

Science teaches thinking skills which control our ability to succeed in life. Without these critical thinking skills, the ability to become successful is greatly decreased. So many new technologies are springing up everywhere. It’s my job as a science teacher to create the opportunity for learning in this space-age environment.

I also desire that students feel a learning atmosphere in my classroom. They always need to feel free to ask any question that they desire. Learning should be a life-long skill that enhances life.

Mastery learning is rapidly becoming a necessity as a part of today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. Skills are becoming more specialized and students need to know how to be self-directed learners.

Science can teach them to think and analyze problems through the use of the scientific method. This method teaches them to become that self-directed learner. Students need to feel that their instructors care about their learning. Once they feel that caring atmosphere, they will actually begin to care about their own learning.

In summary, teaching at Sorenson’s Ranch School is rewarding, challenging, and fruitful as we see students change and grow.

Steve Nielson
Spanish & Science Teacher
Sorenson’s Ranch School

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sorenson's Ranch School New Technology!

New computers and a new program! The Technology Department here at Sorenson’s Ranch School recently updated its computer lab, complete with new Dell flat-screen computers, loaded with Office 2010 and Windows 7. We also have new workstations and an updated curriculum. Due to this update we are now teaching Windows 7 to our Computer Literacy students. Over the years, our students have left this program having learned many things that will help them in both educational and occupational pursuits. In order to continue that tradition, our administrators felt that it was time to update our program to reflect the most current computer systems that our students will likely be using when they leave.
Another phase of this transition, due to some personnel changes, was the inclusion of a new instructor. Ross Franks has been on our faculty for some time, in several capacities, and now will add Computer Literacy to his daily teaching schedule. Ross will maintain teaching assignments in other areas as well and is a welcome addition to this subject area. Ross understands the importance of technology in our modern world and the positive effects that a current and consistent syllabus can have on the learning environment in the classroom.
The new text-manuals we are using are interactive. Activities and lessons are broken down into the steps of the operation. Students are able to see, practice, experiment, and learn through a variety of activities that are designed with real-world application. Many of the steps have pictures of what should be appearing on the monitor as students progress through the lessons, so that they can check their work for accuracy as they go. The new program is complete with templates of many of the activities that students can open from a read-only disk, save the file to their own profile on their computer, and then complete the activity as outlined, saving it for future reference if needed. Students are able to experiment with not only manipulating the data in a given program, but also integrating programs and using the same set of data for a variety of applications in different programs. These text-manuals start with an overview of basic computer systems and then cover various other programs such as Windows Navigation, Word 2010, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint. The new manuals are well organized, detailed, and easy to understand for most of our students. The copyright date of 2011 ensures that they are current with industry standards and Utah State Core Standards as well.
Our students are adjusting quickly to the improvements in the program and seem to be pleased with our commitment to help them experience educational success. We realize that many of our students have struggled with academics in the past for various reasons. It is a focus of our program to help them have positive experiences during their time with us.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mastery Learning

Here at Sorenson’s Ranch School, we have worked hard over the years apply curriculum and instruction techniques which have been demonstrated through research to be effective. Because we are a non-traditional school operating within a residential treatment facility, our challenges in providing an adequate education to our diverse student body with its inherent diverse needs are many. One of the ways we try to ensure that we meet the needs of our students is our focus on Mastery Learning.
Mastery Learning is defined as an instructional model which presumes that all children can learn so long as they are provided with a learning environment and accommodations that are commensurate with their learning needs. A foundation principle of Mastery Learning is that in order for a student to move on to more complex learning objectives, he or she must demonstrate ability to apply the current objective with eighty percent proficiency.
The nature of our facility and the diverse nature of our students require us to operate on an open enrollment basis. Our students come to us from almost every state at varying levels of educational accomplishment. Frequently they are more than one year behind schedule for graduation due to causes which include Reactive Attachment Disorder, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and anxiety, and poor family dynamics. All of these factors make it very desirable for us to be able to provide a way for our clientele to “catch up” in school. Mastery Learning is the mechanism that allows us to meet this need.
In a “regular” school setting, credit is earned in lock step with the other students in the class. Assignment due dates don’t change, no matter how far in advance a student completes the required work. Within a Mastery Learning environment, once the student demonstrates proficiency at the eighty percent level, he or she can move on to the next assignment. Mastery Learning does not guarantee that a student will earn credit at an accelerated rate, but it does provide that opportunity.
Another integral part of the student experience here at Sorenson’s Ranch School is the level system which rewards appropriate student behavior with increased privileges and opportunities for enrichment activities. The level system is organized according to a number system with level 1 at the bottom and level 5 at the top. No student is allowed to progress above level 2 unless he/she is on schedule for credit in all classes. This reinforcement of academic achievement through the level system provides extra incentive for students to stay current in school.
Not every student who attends our school will make up all of the credits that he/she is behind, but many do. It is almost always necessary to get a student’s behavioral issues under control before he/she will buy into the system and start to progress adequately in school. The real issue is that once the student experiences a change in behavior and begins to have success in the program, school progress at an accelerated rate, without the necessity of extra school days, becomes a possibility.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Learning About Nutrition

Over the past few years there has been a lot of controversy on whether or not classes in the family and consumer education area (formerly known as home economics) are important in high school.
Classes such as foods and nutrition are becoming more and more important. The steady rise in obesity in the Nation’s youth population has come to the forefront of our awareness. Obesity in youth has become a top priority for health professionals in the U.S.
A big percentage of obesity in childhood and adolescence can be related to poor eating habits. One effective way to manage obesity is to change eating habits. Making students more aware of dietary needs helps them learn what goes into foods, and the best ways of cooking healthy recipes to benefit them in their later years. Besides being a basic life skill, cooking can instill a feeling of accomplishment and pleasure.
Learning to cook their own meals can help students make more nutritious choice rather than always defaulting to fast food or junk food. High school students are at a stage where it is crucial to learn about the importance of proper nutrition. Teens often do not follow recommended dietary guidelines; they consume many of their calories from sweets and fats.
Nutrition should be an important part of a high school curriculum to teach students eating habits that will benefit their health. Teaching nutrition as part of standard curriculum can help students understand how to make good choices.
In our foods and nutrition class, we teach a balanced mix of nutrition and basic cooking skills that will come in handy later in life. The students aren’t always thrilled about the nutrition portion of the course, but definitely like the cooking labs!!
Teaching students to make good nutrition choices and how to cook are skills that will improve health, save time and money at the grocery store, and promote good health for the rest of their lives.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Hold My Reins

As Equine Program Director at Sorenson’s Ranch School I observe the changes that take place in the students from the time they begin the Equine Program until they complete it. It is a remarkable change. The following is written from the point of view of the new Equine student:
When I arrived, my direction was unclear. My past, my present, and my future were like a twirling cloud of dust. Confused, scared, lost, mad, angry, and out-of-control, a young life not knowing which way to go.
Half a ton of muscle, guts, bone, hair, and flesh, how was this beast, foreign to my world, going to be any use to me? Yes, this creature was beautiful, powerful, and enchanting, but what does it have to do with me? When I was introduced to dusty saddles, smelly blankets, confusing halters with lead rope, headstalls with bits, reins, chin straps, throat latches, cheek pieces, and browbands, I was so bewildered. Too many parts, too many names, too much work. Why should I even try? Yet, something new and strange was calling me towards the muddy, pungent corrals. Was it because I wanted to be outside in the cold wind, rain, hail, and snow? Don’t know why, but I started going to the barn.
Horses! Who needs them? They’re scary! They stink! They’re dirty! They step on your feet! They’re a responsibility! They poop a lot! They’re frustrating! They pass wind all the time! They’re stupid… …they’re fun, challenging, calming, soft, stimulating, beautiful, powerful, fast, strong, alive, real, aromatic, tranquil, exciting, and most of all, they’re amazing. Oops, was that my outside voice? Shhh, don’t tell anyone. I think horses are teaching me something about me.
Positive energy, stirrup, cannon, soft hands, breast collar, stifle, toe up and heel down, cinch, pole, pressure in the stirrup, offside billet, withers, sit up straight, tender loin, body language, shirt, frog, projecting direction, hats, cowboy boots, spurs, long-sleeve shirts (even in the summer), sometimes I think these people speak a different language and are truly from a different planet. How can this be fun? What if I fall? Other kids will make fun of me. Yuck, that green stuff is on my shoes again!
I’ve gone from fighting to controlling, from no whoa to WHOA, from a walk to a trot to a canter, from a saddle to no saddle, from a small pen to a big pen and back again. Watch out world! I’m ready. I’m not scared. If I can be as one with a thousand pound animal, I can handle life’s challenges with the same control.
My reins are split. I’m not afraid. If I drop a rein, I can still control my life with one until I get hold of both once again. You may not see my reins move, but I am in control of my destiny. I steer towards the unknown with confidence and direction. The dust has begun to settle. The trails I‘ve learned to ride take me from my past towards my future. I hold my reins.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sorenson's Ranch School Teacher Answers: "What is taking so long"

During the years that I have been teaching mathematics, I have noticed that many students complain about the number of problems in an assignment or the amount of time it takes to complete an assignment. I decided to look at the situation and see if the assignments I give are too long. I started by doing all of the assignments myself. I found that the average time it takes me to do the assignments is about 10 minutes. I worked every problem out completely, read all of the instructions, and checked my answers for correctness. I thought that if I could do an assignment in 10 minutes, then the students should be able to do it in 50 minutes. I decided that the assignments were not too long and should not require much time to complete.
I still needed to figure out what was taking so long for the assignments to be completed. While I was presenting to a class a few days later I asked the students what eight multiplied by seven is. I waited for a response, none came. I turned and looked at the students to see that they were all entering 8 x 7 into calculators. After a while the students started to give me the answer I was looking for. I thought that answers to questions like what is eight multiplied by seven should be automatic at the high school level. Having to use calculators was costing students time and making assignments seem longer. I decided to observe how often students use calculators on a problem and try to get a feel for the extra time spent entering things into them that they should already know. I had students work a multi-step problem on the whiteboard as I watched. I found that students seemed to know what to do, but used the calculator to perform all calculations. I observed that using the calculator to do simple calculations cost students from one to two minutes on every problem. If each assignment has around 25 problems, this is taking students an extra 25 to 50 minutes to complete an assignment.
I saw that students were using calculators to do simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Due to the time that this was taking my students to complete assignments, I decided to implement a “mathematics daily basics” program. Each day, students are given five minutes to answer the questions on the whiteboard. These exercises are designed help students understand the basic rules for each of the four basic operations and learn to do simple operations quickly. I have noticed students completing work faster, and seem more confident in their answers. I feel that understanding the basics of mathematics, or any subject, is vital to understanding more advanced concepts. When students understand, their attitude changes toward mathematics, and they begin to enjoy it.
I’m not saying that calculators have no place in the classroom. Calculators open the door to solve more advanced problems and can enrich student learning. The goal of technology is to make life more efficient, not to make problems take longer. The debate on when it is appropriate to use calculators in a classroom is still going on, but professionals on both sides agree that students need to be able to perform basic operations without a calculator.
Bradley Shaw
Sorenson’s Ranch School

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sorenson’s Ranch School Participating in the Wellness Works Utah Program

Sorenson’s Ranch School is participating in a 4-H program called “Wellness Works Utah” for the next ten weeks. The program promotes healthy living through fun and educational programming. It does this by the use of team-work skills, pro-social activities, nutrition education, and physical activity. There was an assembly on Monday, April 11, in the Sorenson’s Ranch School gymnasium to explain the program and to sign up teams. Students and Sorenson’s Ranch staff are participating in teams of two to five people. The teams are same sex and are all students, all staff, or a combination of students and staff.
The program consists of taking some pre-test measurements (such as heart rate, blood pressure, body mass index, percent body fat, and weight), tracking exercise for ten weeks, and then taking a post test on the same measurements. An additional element of the program is the “Walk across Utah.” The teams will be figuring their virtual mileage each week and tracking their progress on a trail across Utah. Teams can earn bonus miles for such things as not drinking any soda the first week, doing 20 sit-ups in one minute the second week, sleeping a minimum of eight hours per night the third week, and so on. The areas of focus in the Bonus Mile System are aerobic, strength, balance, flexibility, nutrition, sleep, stress and life skills. There will be a variety of prizes at the end for winners in different categories.
Sorenson’s Ranch School staff and students are excited to be participating in this program. Being a team-based program brings a fun level of competition that supports motivation. Most everyone needs a little motivation when it comes to getting and staying in shape.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sorenson's Ranch School

Sorenson's Ranch School has been helping youth for over 50 years. Sorenson's Ranch is family owned and operated and was one of the first treatment programs for youth. The staff is dedicated to helping parents and teens better relationships and family bonds. The qualified staff consists of therapists, counselors, teachers and many other well qualified individuals. To learn more about Sorenson's Ranch School visit http://www.sorensonranchschool.com or visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7xa-3QmnNc to view a video on how Sorenson's Ranch School can assist students with depression.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Truth about Tobacco Assembly at Sorenson’s Ranch School

Adam Bromwell, who is employed by The Truth, an anti-Tobacco organization which is funded through money that was received in a law suit against tobacco companies, visited Sorenson’s Ranch School on Thursday, February 3rd, and gave a presentation entitled, “The Truth about Tobacco”. All of Sorenson’s students attended this dynamic presentation and were given the opportunity to ask questions and interact with Adam as he talked about the dangers of tobacco products and the marketing that the tobacco companies use to target the younger generations.
Adam shared many interesting facts with the Sorenson’s Ranch School staff and students about tobacco, some of which I will share with you. One out of three people who smoke will die of a tobacco related disease. Twelve hundred smokers die per day worldwide from tobacco diseases, which is five million per year. Tobacco kills more people then AIDS, car accidents, suicides, and homicides combined. There are 500 chemicals in each cigarette and 43 of those are known to cause cancer. Cigarettes are as addictive as marijuana and cocaine, and they change the way a teenager’s brain looks and works. Chewing tobacco has 28 cancer causing chemicals and has serious health consequences as well.
Adam focused on how tobacco companies target the younger generations in their marketing campaigns. Tobacco can be purchased that is flavored to taste a lot like candy, and some of the packing resembles the packing of candy. This is disturbing that a product that is manufactured for adults is being made to appeal to our children, to get them addicted, which in turn puts money in the pockets of the CEO’s of these tobacco companies. There is 12.4 billion dollars per year being spent on tobacco advertising. These ads are being seen by minors and are appealing to them as well. Four thousand kids a day try their first cigarette worldwide.
Adam’s message was strong and well received by the students. The students asked many questions, became involved in this presentation, and thanked him for sharing his message. As you talk to your teenager, ask them about this presentation and find out what interesting things they learned.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sorenson's Ranch School Equine Program Director Dianna Lovelady

Utahn through and through, Dianna has enjoyed the beauty that Utah holds via horse, mule, snowshoes, skis, 4-wheelers and a foot. Always accompanied by at least one 4-legged friend, she shares her world with many who are in envy. At Sorenson’s Ranch School, Dianna loves her job where she teaches young people more than just to ride a horse, she teaches them how to ride life. Bringing her dog to work daily, taking care of the ‘The Hen House’, working on leather projects and doing many outside activities with the students is all part of it. A famous quote that lives true in her world, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man” (Winston Churchill). To expand on this quote, Dianna believes that things with life and energy, whether it’s a horse, dog, chicken, tree, flower, mountain, or sky, are good for the inside of a man, a woman, and a child. She is honored to share her love for life with all here at Sorenson’s Ranch School.
Dianna has ridden 30+ years in northern, southern, eastern and western Utah deserts, valleys and mountains. She enjoyed competing with an all ladies equestrian precision drill team for eight years because it was something to do with her horse. Living two years on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, she guided mule trips in and out of an amazing place lost in time. She managed a working cattle/dude ranch for seven years, hosting foreign guests, family groups, and large youth groups(up to 300 kids). Dianna worked for 15 years in the restaurant industry for a company that employs mostly teenagers and young adults,. She was in management, and for four years she taught all their training classes and ran their Human Resource Department.
Dianna lives 30 miles to the south of Sorenson’s Ranch in the tiny town of Antimony, where she owns and operates a Bed & Breakfast, another avenue where she shares her world. To live in a small town is a choice that she has chosen. She is a city kid that ran to the country and decided to stay.