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School Profile

Spotlight School:
Cedar High School

Shelton, WA
Shelton School District

Focus Areas

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Meaningful and Equitable Instruction

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Supportive and Inclusive Culture

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College and Career Ready Outcomes

Journey through Learning: Growing Goals and Outcomes in Project-Based Learning

At Cedar High School in Shelton, Washington, graduates leave with a profound sense of culture and community, ready to embark on their post-high school journeys. As a small school that navigates all aspects of life for students aged 14-18, Cedar High School uniquely prepares its students to utilize their collaboration skills, leverage their agency, and appreciate diversity with genuine respect for themselves and others. The students and staff work together to create a sustainable community where each member strives to become their best self and continually seeks personal growth.

The school takes a unique approach to maintaining this culture by dedicating a full day each trimester to a student-led culture reset, organized by its Cedar Ambassadors club in collaboration with Cedar staff. The day focuses on the school’s culture agreements through activities like practicing culture cards and experiential education, ensuring the school is aligned with its values and goals.

Monthly, students meet with their guardians and advisory teachers to review progress, address concerns, and set goals, to maintain close communication with their support network and to extend Cedar’s culture beyond the school setting. Cedar High School also collaborates with a college campus and implements standards-based grading to ensure college and career readiness.

From the Freshman Success class, where 9th graders learn about Cedar culture and essential success skills, to the High School and Beyond course for 12th graders, which helps them finalize post-high school plans, Cedar’s curriculum is designed to support every stage of student development. Graduating students finish their time at Cedar with a school-wide showcase, celebrating post-graduation plans and fostering a sense of community and accomplishment. This dedication to college and career readiness and inclusive culture is reflected in Cedar’s 100% graduation rate, strong community partnerships, and increasing enrollment. 

Cedar High School’s STEAM Program: Leveraging the Natural Wonders of Mason County

Mason County, home to Cedar High School is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, including towering rainforests, the Olympic National Park, and glacier-carved fjords. Cedar High leverages this abundant natural environment as a living science laboratory through its STEAM Program. 

Reforestation and Native Plant Restoration

One of the school’s  major ongoing projects is the reforestation and replanting of native plants on a 10-acre clear-cut forest area shared with Olympic College, Shelton. Over the past two years, Cedar High’s science classes have collaborated with community organizations, including Mason Conservation District, Americorps, Western Washington University, and Olympic College, to plant over 1,300 native trees and plants. Students are also constructing a quarter-mile interpretive trail featuring a small pond on the campus hillside.

Community Garden Projects

Cedar’s STEAM Team has been instrumental in developing a local community garden. From 2021-2023, students participated in building the garden fence, designing and constructing the entry gate, and leveling the ground for garden beds and a garden shed. In the 2023-24 school year, they built a compost system for the garden. These projects were supported by partners such as the Mason Conservation District, Americorps, HOPE Garden Project, Brady Trucking, and Green Mountain Technologies.

Cedar High’s STEAM Program exemplifies how utilizing natural surroundings and community partnerships can create impactful, hands-on learning experiences for students. These projects not only enhance their education but also foster a deep sense of community and environmental stewardship.

Carrying Learning Goals Through Project-Based Learning: A Step-by-Step Process

With the guidance of New Tech Network coaches, Cedar High School has transformed its PBL practice to enhance student engagement and learning outcomes. Tactics include: 

  • Embracing Toolkits for Strategic Planning: From crafting driving questions to defining assessment standards, we ensure clarity and alignment from project inception through leveraging NTN resources. Students now actively participate in setting learning objectives through collaborative sessions on “knows and need-to-knows,” fostering ownership and deeper understanding.

  • Enhancing Interdisciplinary Learning Through Co-Taught Block Courses: Cedar has strengthened its commitment to interdisciplinary education through co-taught block courses. Led by collaborative teachers from different subjects, these courses integrate diverse perspectives and enhance student engagement across disciplines. The school also prioritizes shared planning time to optimize collaboration and instructional coherence.

  • Refining Educational Practices Through Feedback and Iteration: To continuously improve our educational practices, Cedar High School leverages the “praise, question, suggestion” protocol in staff meetings and professional learning communities. This structured approach allows teachers to refine their toolkits, ensuring they meet the evolving needs of their students and community.

  • Empowering Student Growth with Standards-Based Grading: Central to Cedar’s educational strategy is standards-based grading supported by the New Tech Network grading rubrics. This approach enables students to track their progress, receive targeted feedback, and strive for proficiency through iterative learning opportunities.

  • Community Engagement and Celebration of Student Achievement: Cedar High School believes in the power of community partnerships to enrich learning experiences. By collaborating with local stakeholders, they co-create projects that resonate with their students’ interests and address real-world challenges.

Through implementing the New Tech Network Model, Cedar High School has established a culture centered on effective instructional practices and assessment, aimed at preparing every student for success in college and career. In addition, the school has created community-centric learning that positively impacts the local community and ensures post-secondary opportunities for Cedar High School students. 

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