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Weekly District Newsletter

October 20, 2017


Superintendent's Message

Agora 2016 Workshop Leads to Mountaintop Experience for OH Students

“Because it's there.”
--George Mallory, English Mountaineer
English teacher James Kinkaid directs the Agora program at Ottawa Hills High School. One of Mr. Kinkaid’s visions for Agora is to continue to connect students to authentic learning and to the larger community. He notes, “One goal for Agora is to invite more community members into the program, ideally people who are willing to share their passions with our students.”
Agora 2016 took a big step toward this goal when Village resident Von Sigler led a workshop titled “The Climb.” 
Dr. Sigler, a Professor of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Toledo, approached Mr. Kinkaid about the possibility of developing a workshop focused on teaching mountain climbing skills, a result of speaking to students at the 2014 Agora.
Dr. Sigler remembers, “Erica Silk asked me to speak to students during the 2014 Agora. I asked her what she wanted me to talk about, and she told me, ‘You figure that out.’ I knew the theme was ‘The Secret of Life.’ I’m a biologist and life scientist, and I could have spoken about something in that line. But I’ve learned a lot in life through mountaineering, so I thought I could talk about some of the lessons I learned through climbing. I ended up speaking to a group of students for an hour.”
“After that, Erica told me, ‘Your talk was well received. You might want to do something expanded in two years.’ That’s when the seed for Agora 2016 was planted.” 
Mr. Kinkaid explains how the plan came together. “In the spring of 2016, Von Sigler approached me to brainstorm about the possibility of sharing his passion for mountain climbing during Agora week. The obvious first obstacle was, of course, the lack of a mountain. Von and I decided that if we could not bring the mountain to the students, we would have to take the students to the mountain. Von led a week-long workshop that provided an introduction to the sport with hands-on learning about the equipment and conditioning exercises for the beginning mountain climber. Von's idea was to get the students engaged in the sport, then offer a summer trip to a real mountain where they could put their new knowledge into practice.”
And that’s how a group of Ottawa Hills students ended up on the summit of Ruth Mountain in Washington’s North Cascades this past summer.
Their trek began when the students signed up to take part in Dr. Sigler’s workshop, “The Climb,” during Agora in November of 2016.
Dr. Sigler provided the best mountaineering experiences he could for the sixteen students who took the workshop, considering that their training venue was the flatlands of northwest Ohio. Dr. Sigler shares, “I put together talks and practical activities. We made a trip to the University of Toledo and did the high ropes course. We were blessed with good weather, so we could be outside a lot. We would mock rappel down the stadium stairs and then climb a rope up the back of the bleachers using special knots.”

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