The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
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    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
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    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Project Lead the Way fosters interest in engineering 2010.12.08

Written by David Green.

school.hoffman.jpgBy DAVID GREEN

Morenci Middle School teacher Dan Hoffman says he didn’t have much interest in engineering until last summer. That’s when he took part in a Project Lead the Way training program that focuses on engineering education.

“I went in without any knowledge about engineering,” he said.

In fact, he says he’s been somewhat of a non-technology guy. He was slow to come around to computer usage, and then one year scheduling changes put him in charge of a middle school computer class.

“The best way to learn it is to teach it,” he said. “Saturate yourself with it.”

That’s what happened over the summer during an intensive two-week training program. Classes from 8 to 5. Homework until 11.

“I felt like a college kid again,” he said.

When the program concluded, he was sold on Project Lead the Way (PLTW).

“It’s a good class,” he said. “It’s what we should be teaching kids.”

Filling the gap

PLTW started in New York state in 1998 in an effort to attract more students into college level engineering programs.

The program is described as hands-on, with real-world applications. It helps students understand how the skills they’re learning in the classroom may be applied to everyday life.

The goal is to make mathematics and science relevant, and in the process, Mr. Hoffman says, to get students interested in the field.

It’s no secret that U.S. manufacturing jobs are disappearing.

“If we’re going to get our economy going, we’re going to have to develop something else.”

According to PLTW, two-thirds of America’s economic growth in the 1990s resulted from new technologies, and a shortage of engineers is expected.

“Engineering goes into everything,” Mr. Hoffman said. “It’s really wide ranging and we’re trying to get kids’ eyes open to it.”

Last week GM and Chrysler announced they’ll hire 2,000 engineers in the next two years. In another direction, Mr. Hoffman said, alternative energy projects will require large numbers of engineers.

“I think there’s potential,” he said. “We need to put some serious emphasis on this. If we’re going to compete in the global economy, we have to go beyond manufacturing.”

The class

Mr. Hoffman just started teaching the class in the second trimester. The middle school version of PLTW—known as Gateway to Technology—is designed as a nine-week course. Morenci’s trimesters are 12 weeks long, but two eighth grade classes are meeting every other day.

“I’m not sure how far I’ll get this year,” Mr. Hoffman said. “There’s way more curriculum than you could ever use, so you get to pick and choose from what they offer.”

Students already like the class, he said, but he expects the enjoyment to grow when he introduces them to Autodesk Inventor—a software package used by engineers to design parts and put them together digitally.

In Mr. Hoffman’s summer program, teachers designed playground equipment for a park. There’s a project for students where a dragster is designed, then modified to make it better.

Morenci isn’t alone in adapting PLTW. Lenawee is the first county in Michigan to have all of its schools involved in the program. Mr. Hoffman’s training and the purchase of laptop computers was paid for by a grant.

Mr. Hoffman will return for more training next summer and he expects a high school teacher to join in. The program is designed for fifth grade through high school.

Scheduling is a problem already this year since the program does not take the place of regular science classes.

“It’s real world and I think it’s going to address real world issues,” Mr. Hoffman said.

He also thinks it’s going to capture the interest of many students.

“Some kids aren’t excited by traditional academics,” he said. “If you find something that kids excel at, the success often carries into everything else. I think this will reach some kids where it’s going to turn a light on.”

It’s another alternative, he said, and it’s an important one.

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