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Oakdale Junior High School Adds New Computer Science Elective
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Research is just as much a part of the OJHS Robotics class, as is the build. Coding will also be added to the class curriculum later in the school year. - photo by Teresa Hammond/The Leader

Farming and football aren’t the only areas of interest for the decision makers of Oakdale Joint Unified School District. The start of the 2017-18 school year brought a welcome addition to the campus of Oakdale Junior High School by way of class elective. Beginning this school year, both seventh and eighth grade students were offered the option of Robotics.

The class, taught by English teacher Danesa Menge, was added as part of the District’s Technology plan. According to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Kristi Rapinchuk, it is a three-year plan overseen by a Technology Committee.

“An exciting new opportunity supported by this committee is the Automation and Robotics Elective now being offered at Oakdale Junior High,” Rapinchuk stated, noting that the committee is comprised of teachers and computer instructors who meet four times a year.

Menge volunteered to teach the class due to her passion for robots and educational growth through technology.

“I like robots,” Menge said. “What I didn’t realize was the coding aspect. I knew there would be some, but it’s serious computer coding.”

To properly prepare for teaching the class, Menge herself took the class during a one week training this past summer. The teacher shared during that time she learned the 10 weeks of material the students will cover, in her one week of intensive training.

“We were engineering students for a week,” she stated. “It was definitely out of my element in that regard.”

Menge admitted that the overall experience equipped her with the know-how, as well as the confidence to lead the students.

“It’s an academic elective,” the instructor noted, “I think many may not realize that.”

During their 10 weeks of study with Menge, the students expand their learning in the areas of research, building, the studying of robots and how they work. They also work in varying group numbers and in role playing practices strengthening their ability to work with others or future clients.

According to Rapinchuk the Computer Science elective is a “next step” in a curriculum continuum being worked on by the district to build Computer Science.

“In 2018-2019, a second elective, ‘Design and Engineering’ will be offered at the junior high as well as Computer Essentials A at Oakdale High School,” she said.

The goal is to provide at least two computer science electives at Oakdale Junior High, Rapinchuk explained, along with a high school continuum of three to four courses including Advance Placement Computer Science.


The assistant superintendent also shared that Menge has agreed to attend an additional training next summer. Oakdale High School will send two staff members for training in the summer of 2018, as well.