Students at Black Butte School hiked Black Butte as part of their field study. photo provided
Students at Black Butte School hiked Black Butte as part of their field study. photo provided

A new buzzword in education these days is STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Emphasis on pulling those elements together is regarded by many experts to be what 21st century kids - and the economy - need. Students need math and science skills, but also need creativity in order to spur real innovation in current and future industries.

Leaders at Black Butte School (BBS) have redesigned the school's curriculum, schedule, and staff in order to accommodate authentic STEAM education.

In a move designed to further strengthen its science and technology curriculum, BBS has hired Judy Craig as the school's first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher.

"My job is to make sure that teachers weave the sciences and math all together so that they are not treated as separate subjects," said Craig, who taught for nearly 30 years in the Albany School District.

Craig said the classes she is now teaching at BBS are a "good fit" with her past experience. She taught "all of the subjects, including PE" at mostly tiny schools in the Albany district, adding that "the whole realm of the environment and forestry and being a community on the Willamette River allowed us to do a lot of studies on the water and the animals and the land around it."

In her part-time position at BBS, Craig teaches math and engineering to the older students in first period and to the younger students in second. Students will work on engineering projects involving electricity (1.5-volt batteries), trees (taking their measurements) and popsicle sticks and plywood.

"We'll build bridges and see how much force it takes to break them," Craig said.

Craig, 65, joins Delaney Sharp, BBS's new head teacher, and Ethan Barrons, an eight-year veteran of the Camp Sherman-based school to complete the core faculty. Together, they plan to institute a curriculum that blends classroom instruction with field studies and arts programming.

A visual arts program at BBS is headed by Annie Painter, a Sisters and Portland native. Painter is well known throughout the state as both an incredible art teacher and arts-education advocate. Her art classes will blend visual arts with science lessons learned through the classroom and field studies courses - STEAM education in practice.

The field studies program at BBS is interdisciplinary and includes periodic full-day field expeditions. This month, said Sharp, students are scheduled to hike Black Butte, explore Skylight Cave, and camp out overnight on the Metolius.

"We will be partnering with the Forest Service to study bats and we will be building bat houses as part of a national effort to boost bat populations," Sharp said.

The hike up Black Butte was challenging for some (especially the two new kindergartners), but was a perfect way to help students establish their sense of place in the Metolius Basin.

This year students will also work with the Forest Service to study fire ecology, monitoring Glaze Meadow before and after a prescribed burn to determine its effects on plants and animals. This winter, Sharp said the school and the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council will study and help restore Whychus Creek.

The STEAM curriculum at BBS this fall will also include a performing arts class, in which students will learn music and theater basics to prepare them for the winter performance. This class will help students build confidence and creativity as they apply music concepts to math lessons and theater to science and language arts.

The historic Black Butte School serves students, grades K-8, in Camp Sherman as well as Sisters. For further information visit, or contact Delaney Sharp, head teacher, at