By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Heather Woodward, language arts teacher at Whiteaker Middle School, was tired of canned teenage debate topics like, ‘should kids be able to use their cell phones in class?’
Instead she thought of what her eighth graders could argue about that would be interesting and fun.
So for two weeks, Zombies took over Woodward’s classroom.
“Especially coming back fresh from a new semester, I wanted them to be excited,” Woodward said. “I wanted their buy-in more than anything. It makes the rest of the unit easier if they have an idea of how to argue and they’re used to talking to each other about what they’re working on.”
With surviving the zombie apocalypse as their objective, Woodward divided each of her five classes into teams of five students. The first thing she had the students do was pack a backpack with 10 items from their home. Using a Google earth map, groups then had to decide where they would stay and they had to back up their claims with supporting evidence to defeat the zombies.
Since Whiteaker’s zombies didn’t like water and couldn’t swim, a popular destination was downtown Salem by the Willamette River. Other students chose farms, Keizer Station, Walmart and Costco.
They also watched videos, made posters, read books and played games.
“Kids compared it to the Oregon Trail video game,” Woodward said. “There was a lot of critical thinking. We made up a list of zombie characteristics and then they had to find ways to defeat the zombies. We had a great time with it. It was almost too much fun. It was so loud in here. They were super into it. They had a marketplace day where they could trade items with other teams.”
Using online resources like from the Center for Disease Control, which uses the zombie apocalypse to teach kids how to prepare for disasters, Woodward had enough material for a month but decided to end the zombie unit after two weeks.
“We needed to restore a little order,” Woodward said. “The apocalypse, it turned out, was chaotic.”
And when it became time to move on to other issues like the Civil Rights Movement during Black History Month or the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., students were more engaged and ready to talk.
“They were ready to argue,” Woodward said. “The energy level was already high. The class discussions were that much deeper. They were used to talking to each other and used to having ideas where there was disagreement and that was ok.”
Woodward said she will definitely do the zombie until against next year.
“I love getting feedback from the kids,” Woodward said. “They have the best ideas. They’ll direct me for next year. Their feedback will be very valuable.”
By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
In recent weeks, a trio of large trees were removed from the south side of Claggett Creek Park drawing the attention of city residents on social media and calls to the local newspaper.
The trees have been removed to make way for the next big construction project on the docket of Keizer Public Works: a reconstruction of the bridge that passes over Claggett Creek on Dearborn Avenue Northeast.
The project isn’t scheduled to begin until May 1, but the trees had to go earlier for an unusual reason, said Bill Lawyer, Keizer Public Works Director.
“The trees needed to come down because of compliance with the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” Lawyer told members of the Keizer City Council at a meeting in March.
Essentially, if protected migrating birds had the opportunity to build nests in the trees while making their way north for the spring and summer seasons, it could have delayed the project or increased costs incurred through relocating them.
The replacement of the Dearborn bridge will create a hiccup in traversing the core of Keizer for the summer months and possibly into the early fall.
“The contractor schedule begins May 1 and runs to the middle of September, but it might be closer to the beginning of October,” Lawyer said.
Motorists will be advised to avoid the area beginning June 1 when in-water work will begin. Lawyer said the contractor, Salem’s K&E Escavating, is being encouraged to keep access to the south parking lot of Claggett Creek Park for as long as possible.
The Dearborn bridge, Keizer’s last wooden bridge, was constructed in 1964 with an expected lifespan of about 75 years. Increases in population and the resulting traffic have shortened its expected life.
“The main issue is that the existing bridge is an old wood structure that has reached the end of its life,” Lawyer said.
In advance of the bridge replacement, a storm drain pipe is being realigned from Verda Avenue northeast west to Claggett Creek itself.
About seven homes are expected to be impacted along the construction site, but residents will continue to have access.
Other travelers would be wise to seek out new routes to their destinations. A few years ago, when the roundabout at Chemawa Road Northeast and Verda was being constructed, motorists who were caught disobeying the road closure were hit with fines of more than $400 per occurrence.
“This is going to be a little more difficult because equipment will block the way,” Lawyer said.
K&E’s winning bid for the project amounted to $1,753,615.30. Lawyer said the financing for the project will all come from the local level, but it will require taking out a loan.
“We’re looking at a 15-year note and payments will come out of the street fund,” he said.