The Heart of the Plains League might feel some growing pains from a 10-team league to an 11-team league.

The Heart of the Plains League might feel some growing pains from a 10-team league to an 11-team league.

Medicine Lodge has approached HOPL about the possibility of joining the league, said Skyline Superintendent Mike Sanders during the Skyline Board of Education monthly meeting Monday night.

Medicine Lodge started the conversation at the last HOPL meeting, said Skyline High School Principal Herb McPherson.

Expanding HOPL would have some positive benefits. Medicine Lodge is fairly close to Skyline and it would make one more close school for activities.

Adding Medicine Lodge would also establish another middle school big enough to field athletic teams, Sanders said.

"The league has a tough time finding enough middle school games," Sanders said. "It'd be nice to have another team."

While a close team and an additional middle school would be nice, having an additional team in the league would create problems because it would make 11 teams and that would make scheduling athletic competitions difficult, Sanders said.

This is not the first time adding Medicine Lodge has been discussed. Last year when Medicine Lodge went to 2A it put them in a league with several 3A schools, some of them strong 3A schools, McPherson said.

Overall it appears to be a good move but discussions have just started and much has to be done before any decision can be made.

"I see many positive aspects," McPherson said.

Time will tell if Medicine Lodge makes the move to HOPL. All the schools in the league will have to discuss the pros and cons and then make a league decision, McPherson said.

While the Skyline BOE and HOPL members discuss the possibility of adding another school to the league, the Skyline BOE got to see first hand a teaching program that is already in place and doing well at Skyline.

The KAGAN Cooperative Learning program is already in place and working well in Michelle Schmidt's fourth grade classroom.

The program has six concepts: Teams; Will; Management; Social Skills, Principals; Structure.

The class is broken into teams of four students for a period of six weeks then the teams change into new groups for another six weeks. Each student in the group is numbered one through four and the teacher may call on any student in the group to answer a question about a task or problem.

The teams work hard to make sure everyone in the team knows the answer to a problem because no one wants to make the team look bad, Schmidt said.

"It's the team job to make sure every one knows the answer," Schmidt said.

The Cooperative Learning program teaches students to work together to figure out problems. It a team is not cooperating they don't get to switch teams but have to work together to figure out a solution, Schmidt said.

The team concept creates a desire to work together. It gets teams talking among themselves and they actually teach others. When students teach something to other students, the student doing the teaching learns the subject even better, Schmidt said.

Sometimes the strong students are doing the teaching and other times the weaker students will take the lead.

The program helps develop social skills. They are on task and encouraging the students in their groups as well as students in other groups.

Students learn to use six-inch voices that project just six inches. They have to put their heads together literally to solve problems.

"Students interact with each other," Schmidt said. "I love cooperative learning. It's gets us up, it gets us moving."

One important factor in cooperative learning is that it is great preparation for the new generation of tests the state is going to require for students, said Elementary Principal Becca Flowers.

In other Board action:

The Board approved Deb Withers, Jane Melroy, Joyce Depenbusch, Heike Beeson, Becca Flowers, Lu Bitter, Michael Nelson, Marla Stark and Mike Sanders for Sawyer Virtual Academy Teachers.

The Board approved Alma Carrasco as pre-school driver.

The Board approved $1,600 to remove the last of the 38 pine trees from the shelterbelt on the north side of the football field.