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Exploring Robotics through Trial and Error


The kids walked away from the classroom learning more than just a little science, but how to persevere through challenges and to trust that through hard work and a little time, they can overcome the obstacles in their lives.

Recently the Cedar classroom within the Assessment program has been busy using Legos to learn about programming, building robots, and overcoming obstacles. As part of this project each client participated in “the hour of code”- learning the basics of computer programming and got a hands on opportunity to use it to guide characters through a minecraft maze. “The Hour of Code” is organized by which is dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. It is broken into self-guided tutorials that allow students to work through the skills at their own pace. By far the most popular choice for Cedar was MindCraft!

After learning these skills residents got the opportunity to work in groups to solve a challenge. Using two Motors they were asked to create a vehicle that could move items from once place to another. After a quick group brainstorming session the kids were off and designing away! Three designs came out in the end and were all very unique.

The final test was trying to move a group of marbles. After some initial challenges the groups had to return to the drawing board to add some additions onto their creations. It was discovered that just a single plow was not effective, so sides were added and SUCCESS! Another group developed a gear system to move the wheels to increase their vehicles speed while the last group opted to attempt to build a claw that would pick up items.

Through this project the kids really got the chance to “do” science and learn that it is not a single step process, but something that is always changing and that can take several tries before getting it right! We look forward to continuing our robotics adventures and expanding on our programming skills.

Hannah Curran – Assessment, Cedar Unit Teacher

Northwest Passage is dedicated to creating an engaging classroom. Our teachers are skilled in connecting with each child’s individual strengths and challenges.


Off to the Theater

The Prairieview girls have been reading To Kill a Mockingbird in school and recently attended the Guthrie Theater’s To Kill a Mockingbird play in Minneapolis, MN. It was their first time to the Guthrie for all of the girls and the first time to Minneapolis for several of them. The girls were in awe of the theater and the experience was a great one for all who attended! After the play, the girls attended a Q and A session with the cast members. In class, the girls have been dissecting the book by learning new vocabulary, practicing their creative writing skills by developing and extending the characters, participating in literature circles, and researching the themes of the book.

Brittany Bosak, Northwest Passage Prairieview Teacher

Prairieview-Guthrie- (1) Prairieview-Guthrie- (2)

Our teachers at Northwest Passage are always looking for new ways to teach our youth. Taking the girls to see “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Guthrie Theater is another example. Seeing the play after reading the books is not only a culturally enriching experience but also has significant educational benefits. It helps students to better understand the plot and vocabulary of the book/play, so overall improving their literary knowledge. It also improves their ability to read the emotions of others, enhancing empathy.

Prairieview Science Fair

Prairieview held its second annual science fair this fall! The science fair is a showcase to display weeks of hard work in the classroom. The science fair unit begins with an in-depth look at the scientific method and experimental design. The girls begin with basic classroom labs, writing hypotheses and analyzing data. They learn how to design a sound experiment with all the necessary components. The exciting part about this unit is that it mixes science, writing, language, math, art and social skills all into one exciting experience.  The expectation of the project is that the students are leading the way with their teachers guiding them as needed. Each student is allowed to do a project of their choice at their own academic level.  The process is full of inquiry and discovery. The girls learn that there is no failing in research and that the scientific method is always successful in some way. The types of projects chosen varied, including experiments researching the statistical probability of M&M colors, respiration rates in dogs, the genetics of the tortoiseshell cat, best way to make a chocolate chip cookie, visual vs. auditory memory, how do puppies stay warm, what is the best homemade pop recipe based on bubbles, grittiness and flavor, and how to make the best bubble solution. Some projects took several hours to conduct while others took days, challenging the girls to be patient and consistent.  They learned how to organize their data and report the results using visual graphs. They incorporated the use of technology using iPads to film their trials, record data and take photos. Several of the projects required the girls to use specific computer programs or websites to conduct their research and carry out their procedure.

At the cumulating event, the girls all stood proudly in front of their projects and shared them with residents and visiting staff members of Northwest Passage. The education team at Northwest Passage strives to set high standards for their students while supporting them through the process. We are very proud of these young scientists from their diligent lab work to their outstanding presentations. We also appreciate those who attended the science fair to make the event a success. Thank you and we look forward to doing it again next year!

Brittany Bosak, Prairieview Teacher


What is experimental design?

The Prairieview girls are learning about the scientific method and experimental design in science! The girls have completed several science labs and are working on their own science projects for the upcoming science fair. They spent a morning learning about scientific research in the real world from Northwest Passage’s own, Ben Thwaits.

Ben worked as a Biologist prior to his employment with Northwest Passage with a Masters in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior with a neuroscience minor from the University of Minnesota. He has completed research from the Wisconsin Northwoods to India. He spoke about his experiences with science and the integration of science and art.  Ben focused his presentation on a three-year project he completed on Lake Superior studying homing mechanisms in trout and salmon.

The girls were engaged and intrigued as they saw the diversity of experimental design and the tasks that research scientists endure. Thank you Ben for coming to talk to us and sharing your experience and passion for science!

Brittany Bosak, Prairieview Teacher

Science is one of the many subjects that Northwest Passage teachers focus on in their classrooms every day of the week. Science helps to teach students how and why things work the way that they do. Science teaches a wide variety of concepts. It can help those at Northwest Passage to understand many different mechanics and functioning of complex systems.

Cardboard + Duct Tape = Boats?

The Northwest Passage Riverside boys ended their summer with some cardboard and water fun! The kids spent time in school learning about different boats and how things float. To bring the lesson to a close, the boys created their own life-size cardboard boats to take out on the open water.


Prairieview Super Heroines Run in Monster Dash

On Friday October 20, the Prairieview ladies ran the 5K Monster Dash in Cumberland, WI.  The ladies have been training hard, getting up early to run during the week.   They have demonstrated such dedication, it seems, due to having something to look forward to (mastery), while running also helps to regulate emotions and improve mood.  The group decided on being super heroines, to celebrate empowerment and self-acceptance.

Lisa Courchaine, CAPSW, Mental Health Clinician


At Northwest Passage, our mental health clinician’s go beyond just typical office therapy in working with our youth. They like to incorporate all of the many things that help to keep people mentally healthy, including physical activity. The mind and body are connected, so when one is healthy the other is healthier too. It is much easier to deal with life’s problems and challenges when your body is active because it lifts your mood. Physical activity can also act an antidepressant.

Riverside paints St. Olaf College

Our talented intern, Jae Mawby, just wrapped up the development of Riverside’s pottery programming. As a special opportunity for the young men she worked with in this endeavor, she arrange for four of her students to visit her college, St. Olaf.

The Boats Float

This week Northwest Passage’s Child and Adolescent Center’s older group of residents completed a boat-building lesson. They started this project by researching how to make model boats. They were then given 150 Popsicle sticks to use in building a structure that could float. They were also able to use other available materials if they chose to. After finishing their floating structures the kids went to the river for a friendly race. The boats were placed behind a stick and the stick was lifted to let them all go at the same time. They floated down the river in order to find the winner. After the race, the students gathered together and discussed which structure went the fastest and why. This project-based teaching allowed the students to see how things work firsthand.

Caleb Melton, Child & Adolescent Center Teacher 

Each Northwest Passage program has a classroom and teachers. These teachers strive to educate the residents in many different ways. They value teaching residents outside of the traditional classroom. Getting the kids out of chairs and into the world helps to make the learning concepts real and relevant to the world. It allows them to learn through play and experimentation. It exposes them to new opportunities and helps develop an interest in the environment.

Meet the horse therapy staff


Adios is a 20-year-old pony born in Minnesota; he was originally the herd stallion and has many good natured sons and daughters. He was then acquired by Northwest Passage’s own Nancy Jensen, a former employee of many years. He was the companion of her grandchildren until they grew bigger than he did! This is his first year as an EAGALA pony.


Angel is a 19-year-old Appaloosa horse; has held many jobs in her life. She was a trail horse, a show horse, and a lesson horse. An injury slowed down her riding career, but has not stopped her from playing with the kids of Northwest Passage as an EAGALA horse. She has been working on and off with Northwest Passage for the last 4 years.

Cinnamon (a.k.a. CIndy)

Cinnamon/Cindy is a 14-year-old standard size donkey who comes to us from a training ranch. Her job used to be helping horse trainers start out young horses. After some personal hardship her owner reached out for a home for her and Northwest Passage happily gave her a new career as an EAGALA donkey. This is Cindy’s second year.


Tully is a 15-year-old horse who hails from Hannibal, WI. He was supposed to be born a spotted horse…but surprised his owners by coming out a beautiful solid buckskin color. He rode the trails with his owners until he became a lesson horse where he taught many young riders the virtue of patience! He has worked as a Northwest Passage EAGALA horse for the last 3 years.


Prairieview goes orienteering at Crex Meadows

The ladies of Prairieview recently participated in an orienteering lesson at Crex Meadows. The girls first got an introduction to Crex Meadows and then spent time in the classroom learning about the parts of a compass and how to use one of these age old tools for adventure.

The ladies did some calculating in order to figure out their pace and were eventually put to the test out in the woods. Working in teams, the girls were given different courses to complete. These courses required them to find their “bearing” and calculate their pace so that they could locate the next clue.

Upon completing each course, they had to read and fill out a worksheet on various native Wisconsin animals found at Crex Meadows. The girls did a fantastic job, with one team finishing the most difficult course! The morning was filled with adventure, fun and learning all while in the outdoors.

Brittany Bosak, Prairieview Teacher

Northwest Passage values teaching residents outside of just the traditional classroom. Getting them outside helps to make the learning concepts real and relevant to the world. It allows them to learn through play and experimentation. It exposes them to new opportunities and helps develop their interest in the environment and other surroundings.

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