Preschool Class Explores the Amazing Outdoors!

Jenison Preschool teacher, Jodi Huyser, wanted an outdoor classroom experience for her kids. She saw them in other districts, knew there was amazing academic potential, and was sure Jenison could have one too! With the help of a grant written by Early Childhood Center Principal, Lee Westervelt, the students had the outdoor gear they needed from Oakiwear [snow suits, mittens, and rain boots] and they were ready to see what they could learn outside!

The students have already explored the property around Pinewood [where this preschool class meets] to look for animal tracks and evidence of their foraging. “Our most recent lesson teaches the children how to look for signs of animals in our environment.  We look for tracks and also make our own tracks!  The kids love exploring and investigating!  They love being out in the fresh air!” Most recently, the class broadened its research field to Hager Park, and along with the support of parents, the students are learning to examine and ask questions about what it around them every day. “Several parents help out each time so that we can break off into smaller groups.  In addition to tracking animal footprints, we looked for signs of where animals eat, burrow, and go to the bathroom.  We also made our own footprints, compared sizes, and made letters and numbers utilizing our own footprints. ”

To prepare for their lesson outside, the class read the book, “Footprints in the Snow“.  Using the story as a guide, “we had a group discussion about how we can see animal’s footprints more clearly when there is fresh snow.  Students brainstormed the different animals that may leave footprints for us to find.  We even did a comparison to life size animal prints with our own hand prints [tracing our hands over top of paw prints from animals on paper].  In addition, we utilized technology to search different pictures of paw prints.  From here, we took our printed animal track charts outdoors with us to look for any that may be similar.

For the most part, we saw squirrel, rabbit, human, and dog prints.  Interesting enough, we thought we may see some bird tracks, but we did not.  Children also looked for signs of animal scat, which they found kind of humorous!  We talked about how animal tracks can be found by food sources such as berries, bark, and water. More recently, students prepared bird seed feeders that are 100% biodegradable to bring to Hager Park this week on our hike.  We will continue to search for more tracks on this hike as well.”

Ms Huyser believes that students love to get outdoors to learn.  “I think, too often, families do not have enough time to get their children outside because of busy schedules.  So much more learning can be done outside; even lessons that are generally taught in an indoor setting can be altered to teach outside in many cases.  Students get fresh air and their bodies need it!”

Students have enjoyed the change of scenery and seeing what can be learned in their everyday environments! “They love to put on their special “green suits” and head out on our outdoor adventures.  In addition, parent volunteers have had great adventures with us and have had positive things to say about it.  In our most recent adventure, the children were so excited to find different animal tracks and follow them.  They took great pride in placing their bird feeders on the trees for the birds too!”

Of course, Ms Huyser always has a lesson planned when the class goes outdoors, but she stays flexible in case her little researchers take note of something else. “They may notice some letters in the shapes of the branches in the trees.  We may practice counting pine cones on a tree.  In the fall, we investigated how the leaves traveled with the stream’s current [some slower spots and some faster].  Students tipped over logs to look for bugs, worms, and salamanders.  We collect samples to bring back to our classroom as well.  At one point we even heard a tree fall over at Hager Park while it was raining, so we went to investigate it.  The children love to play in the rain and they have the right gear to wear thanks to our grant money.”

“The most rewarding part of teaching this program is seeing how excited the students get when they are exploring outside!” Ms Huyser hopes that families will take the simple opportunities to use the world around them as classrooms as well. “I would love to see more families have the opportunity to take the time to plan a hike with their children.  It prompts great conversations and discussions, promotes healthy habits with exercise, and creates lifelong memories.  There is so much value in getting outside to explore nature and breathe in the fresh air.  You can find so many teachable moments in the outdoors!”

Thank you, Ms Huyser, for thinking outside the traditional classroom and getting out littlest students outside! Hands-on experience is invaluable for all students and we know these adventures will stay with them for years to come!

Once Again, Bus Driver Goes Above + Beyond!

For some of us, it can be difficult to imagine what others need and how they live each day without the basics we don’t give a second thought to. For JPS bus driver, Kristin Bredeweg, hearing about the needs of kids and families in the West Michigan area each day on the radio was all she needed to get her bus kids involved.

“I wanted to do something for my bus kiddos to show and teach them that there is fun in giving and not just getting.  It’s so important to me to not only be a responsible bus driver, but to also teach life lessons to these kids. I’ve been the only driver some of these kids have ever had, so there are sweet relationships built not only with my kids, but with their families!”

Ms Bredeweg knows that her bus kids have all they need, so when she mentioned the need that some students have with basic, personal clothing items such as socks and underwear, the kids were on board! “When we started talking about doing this donation drive my bus kids could not wrap their minds around kids that NEEDED socks and underwear.  Their faces said it all to me … they absolutely wanted to help!”

Ms Bredeweg sent a letter home to parents letting them know about the radio donation drive and asking them to consider purchasing a pair of socks or underwear to be given to a child in need. “My heart was overwhelmed with the support given from parents! They were I think just as excited as the kids! Like I said, the relationships built with these families and myself are deep and very special … I knew they would come through!”
And “come through” they did. “We ended up donating 31 packages of socks and 30 packages of underwear in just one week! And I’m not talking single pairs, but packages of multiple pairs of socks and underwear! I am sooooooo proud of my bus kids!”
But that’s not all Ms Bredeweg has done this winter with and for her bus kids! At the beginning of winter break, she took her kids on a bus field trip around Cedar Lake to see the Christmas lights, including one house with a ten-minute light show! Ms Bredeweg sweetened the trip with a custard donation from Culver’s and then a quick stop at her home [which was also decorated beautifully!] to get pictures.

While parents and community members have much to be thankful for in such a caring and special bus driver, they are certainly part of the Mutual Admiration Society. Ms Bredeweg tells us how thankful she is that families joined in to be part of something so meaningful and important. “I know the hearts of my bus families and I saw the look of joy on these kids faces when another bag of goodies was brought on the bus.  It’s simple acts of kindness and opportunities to learn life lessons that make lasting impacts on these kids!  It’s important for kids to know it’s not just the “big people” in the world that can make a difference, its all ages – if just given the chance and opportunity!!  I love my Bauerwood bus kids of Panda Bus #12-17 and their families! I have been the one truly blessed; my heart is so full of joy!”

Thank you, Ms Bredeweg and Panda Bus #12-17! You should be very proud of not only your donations but also for the ways you exemplify the value of giving. We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and winter break – welcome back!

Celebrating New Teachers in the New Year!

This September, JPS welcomed 36 new teachers to our team, district-wide! And while it’s hard to imagine that the year is nearly half over already, these teachers have been giving their students and the district their all! These 36 teachers are all along the spectrum from brand new teachers to seasoned professionals bringing their talents to JPS.

We’ll spotlight a few of them here but we encourage you to make sure to take a minute when school opens up next week to tell these new JPS teachers they are doing a great job!

Jeanna Watson is teaching 7th grade language arts at the Junior High after completing her education at Arizona State University and GVSU. While she is thrilled to be a Wildcat she also admits to being a Packers fan! When she’s not teaching, she loves reading, spending time with her husband and volunteering. “It has been such a blast to be a part of the Jenison community this year. Getting to know all the students and staff so well has made this job an incredible experience already. I am most looking forward to continuing to get to know everybody for the second half of the year and continuing to grow as a teacher to better serve my students.”

Dina Mitchell teaches Transitional Kindergarten at the ECC. She graduated from Hope College and Central Michigan University and taught for 28 years with Holt Public Schools. She has taught Kindergarten, 1st grade, Transitional Kindergarten and as a reading interventionist. Ms Mitchell stays very busy keeping up with her 4 children – three of whom are currently enrolled at Hope and the 4th just graduated! She also love visiting the beach, watching crime shows, and reading. She loves being part of the Jenison family: “The best part of teaching in Jenison has been the relationship piece.   It is very apparent to me that the time, resources and energy that the district puts into building and maintaining strong relationships with colleagues, parents, students and the community is what makes Jenison so successful. They truly are like a family!!!  I feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Zach Mosher is teaching 3rd grade at Sandy Hill Elementary after receiving his degree from Central Michigan University. Although this is Mr Mosher’s first year as a classroom teacher, he worked previously as a reading interventionist in Wyoming Public Schools. When he’s not teaching, Mr Mosher enjoys fishing and hunting. He says that the best part of teaching in Jenison has been “the awesome and supporting staff that I have so heavily had to lean on and the family atmosphere.”

We wish all of our teachers and staff a very, happy new year! Thank you for all you do each day for our students and families! We hope everyone enjoys the last few days of winter break and we’ll see you back in school on January 8!

A Wonder-ful Field Trip for Bauerwood 5th Graders!

Last year, the fiction story, Wonder, by RL Palacio swept the country and made its way into the hearts of children and families everywhere, including Jenison. Wonder is the story of August, a fifth grade boy with facial differences who, up until the story begins, has been home schooled in an effort to protect him. However, his parents decide that he needs to experience more of the world and he is enrolled in a mainstreamed school for the first time. Auggie is faced with a series of antagonists as he struggles to find his spot in a new place but also finds friends and champions among the challenges. Wonder has been #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List for 36 weeks, been read by more than 6 million people and launched the Choose Kind Movement.

The 5th graders at Bauerwood joined in the fun by reading Wonder as a class book this year. Kathie Berens, Bauerwood 5th grade teacher says the experience of reading the book as a grade-level has been impactful for students. “Some of the reading was done as a whole group, some was done with partners, and some was done independently. It was a awesome to bring the reading back to a whole group discussion and allow each student to experience the journey of Auggie, Via and the rest of the characters together. We ended the Wonder-ful experience by creating yearbooks for Beecher Prep Middle School [Auggies school] filled with main events, important quotes, and favorite parts from the book.”

Students loved the book and despite it’s 300+ pages, they “ate it all up”! Students talked a lot about feelings and perspectives demonstrated in the story, as well as practiced their prediction skills.

One of the main themes in the story is the precept [guiding rule] that Mr Brown, Auggie’s teacher, presents in the story: When given the choice between right and being kind, choose kind. Ms Berens and the other teachers have encouraged students to take this idea into their own lives and they believe that this small statement, along with Auggie’s experience, will go a long way for them.

Piggybacking on this precept, teachers had each student design themselves as their own Wonder. Students used a computer website to design their face, then sketched and sharpie marked their design on a t-shirt with “Choose Kind” on the backs. Finally, they tie-died their shirts in Wonder blue [to match the cover] and everyone wore their shirts on their field trip.

To put an exclamation point on the experience of this story, the entire 5th grade class went to see the movie last Friday. This community-based experience gave students the chance to see the story come to life and even critique the differences between the book and movie.

“The kids LOVED the movie. We talked about the fact that we cried at some parts and laughed at other parts.  It created a whole new level of emotional response and allowed students who struggle reading to visualize, create a picture for what they’ve read. We also discussed some of the differences between the book and the movie. Even though a few parts like the field trip and the relationships between Summer and Justin were different than in the book, it was still really fabulous to see the story come alive like what we saw with the movie in our heads as we read the book. I am so glad students were able to see the movie. There were mixed reviews on who preferred the book and the movie. It was a special opportunity that we all were able to experience both.”

Ms Berens looks forward to seeing how students will continue to exhibit the precept of choosing kindness in their classrooms and lives. “Wonder the book, and movie, share common themes of kindness, friendship and courage. Our class has latched onto Mr. Brown’s first precept in the book, “When given the choice between being right and being kind… choose kind.” We understand that kindness is a choice that we can make every day and that it’s a choice that makes a huge difference in the lives around us. A way we can make a difference each and every day is to choose kind.”

Thank you, Bauerwood teachers, for bringing this amazing story to our students and going above and beyond to make it meaningful for them! We know that these experiences will shape who they are and who they are becoming and they are all Wonder-ful!

Choir Concert Wows Packed House

This past Tuesday night, the Jenison Center for the Arts was packed with friends and family members ready to be amazed by the vocal stylings of the Junior High Choir and the Elementary Honors Choir.

The Junior High Choir performed some great arrangements of familiar Christmas songs and some non-Christmas songs as well. Director, Steven Waters, says, “We always start the concert with all the choirs performing two songs from the Home Alone movies: Somewhere in my Memory [featuring our Elementary Honors Choir] and Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas.”

Each of the individual Choirs then present their own two-song set and finally, the choirs came together again to close the concert with Silent Night/Night of Silence. Again, this features the Elementary Honors Choir and also features three soloists from the Bel Canto Choir [8th grade girls] and Male Chorus. The 7th and 8th grade girl choirs performs from out in the audience with the Elementary Honors Choir. “This concert features a unique audience experience in that they get to participate in the concert through the sing along songs and they get to “be” in the performance of the final song as the entire auditorium becomes the performance space.”

The Junior High Choirs are composed of students in separate grades, and divided by gender. The classes meet each day as part of the regular school day which helps them be particularly well prepared for this performance. They are also a wonderful group to work with and Mr Waters is proud of the characteristics they display as part of this team. “They are all very joyful in their music making on a daily basis! When each of the choir hours begin the energy is amazing and so fun. Our choir students are very affirming and encouraging to their choral staff [directors and accompanists] too. They are a wonderful group of students to work with and get to know on a regular basis.”

Mr Waters knows that choral education has many benefits beyond the performance stage. Students learn to develop their ability to work collaboratively and learn to take responsibility for the success of the entire group. “They have to develop the skill to hear whether a note is in tune or not and how to make that note fit into a multi-part chord. Music/choral/instrumental students learn that whatever they do from a musical AND behavioral standpoint has a consequence for everyone in their musical team. No person is an island in a music group, you are directly responsible for the success or failure of the group based on your personal work ethic.”

Choir students also have the opportunity to learn how to sing in a variety of languages: “Spanish, German, French, Swahili, Italian, Latin, the list is endless. When they learn how to pronounce and sing different languages, it definitely gives them an advantage when they go to learn to speak a given language.

They also develop aural skills and physical stamina. “Choir develops the “ear” for singing AND for playing instruments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen professionals who give master classes insisting that their instrumental students be able to sing whatever they want to play. I teach low brass instruments as a private instructor and my students know that they will be singing almost every lesson to some degree. They play better in tune and more accurately. And students with breathing challenges like asthma find that by taking choir, they develop more strength in their breathing muscles and more breath capacity when they learn to breathe as a vocalist. The choral students who participate in the sports programs frequently report improved performance after they learn how to breathe in this way too.”

Mr Waters adds that the musical community at Jenison is a safe place for students to find their place and have that sense of community benefit their entire learning experience. “Music does so much for the individual growth of each student. It also contributes to a feeling of community for many students who don’t always feel like they belong in their daily school day anywhere else. Students perform better in their other disciplines when they have an emotional investment in their school life and also if they have something in which they excel. Music education is a place where many students find their niche in school. When students find success in their music classes, then the teachers of the other disciplines can build on that to get the kids to improve in other areas. Music participation also contributes to the overall climate in the school. Music students are trained to behave in a supportive manner when they go to an event in an auditorium [like a concert] and this helps to build that feeling of community when you gather everyone together for assemblies and other events. ”

Thank you, Mr Waters and the entire Musical Department at JPS! Our students are becoming better learners and community members with you on their team! And thank you to our choirs for your hard work and dedication to learning and performing this valuable skill! We’re proud of you!

Hola! from Rosewood 1st Grade Spanish Immersion

Spanish Immersion is one of the most unique offerings in Jenison Public Schools! As a reminder, we have one class of each grade, K – 6 at both Rosewood and Bursley Elementary Schools and they are full and bustling with Spanish speakers young and old!

Rosewood 1st grade Spanish Immersion teacher, Anna Evans, has seen her students grow in their language skills since the beginning of the year and is already looking forward to how much more comfortable they will continue to be with a second language. When students begin the Spanish Immersion program in Kindergarten, teachers use English in the beginning of the year and slowly transition to a mix of Spanish and English. However, when they walk in the door of their first grade classroom, they only hear Spanish from their teachers. “The students themselves are allowed to use English for the first half of the year. ” In January, the first graders will participate in the ceremony called “Crossing the Bridge” where they cross an actual bridge as a representation of full immersion in the language. “From that point on, the students are only allowed to use Spanish even with their peers. Moving on to second grade, the curriculum challenges grow, as they do every year. Students will be expected to be able to fully communicate their thoughts and needs in Spanish.”

Ms Evans is thankful for the teamwork and mutual support within the SI program in Jenison. There is a lot of additional work that must be done to correctly educate students in this program. “Just because a resource is in Spanish, does not mean that it was designed for an immersion student, in fact, most resources in Spanish are created for native Spanish speakers. This means that as teachers, we must adapt nearly everything that we find to best suit our students’ needs. For example, with a science lesson, we cannot just go headfirst into a unit on the life cycle of a frog, we need to first create our own lessons prior to the unit to teach vocabulary and build their language skills to be able to be successful. This makes for a lot of additional planning for us to meet the state requirements, but when you love teaching and especially immersion, it is fun to come up with new ways to do things. “

And, while we all know that learning a second language is easier when you’re young, there are, of course, still challenges. “The biggest challenge for everyone is really committing yourself to not using English. It is a mental choice. It is hard to explain to a six year old why it is important that they are in Spanish immersion and to motivate them to take the more difficult path of using Spanish all the time rather than giving up when it gets hard and quick using English to say what they need to say.” And if you think these first graders are only using simple Spanish to get by during the day, think again! “I have seen my students reading and oral language take off just from hearing me speak and read. In their speech, I hear them using difficult phrases and using them properly! One thing that is quite difficult so early on in their language learning is managing past tense verbs and I am hearing them use these correctly. It is very exciting!”

Parents who have children in Spanish Immersion have a global mindset and outward perspective that young children don’t have yet, but Spanish immersion is extremely beneficial to students. “By six and seven years old, they can already speak, read and write in Spanish! They have such an incredible opportunity here that will not only benefit themselves in the future, but, others. As teachers, our hope is that they will use these skills when they are older to benefit others and to make the world a better place. With a second language, they will be able to interact with more people, learn more about other cultures and be able to relate to and understand other types of people easily and with compassion.”

Spanish Immersion students are learning in a second language but they are also learning their grade-level benchmarks. Sometimes, it is believed or assumed that Spanish Immersion students fall behind in their English skills, but this is not the case. “There are many studies to show and I see the evidence in my own classes every year that students learning in a second language unconsciously transfer their understanding from their second language to their native language. I like to ask people this question: If a student can explain a math concept, an author’s purpose, or a scientific proof in Spanish, how much more capable is that student to explain it in English? They are learning many skills in Spanish and they are able to use those skills in English. In first grade, the most growth that I see is in reading.

Every year parents are amazed by their child’s progress in English reading at home, they are seeing their child read in English even though no one has ever formally taught them how. This is because they learn strategies to read in Spanish at school and they turn around and use those strategies to read in English at home. As our program has grown, we have been able to see and compare state test scores from students in Spanish immersion and students in English classrooms and our students do remarkably well in comparison to their peers who have had English training throughout their education. Jenison has a very strong program and the teachers and staff within this program make it even better.”

¡Gracias, Maestra Evans por la increíble educación que le brinda a algunos de nuestros alumnos más pequeños! ¡Estamos agradecidos por usted y su pasión y dedicación!*

 

Writing prompt: “If you had a superpower, what would be be?”

*Thank you Ms Evans for the amazing education you are providing some of our youngest learners! We are thankful for you and your passion and dedication!

Do you know how to follow the Group Plan?

Chances are, your JPS students are probably familiar with language like “the group plan” and “keeping your body in the group”. These phrases and concepts are part of a learning tool called “Social Thinking” and they help instruct our kiddos on expected and unexpected behaviors in various settings. For example, when your family visit a restaurant, it is unexpected to stand on your chair and ask for a milk refill but expected to say “thank you” to the server when they deliver your meal!

Language like “keeping your body in the group” helps teachers point out when a student has left a group situation and it is expected to stay with your peers [i.e. walking too quickly or too slowly down the hall with a small group]. Social Thinking also teaches students to keep their “brains in the group” by reminding them to stay focused on the topic being discussed and how it helps the people around you feel comfortable when they know you are listening.

Teacher Consultant, Kristen Gray, shares the ins and outs of this valuable teaching tool: “Social Thinking is not one curriculum, but rather defines a methodology that is taught using a variety of materials based on the age and characteristics of the students being taught.  Michelle Garcia Winner, a speech language pathologist, created the concept of social thinking in the mid-1990s, then opened the Social Thinking company which produces the majority of the curricula we use.  We began teaching it in Jenison approximately 8 years ago.  It was initially introduced in the categorical programs for students on the Autism Spectrum, and grew from there.”

Ms Gray, School Social Worker, Aimee Jackson, and Behavior Specialist, Yvette Smith, have worked to develop comprehensive curriculum plans for a variety of age levels in Jenison. This month, Social Thinking was also begun for Sandy Hill’s youngest students with a lesson on Whole Body Listening.

Social Thinking is generating positive changes for students. “In my opinion, the biggest change I have observed with Social Thinking is a shift in mindset when students recognize their ability to at least partially control the social environment and other’s responses to them.  This, in turn, can influence the way a student feels about him or herself.

For example, if a student struggles to work in a group, the student might feel as though the other kids do not like him/her and choose to not include him/her in a group.  Using social behavior mapping, one of the tools in social thinking, we can break down both the unexpected and expected behaviors associated with working in a group.  We then help the students to develop visual maps of how these behaviors might make others feel, what outcomes might occur because of how others are feeling, and finally how the student might feel about himself/herself based on the responses he/she is receiving.  The student can use this information to change behaviors, thereby changing outcomes and potentially changing feelings.  I have observed many students experience a “light bulb moment” when they suddenly connect their behaviors to the outcomes experienced.”

If social skills have always come naturally to you, you may not notice that having these skills is woven into every aspect of life. “A person’s social thinking ability has a considerable affect on his or her relationships and success in school and at work. It affects the person’s social skills, perspective taking, self-awareness, self-regulation, critical thinking, social problem solving, play skills, reading comprehension, written expression, ability to learn and work in a group, organizational skills, etc.. Nearly all job growth since 1980 has been in occupations that are relatively social-skill intensive, while jobs that require high levels of analytical and mathematical reasoning, but low levels of social interaction, and jobs that are comparatively easy to automate, have fared comparatively poorly.  The research indicated that workers with greater social skills are more likely to work in social skill-intensive and less-routine occupations and to earn a relatively higher wage return in these occupations.”

Using the analogy of an iceberg, Social Thinking is a tool that “teaches below the surface” and our social responses are what is visible but what is below the surface [social attention, interpretation, problem-solving] are what drives those responses. “Truly, it is empowering for students once they realize that they have the ability to change how others think and feel about them by changing their behavior.”

We love the thoughtful work of our support staff members who strive to equip students with as many tools as they need for success! And thank you to our teachers for incorporating something new into your already busy days!

[*Photos courtesy of http://www.socialthinking.com]

Something Special to be Thankful For!

[L to R] Katie Bremer, Mary Pollock, Betsy Norton, Sara Melton, Dan Searle

Did you know that something as small as a Tootsie Roll can earn $2500 for our schools? Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Jenison Knights of Columbus, the JPS Cognitively Impaired Categorical Program at Sandy Hill took home their generous donation from this year’s Tootsie Roll drive!

At this month’s Board of Education meeting, teachers Katie Bremer and Betsy Norton, along with Sandy Hill Principal Sara Melton and Special Ed Director, Mary Pollock accepted the donation on behalf of this important program.

According to Dan Searle, The Knights of Columbus in Jenison (Council #7487) is made up of 240 Catholic men “dedicated to the good works of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. With our #1 priority being charity”. Each year the members vote on the organization that will receive the donations from their annual Tootsie Roll Drive that takes place the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Easter. With volunteer families stationed outside local businesses, they happily pass out Tootsie Rolls in exchange for any donation.  Mr Searle adds, “Every cent we collect from the Tootsie Roll Drive stays in the community. The more we collect, the more that is donated back. Through other programs, our Council alone collects and donates approximately $40,000 each year back to the community.”

The donation will be used to support and advance programs within the categorical program at Sandy Hill. In the past, the monies have been used to purchase i-pads and supporting apps, assist with peer-to-peer groups and many other activities.

Ms Pollock knows the value of these donations to the amazing work being done by teachers and staff. “We have an amazing staff in JPS. Teachers, both general ed and special ed, and support staff are constantly meeting and planning to make sure all students have opportunities to be a part of the school community. This donation will help support the goal of meaningful inclusion. The Knights of Columbus organization has been incredibly supportive of our efforts and they contribute via their Tootsie Roll Drive every year. It is greatly appreciated!”

JPS offers Special Ed categorical programs for the variety of needs presented by our students (Cognitively Impaired, Emotionally Impaired, Autism Spectrum Disorder). Ms Pollock adds, “We appreciate the community partnerships because it helps to foster understanding in the community of how our programs and services are provided. We are very intentional about making making sure all our students spend as much time as possible with typically developing peers. Teachers Katie Bremer and Betsy Norton have done a wonderful job with their peer-to-peer program at Sandy Hill. Students with disabilities are accepted and benefit from the relationships with their peers and the typical peers gain from helping others and learning to understand differences.

The Knights of Columbus are certainly important community partners and the admiration between organizations is mutual. “Our kids attend these schools. We love our schools and know we are blessed to have such great and caring educators”, says Mr Searle.

On the day we take an extra moment to appreciate what we have, please add the Knights of Columbus and JPS teachers and support staff to the list! Giving all of our students the best education possible is certainly a team effort! Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at JPS!

Seats and Stories for Elementary Classrooms!

If you’ve visited a Jenison elementary classroom this fall you may have noticed a few exciting changes! Classroom libraries were given a boost this summer with 100 new books each! Also, students are all sitting on new chairs at fun tables as a way to provide flexible seating and classroom creativity.

According to Janet Schultz, Literacy and Learning Lab Coach, “Last year we focused on literacy development to lead our district in taking on the challenge of creating a community of readers in our schools and homes because in Jenison we believe that Readers are Leaders. As our committees and teams worked on literacy we realized we needed to make a commitment to building classroom libraries. Recent research emphasizes the importance of the classroom library, particularly in children’s literacy development.” 

The teachers were given a proposed list of books for each grade level to look over and each classroom received 100 books. While most teachers already have great classroom libraries, they reported needing an increase in nonfiction titles. Therefore, each classroom received 1/3 nonfiction to match social studies standards, 1/3 nonfiction to match science standards, and 1/3 favorite fiction selections. This is the first installment of a three-year commitment.

Sami DuVal, Bursley Kindergarten Teacher, was thrilled to receive new classroom books because she knows they are central to the learning experience. “The classroom library is the heart of our rooms. The additional books have given us more ways to accommodate each students needs and has helped me use a more balanced literacy approach. It is important that our libraries are filled with high interest, diverse books and the additional books we received have helped me accomplish that! Every child deserves the opportunity to be surrounded with quality fiction and nonfiction literature! I am so thankful to work in a district that is committed to making that a reality for all children in our community! “

In addition to the wonderful new books, all elementary teachers were given the chance to select their choice of new tables and chairs for their classroom. Last spring, samples of each option were in the buildings and “we were able to check them out. Besides the many different table options, we were also given the option to have wheels on our tables. With the furniture purchase, we were also were given a choice between chair pockets, book bins, or a cubbie system. I chose to get book bins. The additional books and the book bins have been such a great addition to my classroom. During reading workshop all of my students have their own book bins and many books to read. The new furniture has allowed my students more flexibility. I have regular chairs and wobble stools in my classroom. The new tables can be arranged in many ways to fit my student and classroom needs.”

The new furniture also adds a sense of consistency across each school. “The classroom environment is such a pivotal part to a child’s education. The new furniture has not only been functional, but it has also provided a uniform, welcoming look to every classroom. It has given teachers the tools to accommodate all of our students’ learning needs. The large tables are perfect for accommodating group work. Group work is such an important part of Kindergarten as this is when my student learn to work with others, communicate appropriately, and share. It has been great to have a space large enough for this work to take place.”

The district is committed to the classroom environment and is pleased to provide the essential elements to support our teachers and students.

Ms. Schultz reminds families that reading is an essential aspect to learning – in and out of the classroom. “Our belief in Jenison is that children need time to read independently ever day and we are working hard in our schools to give students uninterrupted time EVERY DAY to just get lost in a good book that they have chosen for themselves. We are so excited to continue to build our classroom libraries to spark children’s interest and enthusiasm about reading. We want our classroom libraries to capture our children’s attention, captivate their imaginations, and make them want to return to their books over and over again!”

THANK YOU to all of our elementary teachers for their creativity and dedication to their students! We are building up lifelong learners thanks to your hard work!