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!

Jenison High School Senior Builds Hope

When you walk around your house, you probably don’t give a lot of thought to the plumbing, let alone the plumber. It’s also safe to say that the students in our new elementary school building will give little thought to the plumbing that runs through their walls and under their floors.

But, Jenison High School and Careerline Tech Center senior, Mike Alkema sure will.

That’s because he helped lay the plumbing that will make serve the entire new school. Oh, and he also laid the brickwork as part of the masonry staff.

This past summer, Mike’s grandfather recommended him for a job with his employer who was doing the brickwork. So, while most of us were spending our summer days balancing work, kids schedules, and trips to the beach, Mike was laying the cinder blocks that would make the walls of Jenison’s newest school. He enjoyed the work but was also intrigued by the work of the plumbing team.

Mike sought out the supervisor of Alternative Mechanical to start developing a relationship with him and, potentially, make a long term connection. It worked, and when the school year began, Mike was offered the opportunity to work alongside the AltMech team in congruence with his training at Careerline.

“[Plumbing] is like a puzzle. You have to get from point A to point B and follow [building] code and I understand code and how it has to work.” Mike is on the site every weekday signing off on shipments, stocking all deliveries, and assisting the plumbers with whatever they need. “They’re really helpful. I went to the Tech Center this year and last year and I learned a lot, and came in pretty knowledgeable, but I’m still learning new things every single day I’m there.”

Mike + his grandfather

Mike plans to pursue a career in plumbing and is looking forward to working full time for AltMech because they offer health insurance, Christmas bonuses, and a 401(k) plan. He also likes that if the company completes a job under the bid, the employees get an equal share of the money that was saved. But these days, Mike is proud to be able to pay for his own phone bill and car insurance, and other personal bills. “This is really preparing me for what life is going to be like. Not many kids my age have that chance.”

“It’s really cool to be able to drive past the new school every day and think, “yeah, I work there and I helped build that. I started when there was nothing and now we’ve finished the first floor with brick.”

Mike is proud of the work he’s doing, how it’s helping him succeed and prepare him for life after graduation. “If I was just doing school, I wouldn’t be doing well.” His message to kids who are struggling: “You’ve just got to stick it out. You’ve got to do the best you can and even if it’s not what people want, you can try your hardest and you’ll find something you’re really good at, no matter what happens.”

We couldn’t agree more, Mike! We’re very proud of you finding your fit with plumbing and we’ll continue to be your cheerleaders as you work to build a safe and amazing new school for our youngest students. Your work will be appreciated for generations!

Pinewood Design Team Takes Home the Gold!

Every year the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District [OAISD] hosts a project for students in Ottawa County called futureprep’d as a way to connect students with some of the world class companies that call West Michigan their home. Sarah Magro, Intervention teacher at Pinewood, applied for the program and was teamed with a teacher in the Grand Haven School District. Each teacher selected three fifth graders to make up the team from Ottawa County to take on the Michigan Design Challenge.

Sponsored by the Michigan Design Council, the Michigan Design Challenge is a statewide competition  for educators to work with students to solve an existing problem. Students accomplished this challenge by using Project-Based Learning which is to start with a problem and find the solution through the creative sequence [seen in the photo above].

The challenge this year was to create a device or object to help make MI winters more safe or more fun. But as Ms Magro and her fellow teacher, TJ Klumpel, quickly learned, students have very different ideas for making winter more safe and fun than adults!

The team created a series of Smart Sleds which are built by the customer through a kit of their choosing – based on their interests. For example, they created a racing sled for the daredevil, a safety kit with a helmet and bumper pads for the cautious consumer, and even a “Lazy Joe” kit with a towing feature for those of us who prefer to sled less proactively.  What the students created was a solution to both problems – winter would be BOTH more fun and ore safe!

The team’s ideas were submitted to the Michigan Design Challenge in June as well as presented to a crowd of parents and family members at the OAISD for futureprep’d. Then, during Professional Development week in August, Ms Magro got the news that the Ottawa Country team had been selected for the Top 3 statewide in their age bracket! At that point, the team was paired with Stryker to brainstorm their ideas with staff from their industrial design division. The team drew up the kids ideas and the students were also exposed to important careers that are a little outside the box. Every team in Top 3 worked with a different company who, with help from the students, created posters with with their ideas and these posters were brought to the University of Michigan last week for the awards ceremony.

After the judges assessed all the Top 3 entries, Jenison and Grand Haven won the GOLD!

Ms Magro is not only proud of their win, but their hard work along the way as well. “It’s very cool that kids get to work through the creative sequence alongside kids from a another school, another teacher you don’t know, learning about collaboration, teamwork, and finding a solution to a problem – these are all important skills for kids to learn.”

Students take full ownership of the project, receiving only consultation and support from their teachers. Ms Magro is also excited that her students were able to see that there are careers out there that aren’t “cookie cutter” and, for the kid who may have a hard time finding their place, they learn in this process that they will have options.

“I’m very proud of the students for stepping outside the box. We had our own vision of how to make Michigan winters safer, but from a kids perspective, it’s so different. What they came up with was above and beyond what TJ and I thought of. Seeing what students are capable of and the higher level thinking that they’re capable of is incredible.”

Congratulations to the entire Ottawa County team, but especially to our Pinewood Champions: Luke Cousino, Selena Keller, and Meredith Bolhuis! We’re so proud of you and your accomplishments!

*Photo courtesy of the GH Tribune

Kindness Rocks!

Bauerwood art teacher, Ashley Hankamp, first heard about Kindness Rocks on social media and thought it would be a great tool for Jenison kids. After presenting the idea to the ‘be nice‘ team, it was decided that there was no better way to kick off the 2017 school year than with a focus on kindness and “encouraging Bauerwood students to be a positive force in the world”!

Megan Murphy lives in Massachusetts and began the Kindness Rocks Project [watch her touching story here] and now, installations of encouragement can be found all over the country. Ms Hankamp applied for a grant from the JPEF in order to purchase the special paints needed to begin the project at the elementary schools in Jenison and during professional development in August, teachers kicked off the project.

“The staff completed their rock before school started so students could be surrounded and inspired by uplifting words to start their school year. The staff rocks are currently on display in the art room and the students enjoy reading the messages on the rocks when they come to art each week. ” Students have begun crafting their rocks of encouragement as well. “For my upper elementary students I am having the students focus on a positive message that inspires them and will inspire others. For lower elementary students, I am using the book Only One You by Linda Kranz for inspiration. This book unites art and literature in a beautiful way and explores the theme of making the world a better place!”

This simple way of touching those around us – especially our immediate school family – is catching on. “The students are engaged and invested in making their rock a special piece of the installation. The conversations about love and kindness that the students are having while they are creating their rocks is truly heart warming. When all of the rocks are completed they will be sprayed with a waterproof sealant and be put on display outside the front of the school in the landscaping.”

We hope you will take the time to look around, appreciate, and be uplifted by the Kindness Rocks Project at your school. “This installation will be a visual reminder for students, staff, and Bauerwood families to spread kindness and to make the world a better place. I am beyond excited to see how the students’s rocks and the actual installation turns out. It definitely will be a work of art with a beautiful message!”

Thank you, art teachers, for using your talent and passion to encourage our schools as well as remind our students of the power in supporting others! We look forward to seeing the finished installations and even more so, the benefits of a encouraging school family!

 

Pinewood is a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School!

Last fall, students all across the state of Michigan – including Jenison, of course, took part in state exams. Our kids did their best and little did the Pinewood students know that their amazing scores would automatically nominate them for the US Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon School award!

Once the nomination was announced, members of the Pinewood School Improvement Team went to work on the lengthy application! Jane Miles [2nd grade], Sara Brower [4th grade], Michelle U’Ren [5th grade], Marie Doerr [School Psychologist] and Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown completed the application that included information on school demographics, attendance, the school mission and how it’s accomplished. The application was 25 pages by the time this phenomenal team was done!

The application was sent off to Washington DC where it was conditionally accepted, depending on the next set of test scores. And those scores meant Pinewood met the qualifications for being named a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School!

Only 340 schools across the country were awarded this prestigious title and only thirteen in Michigan. Pinewood was chosen based on their exceptional level of social, emotional, and behavioral supports offered to children including Social Thinking Curriculum, Whole Brain Teaching, Mindfulness, Teach Like a Pirate, and Trauma-Informed Schools.

Because of these amazing supports and the teachers and students using them every day, the Department of Education has selected Pinewood to be featured alongside 4 – 7 other nationwide schools at the award ceremony in Washington DC next month. A camera crew will be coming to Pinewood to film “A Day in the Life of Pinewood” and all school representatives attending the ceremony from across the country will see the great things happening at Pinewood and Jenison!

Mrs Brown believes Pinewood is a special place because of the way teachers feel about each student there. “Pinewood stands out because teachers embrace every student as their own. Regardless of academic need, social or emotional needs – they are taken care of.” She also wants to thank the Pinewood community saying, “I want to thank the families, who are also part of this award. Thank you for sending your kids here, participating when needed, and being part of the community.”

We are so incredibly proud of the work being done at Pinewood to support ALL students! Our teachers and staff work so hard to make sure students have everything they need to be successful in school and we’re thrilled that the whole country will get to see why! Way to go, Pinewood!

Meet Our New Parent Liaisons!

Last school year, veteran Bauerwood teacher, Angela Tracy, had an idea. She wanted to know if there was more that could be done for students and, specifically, their families, who were in need of some extra support, especially if that help meant students would have more success in school.

Ms Tracy wrote a proposal and after some bumps in the road, the Parent Liaison program was born! Ms Tracy, along with part-time help from Pinewood 3rd grade teacher, Mary Veldink, are Jenison’s parent liaison’s and have been excited to get things rolling with this school year. The mission of the program is: Building bridges between home, school, and community to promote student success for all families of Jenison Public Schools. But what does that look like?

Ms Tracy and Ms Veldink will meet with parents who are looking for help in making connections with school such as: communicating with teachers/administrators, assisting with meetings at school, Kindergarten orientation, Jr High and High School transitions, parent volunteer opportunities, making calls and home visits,  and connecting parents with each other. If families need assistance connecting to resources outside of school, the parent liaisons are here for them as well! These resources include help with a crisis situation such as a need for food or clothing, housing, help with attendance or tardiness, dealing with a family illness or death, divorce or separation or substance and/or physical abuse.

There are three branches that have taken shape with the program thus far. The first branch is program development where Ms Tracy and Ms Veldink work on developing systems and sustainability. They are developing school-based teams and helping teachers and staff understand their roles. The second branch is administration where they are collecting data and planning for evaluation of the program. Finally, the third branch is case management where they are meeting with Jenison families [15 so far this year] and connecting them to health insurance, housing and food resources, and support organizations such as Ele’s Place and Gilda’s Club.

Ms Tracy says, “The JPS mission statement is “All students will grow intellectually, emotionally and socially while becoming lifelong learners”. The parent liaison program arose out of recognizing the need and desire to help families to create homes that encourage growth and learning and I was finding more and more kids coming to school — and their families who were in need of support.”

Other Ottawa County schools have already launched similar programs including Holland, Zeeland, Coopersville and Grand Haven is in the process.

“It’s been really encouraging for Mary and I when families get connected with the right resources. They’re encouraged and feel supported.”

If you would like to reach out to one of our Parent Liaisons on behalf of your family, they invite you to email them:
Angela Tracy: atracy@jpsonline.org [Bauerwood, Sandy Hill, Rosewood, ECC, JIA, and Jenison High School]
Mary Veldink: mveldink@jpsonline.org [Pinewood, Bursley, and Jenison Junior High]

Thank you to Ms Tracy and Ms Veldink for coming alongside all families and students in Jenison and helping to ensure that all students can come to school ready to learn!

Image result for hands reaching for each other drawing

Homecoming 2017!

Another beautiful and inspiring Jenison Homecoming is in the books! Last Friday night, propelled by the theme of “Dr Seuss”, all of our High School classes, groups, and teams showed up to celebrate Jenison. We hope you will enjoy reliving the fun of the parade and football game here – hey, did you know our Varsity football team is 4 – 2?! We won our Homecoming game against Reeths-Puffer, 20-10. Way to go, Wildcats!

 

Happy Homecoming Jenison!

Introducing our new Sandy Hill Principal!

If you are a member of the Sandy Hill family, you have seen Sara Melton greeting students, teachers, and parents as she acclimates to a new school.

Mrs Melton has spent her entire career in education and comes by it honestly. Her grandmother was the first person in her family to receive a degree and she put it to use as a teacher. Her grandfather was a Superintendent in North Carolina in the 1960’s working to desegregate schools. She spent the last fourteen years serving the Grand Rapids Public School system [most recently as the Principal at Shawmut Hills Elementary School]. Being passionate about families in the cycle of poverty and those who speak English as a second language, she worked with policy makers, the Grand Rapids Hispanic Center and others to make sure those that who are underrepresented in schools have a voice.

As she continued to imagine what her career might look like beyond GRPS, Mrs Melton began to research area schools and looking for those districts that were embracing creativity in education and celebrating the gifts and strengths that each child brings to school, and she was impressed by JPS. Specifically, she was intrigued by the JIA, Spanish Immersion, and when she saw a project featuring the ACT program at her local hardware store, she knew it would be a good choice for her. “I was gaining a new understanding of Jenison and saw a passion for growing and encouraging creativity.”

When she began her tenure at Sandy Hill she was immediately impressed by the consistency and investment of families in their school and community. Mrs Melton was especially thankful to see STEM and Spanish as regularly scheduled specials, the sensory tools that students have access to, and the wide base of support available to all students.

Mrs Melton wants to engage with students in ways that encourage their whole minds and value how and what they are learning. Don’t be surprised if she asks your child what he or she is currently reading or your child asks questions at meals in Spanish [which older students are encouraged to do during lunch]!

When Mrs Melton isn’t working at Sandy Hill, she loves to travel and experience local cultures. She plays the piano and has participated in adult soccer leagues. [Do I smell a challenge, Mr Beachum and Mr Bosch?] She also enjoys experiencing local ethnic restaurants with her husband and children where everyone is challenged to try something new. The family also loves biking and running the Kent Trails together.

Welcome to Jenison and Sandy Hill, Mrs Melton! We’re glad you’re here and look forward to continuing to get to know you!

Dude, Where’s My Bus?

Mornings with kids are tricky, right? Sometimes they oversleep and you just hope they brushed their teeth before they run out the door. Sometimes you oversleep and the kids are lucky to get out the door at all! And of course, no one can ever find their shoes… Thankfully, the JPS Transportation department is taking one piece of the morning and afternoon routines off your plates and making these transitions easier for everyone! Unfortunately, they can’t help your kids find their shoes but they can let you know exactly when your bus will arrive!

Launched last week, parents can keep track of their child’s bus using GPS both before and after school. Now, if you see that your bus is running a few minutes behind schedule you can take advantage of that time rather than wondering if you missed it. Conversely, if the bus is a little early, you won’t be taken aback by an early arrival. After school when there are appointments to get to and sitters to connect with, the system will help keep stress levels at a minimum for parents and kids alike.

All parents in the district were informed of the option to track their child’s bus through email but sign up is available anytime. You can visit the transportation website or call their office for help. [Please note that you will need your child’s name, address, date of birth, and student ID # to register/log on.]

Kip Medendorp, Director of Transportation, notes that the office has seen a decrease in phone calls from parents this week looking for their child’s bus which is helpful for staff and parents. Also, he is looking forward to next summer when, rather than sending a postcard to every bus-riding family, parents can log on in mid-July to see their child’s bus information!

Forest Hills is currently the only other district in West Michigan using a bus tracker system and Jenison is proud to stay in-step with this type of technology. Mr Medendorp says it make his job easier as he can track buses from his desktop but now, so can parents!

We hope all parents with kids riding the Jenison buses will take advantage of this new program. While it can’t make breakfast or heat up pizza rolls after school, it can help parents feel more informed and secure about their kids transportation!

If you experienced difficulty logging in after the initial email, we have worked out the technical bugs and things are running smoothly. We encourage you to try again if you haven’t already!

Thank you to Mr Medendorp, our transportation department, and bus drivers for keeping us on the edge of technology and, of course, keeping our kids safe on the roads!

 

 

 

 

 

Bursley Students Harness the Power of Teamwork [& Rain]!

At the end of last school year, our Bursley students were working hard to learn the meaning of art activism, the science of watersheds, and the value of an education that works across subjects and grade levels!

It began when Amanda Contreras, 2nd grade Spanish Immersion teacher, applied for and received a grant from Groundswell, an organization that promotes outdoor classrooms and learning, and provides professional development for teachers. She wanted her students to have the opportunity to learn science and vocabulary curriculum outdoors in a hands-on and discovery based format. The big idea behind the project was for students to learn about watersheds: what they are, why they are important, where our local watersheds are, and how pollution and people impact them (specifically point and non-point source pollution).

While Ms Contreras was excited about the curriculum and the grant what the grant from Groundswell would mean for her class, she knew it would be even better if she joined forced with Emily Derusha, Bursley Art teacher. They have worked together on bringing lessons to life for Ms Contreras’s class, so they began brainstorming on what this new project could look like.

It was soon decided that Ms Derusha would preface the outdoor lesson with a lesson of her own on art activism, culminating in the designing of their ow rain barrel. “Students learned how artists bring attention to problems and solutions through artwork, and then designed a rain barrel to bring attention to the problem of water pollution, use, etc. to our Bursley community.”

And as if that collaboration wasn’t enough, Ms Contreras teamed with Kelli Darcia (4th grade Spanish Immersion) and they created “Stream Buddies” so the 4th grade students teamed with 2nd grade to complete their water testing. Ms Derusha also added a 4th grade lesson on Activist Art and they created their own rain barrel designs.

To make sure that the Bursley community knew about their amazing work, the students presented their water testing findings at Science Night last year and at a showcase of Groundswell grant winners, a short video was presented at Celebration Cinema in May! Finally, in an effort to bring awareness to water issues discovered in the project and engage the Bursley community in a solution, the rain barrel was displayed and raffled off at last year’s field day!

Not only do we applaud the hard-working students involved in this project but we salute the teachers for working together in such incredible ways to make learning come alive for kids. We’re so proud of you!