Growing Old is Mandatory. Growing Up is Optional.

Tonight the curtain opens on another spectacular Jenison High School Musical: Peter Pan! Of course, the story of the boy who refuses to grow up, written by J.M. Barrie, is well-known and a ubiquitous part of pop culture. It first hit the Broadway stage in 1954 when it earned its first Tony Awards. JPS Thespian Director, Todd Avery, was thrilled to bring Peter Pan and the Star Catcher this fall as a prequel to this weekend’s big show and he hopes audiences who take in both productions see the subtle connections the shows have to offer.

Of course, the show will feature some fantastic special effects that everyone has come to expect from Peter Pan – flying! According to Mr Avery, “The biggest part of the show is the flying. I have a fantastic “flight crew” of students and alum who have taken on the responsibility to fly their classmates across the stage.  The actors who fly, have never done anything like this before and are executing very well while hovering 10 to 20 feet above the stage.  We have a series of safety checks, good leadership, and everyone is having fun. There’s plenty of special effects in the show besides the flying.  Tinkerbell darts across the stage, interacting with the Darling nursery.  We even have a special live appearance of everyone’s favorite fairy that I’ve added to the show.  Finally, the talent level of this great group of kids is amazing.  Audience members will forget they are watching high school students.”

This show features sets, props, and costumes that are entirely handmade by student teams, each assisted by an adult leader. The professional quality is a testament to many hard and long hours of work in the scene shop and costume shop.

Students grow in their confidence, abilities, and leadership qualities throughout the show preparation and production. Students with special needs are involved in the show and fellow students rally around them for support, unprompted by Mr. Avery or other adults. “Probably the most amazing growth I’ve encountered is in our Peter Pan, junior Ashley Postema. Her freshman year, Ashley worked with her mother, board member, Jen Postema on our scenery for Oklahoma.  I saw her in the shop every day and her work was beautiful.  Ashley is an accomplished artist with several entries appearing in galleries around West Michigan. She barely spoke to me and was a very shy young lady.  Now, here she is laughing and joking with me and has the title role in the show!  I’ve seen this happen again and again with various students over the years.”

Of course, each time a production is featured we hear from students that the theatre community is welcoming, open, and feels like a family. Mr. Avery works hard to set the tone for students but they take the reigns and welcome each other. “Since the beginning, I have stressed the collaborative elements of theatre.  Everyone is welcome here, no exceptions.  I’m proud to say that over the years we’ve had representatives from every social group at Jenison High School either onstage or backstage. Mutual respect is also important.  No matter how stressful things become, we all must do our best to listen and respect each other.  We continually build each other up.  It is amazing how a simple “thank you” or “good job” can change someone’s day. My biggest joy is hearing about students within our program bringing in other kids to the program because it is a safe place where they can be themselves, have support and have fun.”

Amazingly, the benefits and strengths of students participating in theatre  don’t stop when the curtain goes up. A 2012 study by Americans for the Arts shows that students with four years of high school theatre arts, visual art, and music classes have higher SAT scores than students with one half year or less. “There are dozens of studies like this one that prove that students involved in the arts gain problem-solving skills, self-confidence, a sense of belonging, speaking and organizational skills, as well as many other benefits. There are several studies showing that employers like to have theatre majors working for them because they are creative problem solvers who work well in groups and are confident in interpersonal interactions.”

This weekend, take some time to enjoy the talents, hard work, and community of the Jenison Thespians! They will inspire you and bring some magic while they’re at it. And of course, remember that Growing old is mandatory.  Growing up is optional.  Too many people lose touch with their inner child and forget how to have fun once they “grow up.”   They don’t take the time to look at the world through the eyes of a young person.  Of course, there are benefits to growing up, but when life is taken too seriously, something is being missed or sacrificed.  Play with your children.  Fight for your right to never grow up.”

Break a leg, JPS Theatre! We are always amazed by everything you do! [Psst! If you haven’t gotten you tickets yet, you can do so here!]

Dads and Daughters Take a Spin Around the Dance Floor!

Last weekend, the gym at Bauerwood was transformed into a tropical luau for the annual Daddy-Daughter Dance! This year, 280 girls and the men in their lives that serve as fathers (grandparents, uncles, cousins, brothers, friends – anyone!) danced, took selfies, drank fruity umbrella-adorned punch, and had an amazing time!

Last year, committee co-leader, Jean Houghton, talked to other moms about the possibility of bringing the dance to Bauerwood after experiencing it at Bursley before their family moved. It took this dedicated group to plan, organize, decorate, and now, in its second year, it’s the second highest fundraiser for the school! This year, the dance generated about $1000 to school expenses.

There was a DJ spinning the tunes and he also led a limbo contest, and, according to Jean, the dance floor was filled the entire night. “The girls are so excited to be there, they have big smiles, and are happy to be there with their dads.” The girls received a Hawaiian lei when they arrive and a carnation when they leave to cap off their “wow” experience.

This year, the committee was able to provide limited sponsorship to families that needed financial assistance but they plan to increase their capability in this area for next year. “No student should be left out because things are tight at home”. [So if you’re wondering about next year, make sure you talk to your child’s teacher when the time comes around!]

Jean feels that this type of event is important for families because it “shines a spotlight on the girls’ relationship with their father figure. They are encouraged to feel beautiful, they feel important on that day, it gives them confidence, and makes a special moment to share with each other.” She added that it’s encouraging to hear from teachers and other parents how excited their daughters are before and after the dance. “They can’t stop talking about it!”

This is clearly a special treat for our daughters and their dads and we are thankful that parents take this time to make special memories with their kids! [Moms! Be watching for Mother – Son Bowling at your school!]

Thank you to the dance committee: Alyssa Fennema, Candace Bennett, Jean Houghton, Liz Opatic, Sara Reilly, and Missy Brandt!

Parents make all the difference and this event is so much more than a fundraiser! Thank you to all the dads and daughters who brightened the gyms around Jenison with your beautiful smiles and amazing dance moves!

#JPSReads Update!

Guest Reader, Janet Schultz, at Sandy Hill!

We first told you about #JPSReads earlier this year and phase one is now complete! To kick things off in mid-January, District Media Specialist, Jan Staley, and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz, presented the plan at each elementary school with a slideshow, magic tricks, and Q & A. Students were provided with a participation sheet to set a personal goal that correlated with their grade level. Once their goal was met, they received a cling-on paw print to display in a window of their home. Every family member could participate and once a goal was met, you could set a new goal!

This could be your house if everyone is reading!

Teachers and principals across the district encouraged students to meet their goals and share what they were learning as they read and explored new genres and topics. Ms Staley was encouraged by one elementary school, in particular saying, “The principal did a fabulous job keeping the excitement going.  He interviewed students every day who had met their goals, asking favorite books, places they read, etc.  This school also had participation contests within the grades.  This excitement from the principal and teachers spread and the number of student goal forms were the highest in the district.” Numbers are still coming in from the Junior High and High School but so far, there is record of over 1300 participants!

Guest Reader, Deputy Eric Smith at Pinewood!

March is Reading Month across the country and #JPSReads is hitching up to it for phase two! Please check out the March Reading Month Calendar here. Students can be challenged with a new reading task each day and be entered to win the grand prize at the end of the month!

Finally, phase three of #JPSReads will take place at the end of the school year and, while there are still some details to arrange, it will involve a secret “Paw Patrol”! Staff members from the district will be driving around the neighborhoods looking for homes with multiple #JPSReads paw prints displayed and they will receive prizes!

Ms Staley says she loves hearing the stories from students about how their entire family has been involved with #JPSReads, even turning in goal sheets for their grandparents! “The students often have reading incentive programs that they are working on throughout the year, but the exciting thing about #JPSReads is seeing them get excited about their parents reading!! It really has touched many families in our community!  Over and over again, our volunteers, and parents that have come into our buildings have mentioned that their whole family is having fun with this, they love reading and working toward this goal together.”

Guest Reader, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink

“Reading is not just a “school subject”, that it takes a community’s commitment to raise our readers. We want to continue our district’s vision to build rich literacy skills at home as well as at school. Research proves that Readers are Leaders! Reading helps relax us and keep our minds active and growing. Reading also improves our thinking abilities, people skills, and helps us master communication in order to effectively collaborate and lead others. Grab your favorite books and start reading today!”

If you have questions about any of the phases of #JPSReads please ask your child’s teacher! Thank you to all of the families that are participating and we can’t wait to see more paw prints!

Guest Reader, Deputy Steigenga, at Bursley

Students Practice Mindfulness

img_2631Maybe you’ve been hearing the term, “mindfulness” in conversations and been curious about its meaning and implications. You aren’t alone! Mindfulness is becoming an increasingly popular practice for people of all ages and the benefits are far-reaching and long-lasting.

Erika Betts, School Social Worker at Rosewood and Sandy Hill attended a conference on mindfulness in the fall of 2015 and “fell completely in love with the concept”. Since that time, Mrs Betts has read multiple books and attended additional conferences on the subject and recognizes the practical benefits. “What I love about it is that it addresses so many problems that we see in the classroom on a daily basis with students; difficulty focusing and paying attention, impulsive decision making, difficulty with emotional regulation including anxiety, anger, and low frustration tolerance”.

img_2627Electronics and technology have become so integral to our daily lives and there are various levels of consequences as a result. “In some cases kids are spending hours on these devises each day, and because of this, they are used to such a high level of stimulation and frequent gratification.  Then, once the devises are turned off, they become easily bored and irritable because “real life” can’t compete with that level of excitement.  Mindfulness helps to teach kids how to slow down and pay attention to small things, teaches them how to regulate their breathing, and also increases their problem solving skills, their ability to think critically, as well as to control their impulses.”

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-11-35-17-amBut what is mindfulness? Mrs. Betts explains it as creating a balance between your brain and body chemistry.   “Research tells us that when people [kids or adults] become emotionally heightened, the thinking portion of their brain actually shuts down, and the emotional part of their brain takes over.  That is when the “caveman instincts” of fight, flight, and/or freeze come into play.  In this state people tend to react quickly, without thinking through possible consequences that could occur.  What the repeated practice of mindfulness does is allows our body to calm more quickly when we are emotionally charged, in order for us to be able to think through best responses to stressful situations. “

Mrs Betts led two seminars for a handful of teachers at Rosewood and Sandy Hill and some of those teachers have begun incorporating mindfulness into their daily routines. One of those teachers is Luke VerBeek and he reports that after being invited to the seminar, and doing some of his own research as well, he decided it would be beneficial to his 6th grade students. “We [students and teachers] have so many expectations and extracurricular activities happening in our lives that keep us rushing from one activity to another.  Mindfulness has given us permission to stop, slow down, and only worry about being present.  It has allowed us to not worry about events in our lives that have happened in the past or that may happen in the future.

img_2632Taking time out of every day to practice intentional breathing, mindful body posture, and a quiet mind gives Mr. VerBeek’s students the chance to slow down in a very busy world. They have also taken the tools of mindfulness in the classroom to other aspects of their lives as well. “My students have used mindfulness beyond the allotted time we have dedicated in our classroom.  Many have mentioned how they have used it in their sporting events while shooting free throws or serving the volleyball.  One student even mentioned how it has helped her with her anxiety.  They use the breathing techniques we have worked on in class to calm them down and focus on the job at hand.  Mindfulness has allowed my students the freedom to slow down, if only for a few minutes every day.”

Mrs Betts says, “Mindfulness can also help us to clear our heads so we can just focus on one thing at a time instead of having our minds full of so many distractions all at once.  This not only helps us when our emotions take over, but it can help our abilities to listen to others [their teachers, their parents, etc], to organize our thoughts, while taking tests, while working with classmates, etc.”

If you’d like to try mindfulness at home you can check out the book, “10 Mindful Minutes” by Goldie Hawn. You can also watch this three minute video to learn more:

Finally, for an example of a practice for kids, we recommend the video below:

Thank you Mrs Betts, Mr VerBeek, and the many other amazing teachers in Jenison teaching their students the importance of mindfulness! We’re grateful for this knowledge and skill that will support us throughout our whole lives!

Sandy Hill Third Grader and His Class Teach the World About Love and Laundry

miii3995At elementary schools all around the country there are kids earning points and rewards for trying to improve their behavior or work on particular skills. The rewards are usually specific to the student’s interests such as additional technology time, reading with a friend, eating lunch with their teacher, etc. but these average rewards were not enough for one Sandy Hill third grader. Kamden VanMaanen wanted more. Kamden has a unique interest in laundry detergent and one of his teachers, Olivia Kool, found a way to capitalize on that passion and make life a little easier at home too.

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Mrs. Kool, Kamden & his rewards

“Kamden started off by earning ipad time which did not seem to be a big enough incentive for him. As his classroom teacher Mrs. Ryan and I got to know Kamden better, we quickly learned about his love for Gain laundry detergent. Students with autism often have high interest areas and Gain detergent is something that Kamden is passionate about and talks about on a daily basis. He has even gotten many teachers and students to switch to using Gain for their laundry. He can tell you everything you would ever need to know about laundry detergent and the different scents. When I noticed that the ipad time was not really an incentive for him, I started thinking about what could we do differently to help him have good days at school. One day, I asked him if he had a good day would he like to earn some Gain laundry detergent. His face lit up when I asked him this. The first couple of days I went out and img_3509-1bought laundry detergent and he was highly motivated to earn that reward. Mrs. Ryan and I definitely noticed a difference with Kamden when he was earning the laundry detergent.”

Kamden’s mom, Amanda, decided to continue the reward at home and was also buying Gain for Kamden, which was adding up for both mom and teacher! This fall Mrs. Kool got an idea: “I wrote a letter to Meijer and Procter & Gamble. In the letter, I told them that I was a special education teacher who had a 3rd grade student who was obsessed with Gain laundry detergent. I told them how he tells everyone that Gain is the best detergent because it “has a wonderful scent and makes you open the world of fragrance.” Mrs. Kool told the companies in her letter that Kamden earns ipad time to watch Gain commercials on YouTube and asked if they’d be willing to send detergent samples as his rewards.

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Kamden dressed as a washing machine for Halloween!

“About a month later I got an email from Michael Kadzban the Buyer for Laundry and Cleaning Supplies for Meijer. He told me that he and Todd Vishnauski from Procter and Gamble secured some Gain supplies for Kamden along with some other things for him. They personally wanted to come meet Kamden and drop off the goodies they got for him. Michael and Todd were amazing! They brought tons of Gain samples for Kamden as well as Gain t-shirts, notepads, water bottles, and an official certificate from the Gain team.”

img_3503Michael and Todd “were amazed at how well the students in Kamden’s class embraced Kamden’s passion for Gain detergent and how happy the students were to see the excitement in Kamden’s face when they came to their class.  Todd from P&G said it best when he told the class that the makers of Gain have a term for people who love their product. These people are called Gainiacs. That is what Kamden is, a true Gainiac.”

img_3507Amanda VanMaanen, Kamden’s mom is grateful for the support of the teachers and staff at Sandy Hill for their love and care for their family. “Kamden was thrilled to have Todd and Michael visit him in the classroom. He couldn’t stop grinning and talking about it constantly for a long time. He told every person he knew about it. I think it was wonderful to get his class involved. They were all so excited for Kamden and it made his love of detergents a little more relatable.  I think Kamden felt so proud and excited to spend a little part of the day sharing his favorite topic with everyone. The staff has been so supportive of his fixation, even sending pics of their detergent purchases.  Mrs. Kool went above and beyond to send out the request and to set this up for him! It certainly helped with our budget for supplying laundry detergent incentives for Kamden too. We are so proud to be a part of a school that truly cares for and supports our son!”

Kamden loves his teachers and friends and he really likes science. He says he loves all the subjects in school except math, which many of us can relate to. He thinks that Mrs. Kool is a good teacher because “she’s really nice and she does nice things for me like asking the guys [from P & G and Meijer] to come to school.  She’s a good listener and she likes laundry detergent too. She has a cool down corner that I really like.”

img_3493Sandy Hill principal, Jon Mroz, knows that Kamden’s story has already impacted the students in Kamden’s class and the entire school. “This story is important to share because Kamden is an amazing young guy, with a one-of-a-kind personality.  With the help and support of the Sandy Hill teachers, we have seen a tremendous amount of growth with Kamden in many areas over the years.  Kamden’s story has allowed other students an opportunity to understand that everyone has differences, and that we can accept those differences with an open mind and open heart.”  

Thank you Mrs Kool, Mrs Ryan, Mr Mroz and the many other teachers, staff members, and students that have gotten to know Kamden and supported him. Your love and encouragement of Kamden has made a huge difference for this amazing student and his family!

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Stand By You: Pink Out 2017

miii3935The High School gym was, once again, a sea of pink on Friday night as the Jenison community showed their support for those fighting the battle of breast cancer.

This year, there were eight honorees: Jill Barnes, Jane Carlson, Carolyn DeJong, Dianne Duch, Michelle Gradisher, Shirley Kerkstra, Joni Otto, and Stephanie Tuttle [not necessarily pictured in this order].

miii3411For Michelle [3rd from right], she was overwhelmed by being an honoree but once she arrived to the “pinked out” gym that night and started getting to know some of the other honorees, those fears were gone. Michelle was diagnosed through a mammogram that she desperately wanted to avoid that particular day but chose to go through with it. The office was calling her to return to the hospital before she even got home that day. On March 31 of last year she underwent a double mastectomy which she describes as a “no brainer” based on the test results and family history of breast cancer. She is incredibly thankful for her amazing support team and encourages women not to avoid those important mammogram appointments!

miii3660Joni Otto [1st on the left] was a Jenison teacher for 22 years and is thankful for the science and availability of genetic testing, which she believes is a gift we all need to take advantage of. Joni discovered she had breast cancer and opted for the lumpectomy. Meanwhile, she had genetic testing done which revealed she was at a high risk for breast cancer, so she chose to go a step further and have a bilateral mastectomy to prevent any further occurrences which seemed likely in light of the test results. It wasn’t an easy decision for Joni but she felt that it was the right thing to do to protect herself and her family. She is hoping that her former students will dig deep into their pockets to donate to the Pink Out cause on her behalf!

miii3685Stephanie and Shirley [3rd and 4th from the left respectively] are daughter and mother honorees and Stephanie also says that genetic testing is an essential and lifesaving aspect to her story as well. Her mom Shirley is a breast cancer survivor [and three time honoree!] and Stephanie didn’t want her family to go through another season of cancer. She believes her mom feels guilty for passing on the gene but she also sees genetic testing as a gift, especially when it revealed the BRCA gene which can lead to breast and ovarian cancers. She also urges readers to consider genetic testing if you have a family history of breast cancer as the preventative measures “are much better than going through treatment.”

[If you’d like to explore genetic testing, you can do so locally at Spectrum Health. Please note – this is not an endorsement, merely a local resource.]

miii3680Three of our honorees discovered their cancer through self exams and took a moment in their introductions to make sure and encourage women in the audience to remember to do this. Everyone stressed the importance of regular mammograms and the Spectrum Health mobile mammography unit was in the parking lot, available for tours!

miii3770Finally, High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, introduced Cindi Sigmon as a special honoree. Cindi has been battling Multiple Myleloma since January 2016. “She has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy and received a stem cell transplant this summer” and “for the past 21 years, she has shown love to the students, staff, community members and parents that have traversed the halls of Jenison High School.” Cindi was escorted to the floor by her husband and received a standing ovation for her courage, service, and strength.

All of our Pink Out Honorees are extra-special reminders to our community of the value of perseverance and we thank them for being willing to come forward and share their stories. May you and your support teams know how important you are to all of us!

Thank you to all of the Pink Out volunteers, financial supporters, and participants who came out last Friday to make this another great year! It’s a powerful message we send each year to those who are struggling as well as those have suffered a loss. Together, we will Stand By You. We are Jenison!

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High School Students Join County Collaboration on Suicide Prevention!

c23ixoyxcaaovueOn January 23, Jenison High School Social Worker, Kris Faber, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink, Assistant Principal Rhonda Raab, Counselor Jenny Riha and seven Jenison High students joined other students from Ottawa County to talk about the realities of suicide and how to help prevent it.

The event (called the Ottawa County Suicide Prevention Summit) was on at Zeeland East High Sshool and it was a coordinated effort with OAISD with twelve districts in attendance.  The group spent the day collaborating with local districts to learn what efforts are being utilized to address mental health needs and suicide prevention.

c23rcdlvqaen73uThe Mental Health foundation of West Michigan was a co-sponsor for the day promoting the positive benefits of the Be Nice! program throughout West Michigan.  Ms. Faber adds, “We were also able to hear speaker Rick Chyme share his personal story and challenge everyone to “plant seeds” of kindness and love toward others as you never know how one might positively impact others.”  The team also had time as a JHS group to plan how we might impact our school specifically and work to diminish the stigma of mental health and seeking support.

In a 2013 Youth Assessment Survey of students in Ottawa County in grades 8, 10 and 12, that had seriously contemplated suicide, there was an alarmingly high rate of 16.7%.  “Many adolescents are experiencing increased incidents and greater severity of mental health needs [especially anxiety and depression].  The stigma attached to seeking treatment can, at times, exacerbate the issues. ” Thankfully, JHS is working towards providing help any way they can.

Students are hopeful to continue the conversation in district and develop some tangible ways to provide support for existing mental health needs, as well as prevention of suicide.  We are hopeful to create a culture of kindness toward others as well as a place where seeking support is seen as a strength.  Sharing existing resources with students was one way we are hoping to be helpful to our students immediately.

Students! If you, or someone you know, has thought about or talked about committing suicide, there are people who care about you and are willing to help! You can visit Ms Faber or talk to any of your teachers, administrators, staff, or counselors. You can also call the Ottawa County Crisis Helpline: 866-512-4357.

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[Photos courtesy of Kris Faber and @benicemi]

The Grand Rapids Griffins are Serenaded by the Bobcat Choir!

miii2587The Bobcat Choir from Bauerwood cannot simply be contained by the borders of Jenison! Last week they traveled to VanAndel Arena to serenade the Grand Rapids Griffins, their opponents, the Iowa Wild and the hometown crowd with the National Anthem. They were supported by 300 Bauerwood family members who came to cheer on the choir and the Griffs!

miii2555Bauerwood music director, Diane Schrems, says that fifteen years ago the Bobcat Choir started signing the National Anthem at the Whitecaps games and then reached out to the Griffins as well. “Most recently Grand Valley contacted me to see if I would bring the Bobcat Choir to a Grand Valley Women’s basketball game.  It’s wonderful to get out into the community and perform for everyone.”

miii2559Rehearsals for the big performance have been taking place weekly after school on Thursday’s and the choir has watched post-game tape and agree they did a great job. Of course, they also got to stay for the game and had a wonderful time cheering with their family and friends.

“The kids gain a sense of school pride when we go out into the community and represent Bauerwood and Jenison Public Schools.  It’s important to share your talents with others in a meaningful way like singing our country’s national anthem.  Being a member of  Bobcat Choir builds strong character and commitment in our kids.  When we sing together we build a bond through the music that sounds and feels great.”

Even though the Griffs couldn’t pull of a win that night (they lost 1-2), the Bobcat Choir certainly won for their talent, courage and showmanship! Jenison is proud of you! Go Wildcats!

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#JPSReads Comes Alive on Stage!

miii2248As a partnership to #JPSReads, the Junior High theatre department presents, James and the Giant Peach starting today and running through Sunday afternoon. We hope that families all over the district participated in the Read Aloud, JPSReads, earlier this school year and read the classic Roald Dahl story but if it’s new to you, don’t worry, it’s a heartwarming tale of an underdog you’ll love.

James is orphaned early in life and goes to live with his aunt who treats him as a servant, rather than a young boy. He soon meets a mysterious old man who offers him a magic bag of crocodile tongues that will make his life better. When James accidentally spills the tongues all over the ground, he is surprised to see an enormous peach grow on the sidewalk! The giant peach becomes a magical place of fantasy and friendship for James and, of course, you’ll need to read the book or buy a ticket this weekend to hear the rest!

miii2237When Director, Holly Florian, was anticipating this years musical, she considered the amazing batch of talent her students bring to the table. While the audience is aware that the actors on stage are junior high students, what they may not realize is that by the end of the weekend, the entire show is student-run. They are in charge of the lights, sound, stage management, direction, and set changes. They are assisted by a couple of high school students in their tasks but they act mainly in the role of mentor to these ambitious junior highers!

The cast auditioned back in mid-October and at the end of that month they began their rehearsals. Near showtime, they are rehearsing from 5-9pm every weeknight! Prior to the holiday break they have memorized all of their lines but Ms Florian encourages them from this point on to really let the characters become their own; to have fun with the lines and the story. She sees their potential and wants them to have the opportunitiy to shine as a result of their hard work and dedication.

miii2102Just like our high school students say year after year, Ms Florian believes that her students love being in the theatre program because it provides a sense of belonging and community. Students are able to meet new people and make friends with other students they may have never met otherwise. Because of this, she is especially pleased with the journey that James makes in this story. As the director, she is able to see the journey of students, their progress and self-confidence throughout the rehearsal season. By the end “it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come and that’s what this story is all about: self-confidence.”

If you’d like to see these talented students live, in action, you can purchase your tickets here. It’s a great opportunity to bring the book to life and remind your kids of the importance of and meaning found in reading and stories!

Break a leg, Junior High students! We know you will be incredible, not only this weekend, but always!

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Georgetown Township Gets Schooled by Pinewood 6th Graders!

img_3621Back in September, we told you about an amazing project being spearheaded by Lori Barr and her 6th grade Pinewood students to restore swimming to Maplewood Lake.  Well, we are happy to say that this year’s class has continued the tradition of trying to solve the real-world problems in their own neighborhood!

img_3598-1Last month, all of Pinewood’s 6th graders presented their research and solutions to the Georgetown Township board and not only were their township reps blown away by what they heard, they have asked for copies of their presentations for further review. Dan Carlton, Township Superintendent, told the students they have “raised the bar so high I can’t even reach my arm high enough to show you how high it is!” The township is setting goals this month and they wanted to read over the resources and recommendations in order to pursue them.

The township had been previously unaware of the mosquito issue at Woodcrest Park [where Maplewood Lake is located] but students’ surveys found that spectators couldn’t even tolerate a soccer game due to the quantity of mosquitoes.  Students presented ideas for fountains, aerators and bat boxes. Fountains would keep most of the mosquitoes off the water, aerators would reduce mosquito populations because they move and clean the water and of course, our native bat friends could sleep all day in their cozy bat boxes and feast on mosquitoes all night.

captureStudents also presented ideas for a “natural playground” with the help of Natural Playgrounds in Canada. Students said in their presentation, “We want a natural playground because, you would feel like you are in the woods. The experience just feels like you are literally experiencing nature. The wood feels nice and smooth on your hands. Unlike metal and plastic.” They also presented ideas for native flowers for aesthetics and native plants for preventing runoff. 

capture2Because of a snow day in December, students had to problem solve another real-world problem: being behind on a project. Mrs Barr asked them to think about what their parents might do if they are behind at work. One student reported that sometimes, her mom has to work through her lunch which seemed to be the best solution to this hardworking crew. They worked through their lunches, they gave up extra class time where they would typically have freedom to chose their own activity – they chose to work hard to make their presentations the best they could be because they knew the township really wanted to hear what they had to say.

img_3631Seeing these amazing accomplishments has been a joy for their teachers. Mrs Barr has been teaching for 33 years and says that the past five years have been the best. “Mrs Brown encourages us to try new things and I’ve never seen anything like it. It takes courage as teachers to try new things, but you can be creative, let the kids have the power chord and let it be a student led classroom.”

Check out the clip below of a handful of students on the Maranda show that aired this week! On the way back to school one student shared with Mrs Barr, “I really feel like we’re a family. This is a year of family.”

6th Graders at Pinewood: You ARE a family and you make us all so proud! We are cheering you on and cannot wait to swim at Maplewood Lake and play at Woodcrest Park because you made it safe and fun once again!

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