Summer Series: Art Moves

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This summer, we will highlight the Jenison ArtMoves program. Each week, we will feature one of the talented student artists and local businesses that have supported the Jenison Visual Arts Department.

Please join us in celebrating our students and thanking these local partners by visiting their businesses. ArtMoves Gala photography by Damion Van Slyke Photography.

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ArtMoves is an annual art leasing program created by the Jenison Visual Arts Department. The goal is to connect our talented students with local businesses, and to promote the outstanding work of our student artists.

Business owners in and around the community attend the annual gala and have the opportunity to lease their favorite artwork for a year. The artwork remains on display and at the end of the lease, the student receives their artwork back to proudly display at home. 

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Many hands go into making this program a reality! A heartfelt thank you goes out to…

  • Our amazing staff of Jenison art teachers fostering creativity in all students
  • Our high school art teachers and students who help mat the artwork
  • Mr. Albert’s high school wood shop class for making the custom frames
  • Norbert’s Glass for the donation of the glass for the frames
  • The many business partners who invest in our students and value the community we live in!

 


ArtMoves Featured Artist:

Quinn Terpstra

  • Grade: just completed the 3rd grade at El Puente
  • Favorite Color: Green
  • Favorite Food: Hamburgers
  • Favorite Book: Dog Man
  • Favorite Movie: Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse
  • Favorite class – besides art: Gym
  • A smell he really doesn’t like: Farts
  • Plans for the Summer: Summer camp
  • Something he wants to get better at: Math
  • Something he is really good at: Soccer
  • Musical instrument: No
  • Pets: 2 Fish (Stripe and Gill), and a hermit crab (Pinchy)
  • Age when he will feel grown up: 18
  • ‘Happy place’: Home
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Quinn with his art teacher Mrs. Rachel Kunnen

“Vase of Flowers”

Artist Statement: Quinn’s favorite part of this project was drawing the flowers and adding color using paint and oil pastel. When Quinn isn’t at school he enjoys watching tv and playing the Wii. He also likes to play on the swingset. Quinn is a fantastic artist and works hard at each and every project!

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Quinn’s artwork has been leased for 1 year and is on display at Hawthorne Collection in their Hudsonville location. Thank you Hawthorne Collection for investing in our students  and blessing your shoppers with this beautiful piece of art!

Rosewood Students Break World Record

Karen Ambs is one of those people with a song in her heart and a pep in her step. One of her favorite accessories to go along with her fun personality is ‘jazz hands’! In fact, a group of student safety crossing guards greet her at the door daily with a fun, jazz hand wave.

This prompted a discussion months ago during her music class at Rosewood Elementary. One of the greeter students asked what the record was for the most people doing jazz hands. Her curious and helpful nature drove her to a bit of research, and she discovered the current record is 394, which was set in the UK.

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Mrs. Ambs leading some fun as the kids get into place for their Guinness World Record attempt.

Mrs. Ambs is retiring after 32 years of teaching this June, but you don’t see her resting on her laurels. A dream was born in her students that day and although an official Guinness World Record attempt takes an immense amount of meticulous work, she enthusiastically stood at the helm. Following even more research, school principal, Luke Verbeek, and the Rosewood Parent Club jumped on board and the official application to break the record was submitted.

“Rosewood is a supportive, enthusiastic learning community – parents, staff, and students are eager to jump in and do what it takes to achieve big goals, regardless of whether those goals are academic achievements or world records.” ~ Karen Ambs

Friday, May 17 was a beautiful day when over 400 children, ages 5-13, school staff, and parents gathered on the playground to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the “most people doing jazz hands”.  The event was officiated by State Senator Roger Victory and Georgetown Township Councilman Jason Minier.

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Many additional roles needed to be filled in order to accomplish this goal! There was an official schedule with official timers, witnesses, photographers and ‘people counters’. The participants were divided into 18 different sections – one for each homeroom and one for the parent participants. Each section wore a unique color of gloves, so that the stewards would be able to clearly identify who they were counting.

There was a very intentional plan for everything – where the participants needed to be and how long they needed to do it. But the one thing the students didn’t need instruction on – was the move itself, that comes naturally for a student of Karen Ambs.

Once everyone was in place, the buzzer started the clock and the participants got down on one knee facing the stage, raised their hands overhead with fingers spread out, shaking them back and forth – doing this for the entire 60 second time. At the end of the timer, participants were counted and Rosewood was found to be (upon completion of all validation) new World Record Holders!!! 

I love the positive energy and fun our teachers have with our students! I love the people with the big ideas and the circle of support that lives within Jenison to accomplish these big ideas! What a wonderful memory!

“The amount of time and effort it took for this incredible 60 seconds was SO worth it! The Unofficial World Record for people performing Jazz Hands for one minute belongs to the Rosewood Wildcats! 477 people were able to perform for the full minute (without falling over)!” ~ Karen Ambs

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Senator Roger Victory officiated this record breaking, fun event.

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Photos courtesy of Kerri Jenison Photography and MSB Photography.

Retiring Teachers – Class of 2019

Final music concerts. Conference competitions for spring athletics. The final day of regular classes for our seniors is tomorrow… just a few of the many indications that we are screaming down the homestretch of this school year. With all the excitement that comes with closing the books and looking forward to a well deserved summer break, there are bittersweet moments.

As we soon graduate over 300 students, we also say goodbye to 7 amazing teachers who have acted as champions for your children and led the way for their students, literally for generations. This June, I wish the best to a group of teachers who represent 236 years of wisdom and experience. If your students have had the privilege to study under these teachers, I encourage you to reach out, wish them well and thank them for their deeply dedicated careers.

  • Eileen Maday
  • Linda Reimink
  • Steven Waters
  • Karen Ambs
  • Paula Riordan
  • Brenda Meade
  • Sandra Johnson

Eileen Maday

High School Reading Specialist, English and Social Studies Teacher

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Eileen is the Reading Specialist at the High School and also teaches English and Social Studies. In a few weeks, she will conclude 30 years of teaching – 9 years with Holland Public Schools and 21 years as a Jenison Wildcat. Her favorite memories of teaching are the moments when students have a realization of their potential, master an important skill, achieve a goal, or feel supported through a difficult time. Her favorite book to teach in literature classes is To Kill a Mockingbird as she feels there are so many powerful messages that will always be relevant to young people.  

If Eileen were not a teacher, she believes she would most likely have had a career with a social service agency, working with children in the foster care system. Her family has grown through foster care and the adoption of two of their children.

This summer, Eileen and her husband Tim will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Tim recently retired after 30 years as a firefighter and Eileen is looking forward to more time together. They enjoy traveling, hiking, cycling and spending time with their 5 children and 7 grandchildren. They have exciting plans to hike in all of the national parks and spending time in Europe soon.

“My parting thought is one of gratitude to all of my colleagues.  It has been a honor to work with so many gifted educators who have inspired me with their dedication and sustained me with their friendship.  I am truly thankful.”   ~ Eileen Maday

Eileen, we are truly thankful for your commitment to our students over the years and we wish you the absolute best as you travel to see all the places you have taught about through the years.  

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Eileen Maday with  our Multicultural Advancement Scholars group attending the Calling All Colors Conference at Grand Valley State University.  This is a group she has  sponsored with several colleagues over the past few years.

Linda Reimink

High School Physical Education and Health Teacher

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Mrs. Reimink with some 3rd hour freshmen following a fun and challenging work out.

Linda is a Physical Education and Health teacher at the high school. She has worked for 32 years to teach students the value of fitness and overall health. Helping them develop healthy habits and encouraging good decision making – hoping to set them up for a great future. She enjoys being active herself and loves that her additional role as the Varsity Women’s Golf team has incorporated that as well. In her spare time, she enjoys helping lead worship at her church and reading. Some of her favorite books include Educated, The Help, Water from My Heart, Chasing Fireflies, and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

She’s had the chance to build many great relationships over the years and working with colleague, Kari Kossen every day is icing on the cake. Another highlight of her career is when a student works hard and reaches a goal (running farther and longer than they ever thought possible). She feels that she and the students generally have a good time together and loves the daily laughs they share.

If she was not a teacher, Linda would probably be employed in the corporate wellness field. Actually, her retirement plans may include some part-time work in that arena. She loves the idea of being involved in a mentoring program for college students. Linda and her husband Ron have two grown children and 2 granddaughters. Retirement for her also means more time to travel, spend with family and friends, and will probably include baking for them.

Thank you Linda, for your dedication to send our students into the world with a bright and healthy future ahead of them.

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Mrs. Reimink and her Jenison Varsity golf athletes.

Steven Waters

Junior High Choir Director

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Mr. Waters has enjoyed teaching and seeing the JH students progress during their choir career.

Steven proudly completes his 23rd year in Jenison this year, rounding out his accomplished 35 year teaching career. Prior to his time as Jenison Junior High Choir Director, he taught Elementary Music, Band, and Choir K12 in other districts.

He is fueled by the hard work the students give him daily, and the feeling of chills when the group wrestles with a section and eventually gets it just right. He shares the immense excitement of the students when they sing a 4-part chord in tune. Experiencing all those firsts with the students and watching them grow and progress through their choir journey is something he will never forget.

As much as Steven has enjoyed the hard work of planning and preparing students for concerts, he and his wife, Jeanna look forward  to attending concerts together – especially at Christmas (a notably very busy time for music teachers).

They have three children, three grandchildren and one more grandchild due in June. They are thoroughly enjoying this phase of life and looking for more of life’s simple pleasures, including backyard cookouts, gardening and outdoor adventures. Steven will also continue making music as he participates in the worship team at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids.

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Mr. Waters directing his 23rd and final junior high concert, at the Jenison Center for the Arts.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work in the Jenison Public Schools with all the wonderful Jenison Families over the past years! Each year has been filled with many blessings on a professional level because of my wonderful students and my exceptional colleagues. I’ll miss hearing the excitement in the voices of the kids as they come into the choir room each day or when they come to the concerts. I’ll miss all the great laughs and tears with the students AND with my music teaching team.

I count myself fortunate to have been here doing what I love so much with people that I love.” ~ Steven Waters

Steven, thank you for using your mastery of music and love for people to point our students toward a successful future. We wish you a beautiful, musical future!

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A student grabs a selfie with Mr. Waters at the conclusion of his final choir concert.

Karen Ambs

Music Teacher for Sandy Hill and Rosewood Elementary Schools

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Mrs. Karen Ambs

Karen Ambs is one of our energetic, big-idea music teachers in the district. Her primary role is lead music teacher at Sandy Hill and Rosewood. She came to Jenison with 4 years of teaching under her belt including kindergarten physical education, typing, library tech, theatre, and art. That diverse beginning set the stage for a passionate, creative career here.

She has also spent time leading the elementary honors choirs for her schools and working on the choreography for the Junior High musical productions. After 32 years of teaching, she is anticipating a more flexible schedule to spend time with her husband and two grown children. She also looks forward to teaching private voice and piano lessons and tapping into her full potential as a recently self proclaimed “gym addict”.

She also has a passion for performing and volunteering with local community theatres. If Karen was not a teacher, she thinks she would involved in a non-profit of some sort.

She experiences bright moments daily when her students discover their own love for music but the memory of listening to one of her young students (who is in our CI program and largely “non-verbal”) sing incredibly beautiful solos will be forever in her heart.

“Don’t forget to take care of each other, and yourselves too. It has been a true honor to serve and teach alongside the amazing educators at Jenison Public Schools.” ~ Karen Ambs

Thank you Karen, for your contagious enthusiasm and tireless service. You have encouraged generations of students to love music and the arts, and our community has been blessed by that.

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Mrs. Ambs is often the first to teach the students to play an instrument.

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Mrs. Ambs with Sandy Hill music students

Paula Riordan

Bursley 3rd grade teacher

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Paula Riordan has been teaching at Jenison for 30 years, in second and third grade classrooms. She earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. She and her husband have four grown children, all of whom are married. She is excited that her family continues to grow with beautiful grandchildren that she looks forward to spending more time with – including a planned family trip to Disney World. Paula and her husband are also devoted Notre Dame fans and are anticipating attending at least one game each season.

“The most rewarding aspect of teaching for me are the relationships I have developed with both staff and students over the years. It’s such fun to have former students stop by my classroom to visit. I sometimes don’t recognize high school or college students by face because they have changed so much, but their names are etched in my brain and it brings back a flood of memories.” ~ Paula Riordan

Thank you Paula, for your dedication to a very fun age group of students. Your guidance and persistence helped build strong educational foundations for many young Wildcats!

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Brenda Meade

Bauerwood 3rd grade teacher

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Brenda Meade counts herself very lucky to have completed her student teaching at Bursley Elementary before she even graduated. Twice as lucky that there was a position at JPS for her upon graduation! Now, 33 years later, after she and her husband, Joe put their own three children through JPS – she still loves spending time and making memories with her Bauerwood 3rd graders daily. 

When you spend nearly your entire adult life in a community, it’s hard to pinpoint a most favorite memory, but a few might stand out. Such as the time a student’s backpack was moving, and when she asked him to open the zipper, out popped the head of a kitty cat. Another time, a mother duck and her ducklings wandered in from the courtyard at Bauerwood Elementary and decided to visit her classroom. The memories are plenty but making relationships is the best part! It’s exciting that she still has contact with many past students – from recent years, all the way to her early years of teaching.

During her time away from school, she enjoys camping, reading, and spending time with family and friends. Photography is something Brenda has always been interested in and she looks forward to developing her skills with some classes with her free time in the future. Another fun hobby she enjoys is refinishing thrift shop furniture.

“Thank you to the students, parents, and my JPS family for allowing me to have my dream job for the past 33 years.” ~ Brenda Meade

Brenda, we are so thankful you have been a part of the Jenison community for this phase in your life. We wish you the best as you have more time to pursue your interests and keep building relationships.

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Sandra Strobel Johnson

High School Social Studies Teacher

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At the age of 21, Sandra unknowingly discovered that she wanted to share her love of learning. She took a student teaching position and she knew the direction of her life had changed forever.  

She will tell you, “I have never looked back. Forty-four years later, I still love my work with young people, trying to ignite passion and encourage truthful self-reflection. I truly get a “kick” out of high schoolers.  I will miss the daily interaction with my wonderful, sometimes challenging, young adults. Many have left an indelible imprint on my brain and soul. Others have pushed me beyond my planned presentations to think more deeply and question more fully.  My life has been enhanced by their presence in it.”

“Few have been blessed with a job that provided joy, laughter, even some tears, as well as intellectual inquiry, and a chance to share with amazing teenagers my passion for psychology, sociology, and CAL (education through cross-age learning).  Teachers are required to write yearly goals. Throughout my career, my first goal was always to simultaneously engage my students’ hearts and brains while allowing them to discover their unique contribution to the world. As I told them frequently, no two people have the same finger prints.  Even identical twins have different prints. I do not believe this is an accident. The world is awaiting their own unique touch.”

“To my many students, it was an honor and privilege to serve as your teacher.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness that this chapter of my life is coming to a close.” ~ Sandra Strobel Johnson

“I hope I have illuminated my small corner of the world with intellectual curiosity, passion, and a love of learning, enabling my students to shine their internal light on their corners of the world.  The future lies in their hands. I am proud to be an educator nurturing students and deepening their commitment to enhance their world.”

Sandra, thank you for pouring yourself into your students and your willingness to let them fill you as well. We wish you the best as you find time to travel, read, learn even more and spend time loving on your two daughters and two grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Buddies on the Bus

Last fall, a conversation was started by a concerned parent. One that I’m sure many of you have experienced within your own family. How much technology is too much? And while devices and access to technology can be good (you’re probably reading this on a pocket sized device right now), how do we protect our younger students from dangerous activities and content, and promote positive alternatives to screen time? And as an administrator, how can we support best practices while our students are in our care?

After months of research and conversations, I am happy to support our Jenison transportation team as they have introduced a “No Electronics” rule for our elementary school buses. Our district decided to allow the students to keep their devices in their backpacks (eliminating the potential for lost/stolen items or inappropriate use); and saw this as the perfect opportunity to go one step further to give the students something different to occupy their time.

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Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 1.17.25 PMI’m excited that a simple yet impactful solution was born. Working with the Transportation team on this idea, Kristy Rogalla, JPS Director of Curriculum followed the ‘Classroom Library’ strategy and worked with Scholastic to provide 25 buses with bins of books for the students to read while on the road.  

The bin contains books from a wide range of reading selections, appropriate for Kindergarten through 6th grade. Accomodating all readers including comics/short stories, nonfiction and more  for even the shortest bus rides. It is exciting to continue to encourage a passion for reading and life long learning; we’re already seeing very positive reactions and an outpouring of parent support.

140798462e0b154610057ef1cc788fd81427c3daProviding books for all students has encouraged them to read to themselves or with their seat partner and teachers in the classrooms have been hearing about which books they are choosing while on the bus. Bus drivers report that students have been excited to board the bus and get the books they want! The book bins are available during the traditional before and after school bus routes as well as field trips and any other times the buses are in action.

MIII4628After implementing this program, one driver shared that it was the first time since the beginning of this year that the older grade students were engaging in conversation and actually getting to know each other rather than being glued to their screens. Overall, this change has created a calmer atmosphere as students are not clamoring over the seats to see what other students are watching, listening to or playing on their gadgets.

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Jill Brower, Penguin bus driver

Jill Brower, Jenison mom and driver of the Penguin bus for El Puente and Kids First, considers herself a concerned parent when it comes to technology and is grateful for the book bins. She loves to see the excitement on the kids’ faces when they get on to see which book they can get next – as they are swapped out weekly. Older students on her bus are embracing the concept as well – often bringing their own books from home and sharing with friends. She has had a great year with her students and she loves getting to know them and creating a respectful riding environment. She has introduced “Whisper Wednesdays” – so students can read aloud but only by whispering. “It sometimes lasts just a few minutes but the kids all get a kick out of it and some students ask if we can do Whisper Wednesdays on other days too! I love my students, we have so much fun and I’m happy to see them engaging each other more and diving into the books!”

One of my favorite outcomes of this change comes from the Penguin and the Dino busses who are reporting a grassroots ‘book buddy’ program starting to form. Older students showing interest in sitting up front with the younger kids to interact with them and read to them. Readers are leaders and readers are who we are in Jenison – whether we’re in the classroom or on the road!!

It is our fundamental belief that the successful education of our students is dependent on a positive partnership between parents, teachers, and administrators. When you think of all the obvious school partners and resources, please don’t forget the support teams and your child’s bus driver! I am proud that our transportation team and our 30+ daily drivers are every bit of an extension of the commitment I feel for our students in regards to their academics and mental health and wellness.

Get connected with all the news from Jenison Transportation.

Transportation Services Letter to Parents – New Electronics Rule

Learn more about our Jenison Classroom Libraries.

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Silly Staff Supporting Students

Friday nights are great for family fun around our community, and April 12 was no exception! We have seriously smart educators at JPS who aren’t afraid to let their hair down and get silly for a good cause. Staff members of Sandy Hill and Kids First engaged in a good old fashioned basketball game – along with a few crazy twists. Brandon Graham (principal of the Jenison High School) and I had a great time – not to mention some of the best seats in the house acting as referees for the event.

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The Sandy Hill Hot Shots were really dominating the court until the last minute when the Kids First Krew had a come back and won by 1 point in the end! Families in the stands brought their posters and were cheering alongside the kazoo band. The players persevered through silly antics like playing with oven mitts, dressing up in costumes, swapping the basketball for a football! It was one surprise after another and the energy was high! The students really loved joining the staff on the floor for a full court dance party! The reason behind the fun was to bring awareness to and raise money for the Jenison Parent Liaison program.

140109493dc194d009e64a2e454cedb1ba36ac66.jpg“Our mission is to promote student success by building bridges between home, school and the community. Events like these are so amazing as we see time and time again, the community show up and take care of their own in a big way.” says Mary Veldink, Jenison Parent Liaison. “Funding for our services comes from grant money and the generosity of the community. We are constantly overwhelmed by the support of the community to make a difference for the Jenison families we serve.”

With a donation of nearly $2,000, Sara Melton, Principal of Sandy Hill calls the night a success. “We’re proud to be able to support the Parent Liaison program with this fundraiser as they do so much for the community, including Sandy Hill and Kids First families. We had such a great turnout! It was a tough competition and a fun night!”

If you would like to connect with the Jenison Parent Liaison team, you can learn more here: Meet the Jenison Parent Liaisons and check out their website. They also offer a monthly newsletter that is packed with family resource ideas. Currently, their largest requests have come for food, gas cards and mental health services/counseling. Going strong in their second year, I am incredibly grateful for this connection to our student families and for the loving outreach the Parent Liaison team.


Elise Meeusen – 3rd grader at El Puente, dressed up in her El Puente tee shirt and attended the game with her grandparents. “It was so fun seeing our teachers be so silly! They were playing basketball but shooting tennis balls and footballs – and we still won!”
Maelynn Gamble – 4th grader at Sandy Hill had a great time sitting with her friends Carmen and Harleigh. “I thought it was hilarious when they were trying to play with the tiny tennis ball! It was very funny! I busted out so many moves on the dance floor too. We had a great time!”
Julie Betancourt – Kindergartner at El Puente attended the game with her family.
“I had so much fun cheering for Mr. Gingerich and my teachers! They were doing the silliest things! And I can’t believe Mrs. Giere had to crack an egg on her head!”

ABC’s of Life

Rosewood 4th graders Ben, Adelynn, Jaxson and Jocelyn surely have mastered the alphabet over the years. This year, they are being challenged to look at the ABC’s through a different lens.

Drawing inspiration from a piece of art hanging in his office, Rosewood Principal, Luke Ver Beek began a weekly school wide challenge. Beginning with morning announcements, he introduces a theme and encourages students and staff to embrace the alphabet in a new way.

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Jocelyn Brown

Jocelyn Brown was a member of the elementary cast of the recent high school musical, Mary Poppins. When the class was working on the theme “eXpress your gratitude”, she knew she wanted to write a letter of appreciation to her high school theatre mentor. “It makes you feel good because you know they will be happy when they receive your letter. I feel like this makes us more bonded. Of course, my teacher made me do it but when I started writing, I couldn’t stop and I didn’t have enough room!”

Jocelyn also remembered having good conversations with her mom during the “Forgive” theme week and they enjoyed dinner out and rollerblading for an “Unplugged” evening.

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Jaxson McBride and Ben Osterink agree that “Build” was the best week!

Jaxson Mc Bride loves to make stuff and draw. He really liked that he had an ‘assignment’ to play with his legos. “Sometimes I get busy, it was fun to be reminded of how much I love my legos. I also liked the “Try Something New Challenge”. I want to make plans to be outside more.” Ben Osterink likes to build forts and play legos. He even let his sister help him build a big lego house.

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Adelynn Brown

Adelynn Brown took the “Unplugged” challenge seriously and decided to spend time outdoors instead of watching television after school. “Sometimes watching too much TV can give you a headache so I’m glad I’m outside playing basketball more now. I play basketball on recess too so I’m glad I feel like I’m getting better. Sometimes my mom parks in the way of the basketball hoop so I climb our tree instead which is also fun.”

Other staff and student favorite themes over the year include:

V=Vote… Rosewood has two fish who call the library home. The kids really enjoyed voting on the fish names. There was also a good life lesson in the fact, that just because they liked one name, didn’t mean the majority did.

T=Try something new… Mr. Ver Beek did the announcements via video for the week. Teachers noticed students talking to their friends throughout the week about new foods, new activities, new games, even new friendships.

S=Stretch… Teachers and students were challenged to try yoga and mindfulness.

As the year is winding down, the Rosewood Wildcats have completed their alphabet challenge and are revisiting two letters per week. The staff and students have really enjoyed the ABC’s of Life project. I love that some weeks they were trying something new and other weeks they revisited some very good old fashioned basics. Thank you Mr. Ver Beek and Rosewood teachers for offering our students a well rounded study of the alphabet!
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Mr. Ver Beek eXpresses gratitude for teachers and staff with sweets and treats!

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ABC’s of Life by Little Truths Studio

 

Trading Textbooks for Broomball and Bunk Beds

Milestones abound with each school year and grade completed. Arguably, 6th grade seems to be one of the most exciting and transformative. For the last 20 years, leaving the classroom and going camping with classmates has been one of those much anticipated experiences for our Jenison 6th graders.

All students are given the opportunity to attend camp at some point during their 6th grade year. Each student comes with a unique life story; and we find time and again that the shared social and experiential education aspects of camp helps draw the students closer, allowing friendships to develop and compassion and understanding to grow.

1383307166f1e61842c61877dd33d4ec3d7faff9Although, this year’s Bauerwood trip was scheduled for the end of February and they started their camp week at 29 degrees upon arrival; the class experienced an amazing 4 days together with their classmates and teachers.

Bedtime came pretty easy at the end of some very busy days. Outdoor activities included broom ball, snow tubing, archery, team-building exercises and campfires. Indoor fun included ropes courses, group games like capture the flag and glow dodge ball and so much more!

In true Wildcat fashion, our amazing Jenison staff goes above and beyond to invest in their students. Enjoying the experience alongside them, encouraging them to have fun and be fully engaged while they unplug from technology and escape the average routine of their every day lives. Some camp activities are just plain fun, while others are challenging and require that the students stretch themselves and give their best effort. All while in a supporting environment – getting to know each other (and themselves) better with each task they accomplish.

Many students are stretched beyond their comfort zone, often making the experience a pivotal moment for students as they grow leaps and bounds in self-confidence. If you know a Jenison 6th grader, share in their excitement and ask about camp!

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The Bauerwood staff had a great time connecting with their students at camp.

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The junior counselors are former Bauerwood students. The current Jenison High School students were very excited to partner with the teachers and Grace Adventure staff to create an awesome camp experience like they had when they were 6th graders.

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Lansing Lessons for 4th Grade

Challenging concepts taught solely within the four walls of a classroom can often leave students uninspired and disengaged. Our community of 4th grade educators understand that, and one of the highlights of their year is taking advantage of real life learning through an exciting field trip to Lansing.

In preparation, the class studied a preview of what they would be experiencing during image1-3the trip. This included: a review of the three branches of government – how they work, how they differ, an overview of Michigan congress members – how bills are developed and passed, some focus on the current governor, and an overview of the time periods of Michigan history. Setting the stage for the visit increased the impact of the trip tenfold as students consistently made (excited) solid connections from the classroom to the tours of both the State Capitol building and the Michigan History Museum.

Many students have never been in such a historic building before and were in awe of the architecture and ornate decorations that all have symbolic meaning. When students discover that the floor in the rotunda is made of glass, they are often a little intimidated, but docents quickly put their mind at ease: the 976 squares of glass are held in place by a cast iron frame, making the floor strong enough to hold over 40 tons of weight! They also find that the best view all the way to the top of the dome can be found by laying flat on your back.

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The students soaked in the breathtaking view 180 feet above them. The stars on the top center are actually the size of a human hand.

Students were really excited to learn that our state politicians actually do work in Lansing and that it wasn’t just a fancy building for show. The group had the chance to go on the senate floor and spend a few minutes asking Senator Roger Victory some questions about his job.

Representative Luke Meerman was in the office that day as well, and he gave students some wonderful advice about never giving up on their dreams.

 

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Bursley 4th graders standing on the floor of the Senate with Senator Roger Victory, member of the Michigan Senate for the 30th Senate District

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Bursley 4th graders with State Representative Luke Meerman, member of the Michigan House of Representatives for the 88th District.

After the Capitol tour, the group went to the Michigan History Museum. Students were intrigued by the history of  “logging” in Michigan and spent time debating logistics of how it was transported before cars and trucks. Other favorite museum exhibits include feeling what a horse and buggy ride was like, feeling animal pelts from the fur trade, walking through a mine, and interacting with an early 1900’s classroom. Students take back valuable information and experiences from the trip and draw on those as they dive deeper into Michigan History and Government in the coming months.

I’m so thankful that experiential education through real world exploration is a reality for our students. These hands-on experiences help our students gain perspective and develop critical thinking skills along with academic learning. These are lessons that will stay with them for a lifetime and strengthen their understanding in the classroom. 

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There are nine acres of hand-painted decorative art throughout the building, sharing stories from Michigan’s past. It’s a lot to take in!

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At the Capitol, the students had the opportunity to see where legislature meets for session.

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The students enjoyed a successful Lansing trip!

 

Surfing with Sharks

img_1691In January, the fifth grade ACT students got busy diving into their exciting new learning exploration; and I’m quite pleased to report it goes much deeper than that popular earworm song that has swept the nation!

They were introduced to their ‘Surfing with Sharks’ unit and transformed themselves into Icthyologists (ik-thee-OL-o-jist). ACT Teacher, Dr. Julie Clark, aims to provide a rich environment of full immersion in their topic and these few weeks of being a “person who studies sharks” has been an exciting and engaging experience for all. Not to mention, this is an opportunity that most students wouldn’t have exposure to until high school or college!

One of the first activities included “adopting a shark” from the Ocearch website to track and watch throughout the unit. The class also read the book, Shark Lady, a true story that highlights the life and work of Eugenie Clark, a renowned ichthyologist known for both her research on shark behavior and her dedication to changing the common misconceptions people have about sharks. 

This was a great way to lay the groundwork of learning about these fascinating, and often misunderstood, creatures. After spending some time introducing their “adopted” sharks to the class through a short Google Slides presentation, the students enjoyed an opportunity to watch an Eyewitness movie about sharks in class.img_1689

Taking their research a little bit deeper, the students set off to learn about a specific species of shark and create a Weebly website on which to display what they learn. They also used Khan Academy to begin some computer coding lessons; skills they would use to include their own animation that they create using Java Script.

Current events informed the unit as well; students recently watched this news story about how research into the shark genome is helping scientists with cancer research. They have 50% more DNA than we do, and because of this, the shark’s DNA is constantly repairing itself to prevent gene mutations that can cause disease, like cancer. Helping students to see the relevance of their study and connecting those learnings to real life inspires students to become activists and learn more.

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 5.09.02 AMThe shining moment of wearing the Icthyologist ‘hat’, is the dissection at the end of the unit. In order to be prepared for this, the class spent time learning about the external and internal anatomy of the dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias). To start, the students learned about the anatomical directions that scientists and those in the medical field use when referring to different areas of an organism’s body. Then spent time exploring the shark’s internal, external anatomy and special sensing mechanisms (helping them detect movements in the water). Students were also challenged to put together a three-dimensional model showing the various internal organs. All of this laying the groundwork for a successful dissection.

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img_1690Dr. Clark loves to push the comfort level of her students in the name of learning new things,  and for some, dissection day itself was a challenging experience. As the classroom transformed into a laboratory, she takes the opportunity to remind the class of the ACT theme this year: Challenge Accepted!…being committed to finding learning in all experiences, and ultimately, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. The challenge was accepted and curiosity took over.

All of the shark specimens that were dissected were females, thus, students learn about reproduction in these animals as well. Spiny Dogfish sharks are ovoviviparous — meaning that the embryo develops from an egg inside the mother and is nourished by the yolk sac, not the mother, but the mother still has a live birth.  With parent volunteer helpers, the students took their knowledge and identified the body parts they had studied and were so excited to find the surprise of little shark pups when they were dissecting! One group found 5 baby shark pups! As sharks do not chew their food – students also discovered a fully intact fish! After they completed the students could also do some extra exploration on the gills and eyeballs.

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Intact Fish – Baby Shark (Doo Doo) – Yolk Sac

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I am thankful for devoted educators like Dr. Clark, who strive to open the minds of students to an array of learning possibilities, while challenging them to grow academically, socially, and emotionally. Our academically talented students are constantly provided learning opportunities that present them with the chance to explore, create, problem solve, and above all, try new things. I am so pleased that we have continued to invest in providing unique and thought-provoking learning opportunities for these children. It is always very exciting to see what she has going on in her classroom. Learn more about ACT here.

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Cultivating a Love for Reading

There’s often talk about how teachers pour so much time and energy into decorating and designing their classroom experience. While some may think this is simply for fun, there is deep purpose and intention behind every detail. We know in order to stay true to our mission to build generations of lifelong learners, a love for learning and a culture of literacy must be developed as a foundational principle right from the start. So it should come as no surprise to hear that the recent addition of our Classroom Libraries is much more than a Type-A pleasing, color coordinated, neatly organized, book-nook tucked in the corner of the classroom.

Kristy Rogalla, our District Curriculum Director and a team of our teachers and literacy coaches, have been working behind the scenes on a multi-year journey to provide each and every classroom with a mini library of its own. Many hours were dedicated to the selection process, ordering, receiving, and cataloging long before they were delivered and teachers could start their organizing fun! Efforts started at the elementary level, and the focus continues to grow and expand into classroom libraries for all kids, in all classrooms.

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1st graders in Kelly Osterink’s class at Rosewood Elementary enjoy choosing their own books for independent, structured reading time.

Two years ago, the team began to build robust classroom libraries and has worked to add to them this year, with future plans to continue. Considering state education expectations; book selections have been targeted for high interest books, at a range of reading levels (meeting students where they are) and choices that include fiction, non-fiction, science and social studies. Diversity is a key focus so students can see themselves in books and find reading enjoyable and relatable. The team also plans to add more interactive read-aloud choices for teachers and student books to support the work in Units of Study for Reading. 

132669468cd79bec71be52823f973543ea171940.jpg“The development of the classroom libraries also helps for when new teachers are hired or teachers move grade levels. This allows for rich student experiences with a variety of texts in whichever classroom family they may belong.  Equity is important in this journey.” – Kristy Rogalla, JPS Director of Curriculum

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 John Scholma’s 4th graders from Bursley Elementary have been devouring new books from the classroom library.

We have heard great stories of success with all the books that have become available. Our teachers have responded gratefully for the resources and have seen a love for reading that is organically growing. Students of all ages are engaged and motivated to read, not necessarily for a reward, but for the love of reading. We find the Classroom Library project to be an uncomplicated way for us to invest in our students daily and further our mission of building generations of lifelong learners. I applaud the efforts of Kristy and her team over the last few years and look forward to seeing this foundational program grow and evolve; setting our students up for success at school and in life.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Harry S. Truman

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Some of Jane Brown’s High School English Students; we have seen students of all ages growing a love and passion for reading with all the books that have become available in the Classroom Library program.

 

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Junior High Spanish Immersion students in Clare Chamberlin’s class have really enjoyed their classroom library to sharpen their second language skills. 

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Lots of planning, ordering and sorting work is done before our amazing JPS teachers get their hands and creative brains busy on their custom classroom libraries! These pictures are from this past summer; High school shipment being organized and new Units of Study curriculum ready for delivery.

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