Rosewood 5th Graders Bring History to Life!

Every year our JPS 5th graders research, create, and present their very own historical wax museums! You could certainly feel the [nervous?] energy in the building last week as the Rosewood 5th graders prepared to wow parents and visitors with their knowledge about figures from American history.

According to 5the grade teachers, Doug Diekman, Mary Beth Vachon, and Marietta Schoolmaster, “Our 5th graders research their character and create a Venn diagram, timeline, word cloud, informational sheet, map, and even draw a self-portrait. This is all displayed on a tri-fold poster board and a short speech is created based on their character and presented in first-person point of view.”

Teachers enjoy watching the kids take ownership of their characters as well as the information needed to make a great presentation. They also like the fact that the project encompasses multiple aspects of the required 5th grade curriculum. “The beautiful part of this project is that there are multiple common core curriculum standards that are met. From reading standards, writing standards, speaking and listening standards, as well as social studies standards. It ties many learning experiences into one.”

The students look forward to the event because it’s a natural extension of the expectations their teachers have of them each day. “This project reiterates our daily lessons of work ethic and accountability with the fact that they know their work will be on display. It also helps connect when they realize that their parents and the “whole school” is coming to watch them.”

“The minutes leading up the first “performance” are our favorite. The kids are getting nervous/excited as they get their costumes ready and places are being set. We gather the kids all up for a “pep-talk” and then walk silently through the “tunnel” of parents as they go their spot in the “museum”. We give a countdown and they all become “wax” for the next hour.” During that hour, guests are encouraged to visit each historical figure to hear a short speech prepared by the student. These are the moments that the students shine as they teach their knowledge to interested audiences!

These 5th grade teachers know that this project is impactful far beyond a history lesson. “There are so many life skills that take place through this process and the confidence that is gained when they are done is immeasurable. Many students are intimidated by this project when it is introduced, but through their perseverance and grit, as in life…a sense of accomplishment is felt by all.”

“The importance and significance of this project simply sums up what is done on a daily basis here in 5th grade. This is just an opportunity for parents and community members to see and hear about the academic and life skills that are taught as students continue to #getbettereveryday.”

Congratulations to all of our JPS 5th graders! We know you had to be brave and creative for tackling this project and you did it! Thank you to all of our 5th grade teachers as well for demonstrating creativity and grit in the classroom for our students everyday!

Jenison Celebrates Autism!

According to the latest information released from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 59 children has Autism in the United States [April 26, 2018].

Incredible ECC teacher, Tricia Maday + a student

Here at JPS, we do all we can to learn the unique needs of our kiddos on the Autism Spectrum and support them to have productive, challenging, and fun days at school just like every other kid! One of the ways that kids and families are supported is through the Autism Family Network which exists to serve the districts in the more eastern portion of Ottawa County.

Kristen Gray, JPS Teacher Consultant for students on the Autism Spectrum, says, “Autism Family Network was created when Jennifer Breen, who had previously been a board member of Autism Support of West Shore, observed that families from eastern Ottawa County participated in meetings and special events less frequently than those families who resided in western Ottawa County.  While events have been organized to be easily accessible to families in Jenison, Coopersville, Hudsonville, and Allendale, AFN welcomes all who would like to attend.  The majority of families involved are from Jenison, Coopersville, and Hudsonville, however we also have members from other districts in Ottawa County and a number of districts in Kent County. ”

Parapro Extraordinaire, Diana Zeitunian with a student

In an effort to support and engage the families they serve, Autism Family Network hosts a wide variety of opportunities such as bi-monthly parent seminars on a variety of topics*.  “There are also monthly family fun events, which allow families to try activities, most often free of charge, without the concern of a meltdown or spending money should a child not want to participate.”

Finally, to support parents who often rely on each other for advice, a listening ear, an understanding nod, or any form of support, monthly parent gatherings are scheduled at places like Panera, where parents can gather to talk.  “During the summer and school breaks, the locations of the parent gatherings may change in an effort to accommodate parents who may struggle with child care.”

Stupendous 6th Grader, Monae William

Parents who would like to join the mailing list should visit www.myautismfamilynetwork.org.  Joining the email list does not commit a family, but does ensure updates will be received regarding future events.

One of the ways that the Autism Family Network supports families is through an annual event called, “Celebrate Autism”. While the specifics of this even change each year, the purpose remains the same. “This event is an opportunity for families to celebrate Autism and what it means to the AFN family as a whole. One of the highlights of the event is the distribution of the Essential Piece Awards. These awards are given to individuals nominated by families involved in AFN. Each year, families have the opportunity to nominate one person who has made a difference for their child. During the event, nominees are recognized and given a personalized plaque thanking them for contributing to the Autism community.”

This year, six JPS employees, 1 current student, and 1 JPS retiree were selected as award winners!

Monae William – 6th grader at Bursley
Kate Walker – Teacher in ASD program at Bursley
Sara Hayes – Teacher in ASD program at Bursley
Tricia Maday – Teacher in ASD program at the ECC
Jenny vanBiljon – 4th grade teacher at Sandy Hill
Diana Zeitunian – Paraprofessional at the Junior High
Salena Corner – Social worker at Rosewood, Bursley, and Bauerwood
Les Rowsey – Retired vocal music teacher from the high school – now teaching individual music lessons

Thank you to these amazing JPS team members! Our students on the Autism Spectrum are more successful because of you, but our district and our JPS family is better too! If you see one of these  incredible people around school, be sure to tell them “way to go” and, of course, “thank you”!

Brilliant Bursley teacher, Kate Walker + a her student

Super Social Worker Salena Corner with a parent

Sensational Sara Hayes + a student

Magnificent Music Teacher Les Rowsey + a student

* Currently, these seminars take place at Jenison Junior High, in the media center, on Thursday evenings.

Terracycle Turns Trash into Money for Bauerwood!

Parent volunteer extraordinaire, Becky Hilbelink, grew up hearing about the importance of recycling. Her father worked for waste companies for most of his working life and taught Becky and her siblings the value of recycling what we use and using things that be recycled. So it makes sense that Becky is the one responsible for bringing the familiar Terracycle bins to the Bauerwood entrance.

“I noticed TerraCycle printed on a carton of CapriSuns advertising that you could earn money for your child’s school.  I went to TerraCycle’s website, did some research on it, and then brought the idea to the Bauerwood parent club to help earn some money for the things that the parent club funds.”

Terracycle is an innovative recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste. Sponsoring companies pay for the shipping of the recyclables to TerraCycle, but schools must meet a certain weight requirement before shipping the items if you want credit for them.  TerraCycle pays 1-2 cents per piece that is recycled.  Twice a year checks are sent to schools and non-profits that have earned credit. Becky is willing to go above and beyond to do her dad proud!  “I sort the recyclables and store them in my garage until I have enough to send in.  My biggest challenge is finding large enough boxes to send in the recyclables!”

Students have readily jumped on board with their participation. “The students have done a great job recycling during the lunch periods.  It also helps when I have little contests to encourage the kids to remember to recycle.” The students can easily connect to the benefits of this program, “It helps earn money for the school.  I explain that the money is used for the playground balls, jump ropes, PE equipment, scissors in the classroom, all the “fun” worksheets they do, construction paper, art supplies, etc.” Of course, some kiddos simply understand they are doing something valuable, “Some of them also realize the importance of keeping trash out of the landfills as much as we can to help the planet.”

The different types of recyclables are organized into “brigades” and Becky is intentional about choosing brigades that are easily accessible for students during the lunch period. She also encourages students to bring in items from home. Currently, Bauerwood participates in five brigades, “The current ones are toothpaste/toothbrush products, Go-Go Squeez/squeezable fruit pouches, cereal bags/liners, personal care items [like shampoo, deodorant, soap containers, etc.], and snack/chip bags.” [Note: Unfortunately, Capri Sun discontinued their participation with Terracyle this year so Becky is currently on a waiting list for a different drink pouch brigade. Stay tuned!]

Since the inception of the Terracylce program at Bauerwood, the students have donated the following items:

Toothpaste tubes/brushes: 1194
Drink Pouches: 34,214
Go-Go Squeez/fruit pouches: 3431
Cereal Bags: 1112
Personal Care Items: 1299
Snack/Chip bags: 4841
Lunch kits: 401
Tape dispensers: 97
Glue containers: 469
If you’d like to join the Bauerwood brigades please bring your items to the bins in the lobby! If you’d like to inquire or start your Terracycle program, check out their website!

“I think it’s important for people to be conscientious about the impact we have on the environment and to do what they can to help preserve/protect it for future generations.  For example, I love going to the ocean, but don’t enjoy all the trash on the beaches.  It also allows the kids and the community to give back to the school in an easy, tangible way.  How easy is it to put your trash in a different container versus another?  It’s a simple way to earn money to buy the supplies necessary to continue providing a quality education for our most precious resource, our children.”

Thank you, Becky, for all you do for our Jenison students, teachers, and staff! We hope that our kids are taking what they’ve learned from this program into their daily lives and beyond!

Star Student: Amaya Rodriguez

When Sandy Hill principal, Sara Melton, was asked to nominate a Star Student it didn’t take her long to select Amaya Rodriguez!

Amaya is a 6th grader who is heavily involved in school life. She serves as a safety, helping to keep our youngest elementary students safe and taken care of, she was selected for the honors choir and works with a younger student with special needs.

She reports that her favorite subject is math because, “I’m really good at it.” She is also a talented artist who loves to draw people she sees in her mind and Amaya is also beginning to practice photography with her phone which she uses to take pictures of landscapes and then draws illustrations from the pictures.

Amaya would like to give a shout out to Mrs Messinger, her 4th grade teacher, because she remembers that Mrs Messinger requested to have Amaya in her class after seeing her play soccer at recess with the boys. “I’m not really a “girly-girl”; I don’t like to wear dresses but I love to play soccer and football.”

Amaya lives with her mom, younger brother, grandma, grandpa, and their dog Shiketa. She takes her inspiration for being a star from her mom, and she has learned to “be really strong”, “be a leader” and “know my boundaries”. [Maybe Amaya could help us adults with these!] She knows that being a leader isn’t easy but important. “A leader helps other people do their best. They look for the best people to work with and be friends with.”

She is looking forward to next year and braving the halls of Jenison Junior High – she’s actually been looking forward to this since the third grade! “In third grade, school became my second home and getting to junior high meant I was closer to my future.”

Amaya plans to pursue a future in music, going to college and majoring in piano performance and vocalization. She wants to encourage other students that “it doesn’t matter if you think you can or you can’t. The best think you can do is try your best.”

It is easy to understand why Amaya was selected to represent Sandy Hill and all JPS elementary students this year. Adds Mrs Melton, “Amaya is a unique individual who has a huge heart.  She is inquisitive, sincere, and a hard worker.  She brings great energy and encouragement with her.  We appreciate Amaya and know that she has a bright future!”

Congratulations, Amaya! Your kind spirit and confidence are an inspiration to all of us and we can’t wait to see where they take you! We’re proud to call you a Jenison Wildcat!

 

Volunteers Keep Elementary Libraries Humming!

Diane Avink, Carolyn DeJong, Jan Staley, Becky Hilbelink

Elementary Media Specialist, Jan Staley, has many amazing superpowers: she can recommend the perfect book for any age, lesson, or situation, she can bring a smile to a student’s face by knowing what they’ll love, and she knows every story in the library inside and out. But there’s one thing she can’t do: she can’t run all five elementary libraries on her own, especially on a part-time schedule. But every superhero knows you need a sidekick, and Jan has 65! Every elementary school in Jenison has dedicated library volunteers who work every week to make sure our students have access to our amazing books!

Bauerwood volunteers, Carolyn DeJong, Diane Avink, and Becky Hilbelink have been volunteering in the libraries for between nine and thirteen years! They all got their start when a note went home asking for parents to volunteer in classrooms and they eventually made their way to the library – and haven’t left.

Becky worked as a special education teacher and took a step back when she had children so she knows the importance of school libraries. She also volunteered in her daughter’s classroom and found herself at home in the library. When she first started, her son [now in fifth grade] was in Kindergarten and he when he wasn’t serving as the library mascot of sorts, he was sleeping the back room. [It takes a lot of energy to be a mascot!] Becky is a dedicated Bauerwood volunteer outside of the library as well. She serves as the volunteer coordinator, organizes Watchdog Dads, runs the recycling program Teracycle, and she still volunteers for the classroom teachers.

Longtime Bauerwood volunteers Nell & Joe Abramajtys

The love of the work is what keeps these volunteers coming back year after year. Diane says, “It’s fun to watch the kids grow up.” And Becky adds that her passion for making sure kids experience an actual book in their hand [as opposed to a tablet or other technology] and has been known to dash over to her house – next door to Bauerwood – and grab a book from her personal library if the school doesn’t have it and a student is requesting it. Carolyn says that she loves getting Kindergarten students excited about reading in the hopes that their passion carries on over the years. And all the volunteers know books to recommend if someone comes to them and doesn’t love reading- yet.

Oftentimes, students will ask the volunteers for recommendations. Becky loves to suggest Harriot the Spy, Mr Popper’s Penguins, and Boxcar Children. Diane loves the Little House on the Prairie books. They love to ask the students when they return the books, “tell me what you thought” and see the excitement in their eyes at having discovered something new – especially the classics.

The library volunteers across the district stay very busy with a variety of tasks. As new books arrive, certain volunteers like Diane are in charge of cataloging them in the computer, checking books in and out, shelving, inventory, occasionally reading to classes, managing library cards, running overdue reports, organizing incentive programs like JPS Reads, and helping every student feel comfortable in the library.

Carolyn feels it’s especially important to help students cultivate a love of books and she takes the time to notice which students might need a little extra encouragement in this area. Becky agrees, saying that the library is a safe place for kids to come and explore. “Kids love coming to the library and it’s a wonderful connection to the community. A love of reading can start with the kids and draw parents in.”

Ms Staley knows that the personality of the library volunteers help shape the experience for children. For example, Sandy Hill parent volunteer Amanda VanMaanen begins each week with a whiteboard drawing straight from a page of a great book. Volunteers spark interest in books for students and make sure they know there is always a story to meet their passions. “Our volunteers love kids and love books. Kids have graduated and come back saying that they loved reading because of their experiences in their JPS libraries.”

Thank you Ms Staley, for dedicating your life to books, reading, and the wonderful ways reading enriches our lives! Thank you to all of the 65 JPS library volunteers who make a class trip to library something to look forward to! You are keeping our students interested and engaged in reading, changing their lives forever!

Sandy Hill Students Work to Ease Hunger in Jenison!

Ten years ago this October, Cheri Honderd realized that some kids in Jenison didn’t have enough food to eat, especially on the weekends.

Drawing on her experience as a Kids Hope Director, Cheri knew that through school and community partnerships, something could be changed. Cheri and her friends at a local church decided to take action and – starting right here at Sandy Hill – nineteen students were given a bag of food for the weekends, privately placed in their backpacks during the school day and Hand2Hand Ministries was born.

“The nation was going through a recession and it was impacting her community. For the first time in decades the city of Jenison, along with neighboring communities, was facing a hunger crisis. Many former middle-income families were not able to feed their own children. The number of free or reduced lunch participants in one school district went from 5 to 30 percent in one year.” When Cheri learned that children in her local schools were hungry, it brought back painful memories of her own childhood when her parents struggled for employment.

Deanne Messinger, Cailey Mulder, Cheri Honderd, Jenny van Biljon, Myra Baine, Samantha Inman

Those nineteen students at Sandy Hill paved the way for the nearly 4,900 students in 8 counties and 145 schools across West Michigan to be fed all weekend and better prepared for their school week!

This fall the students at Sandy Hill gave back to Hand2Hand by raising money through their annual Change 2 Change Hunger campaign [which takes places across the district]. The money raised through this initiative at Sandy Hill was enough to purchase 500 lunches that were packed by Kindergartners and their 4th grade buddies.

Kindergarten teacher, Myra Baine says, “It’s neat to see the program come full circle like this. There is local, childhood hunger in Jenison and we are trying to meet that need.”

Packing lunches is not the end of this project! Mrs Baine secured an additional $250 grant from the Ottawa Area ISD to round out their project-based learning project. “As a class we will collaborate four more times [4th and K] to engage in lessons to help solve a real world problem.  During these lessons students will work in small groups to  create a plan and model/present to an authentic audience.” Their audience will consist of representatives from United Bank and Chapel Pointe Church who will hear the students’ proposal to use their parking lots as part of the potential solution to the next phase! [Keep an eye out for more details on this soon!]

The students have been eager to learn how they can help and participate in problem-solving and learning lifelong relational skills. “The reaction to this problem-based learning from our students is enthusiasm, excitement and desire to do their best by working together with a cross age learning environment. In my Kindergarten class, the ability to work together is a big emphasis this year.  Working with others who may or may not agree with you to get a concrete solution is something we work on, on a daily basis.  We work on it in our social groups during recess and free choice time and we also work on it during our academic times in reading and math groups.”

“The opportunity to have these experiences in a classroom setting is so valuable as they go out in the real world and become life long learners.  To have students start a fire in themselves to know they have power. I believe giving them experiences early and knowing that even at the young age of five and six they can make a difference and help someone else is amazing.”

You can even check out the story on Wood TV!

Thank you to our wonderful teachers for not only organizing such a powerful experience for our students, but involving them in solution-focused learning! They will see their worlds a little differently now and know they can be part of the solution! Thank you, Hand2Hand, for bringing real change to our community and empowering our learners!

 

 

Rats! Birds! Gophers! … What’s in an Owl Pellet, Alex?

You may not spend much time thinking about what owls eat, but for the past month 4th grade ACT students have been doing just that. To kick off the unit students spent the majority of their time building their background knowledge about barn owls, their physical and behavioral characteristics, and, in particular, their unique digestive tracts. [Did you know that owls are not the only birds that throw up pellets, but because the digestive juices of an owl’s stomach aren’t as acidic, owl pellets are unique in containing the bones of their previous meal along with fur, feathers, or insect parts? Yum!]

Students further prepared for their dissection by thinking of themselves as archaeologists, hypothesizing about what they might find. ACT teacher, Julie Clark shares the details: “Before dissecting the pellets, students learned all about barn owls, about trophic levels, and the spot the barn owls take in the food chain [the apex predator]. We study their unique digestive tracts to prepare for the dissection noting that owls cannot digest fur and bones, so these are regurgitated in the form of a pellet. Later in the unit, we reassembled the bones in an artistic picture, creatively writing about the barn owl’s last 24 hours.”

When our ACT students received their pellets, they made observations about the size and physical attributes as well as hypotheses about what type of animal bones they may find. Students identify the various bones they find to prepare for their artistic rendering of the owl’s prey. [BTW, Owl pellet dissection isn’t just for school anymore! Thanks to pellet.com, you can purchase your own and try this at home! What a perfect [and affordable!] way to keep the kids engaged over the summer!]

Thankfully, this won’t be the students last encounter with the fascinating owl pellet. “The owl pellet dissection is revisited, in a way, when the students get to 5th grade.  At 5th grade, the kids study sharks in a unit called Surfing with Sharks.  At the end of the unit, they dissect Spiny Dogfish Sharks.  This year, the shark dissections were AMAZING [this isn’t a typical dissection that students encounter until the high school/college level — for example, we hosted a Grand Valley Professor during one of our shark dissections as he dissects sharks with his vertebrate anatomy class].”

“After spending time reviewing how owl pellets are formed, we were able to analyze our pellets by determining their masses, creating a scientific drawing, and noting other observations. The students made predictions of how many bones they expected to find, and we even analyzed our data by finding the mean, median, mode, and range of the owl pellet masses. After this important work, the students set their sights on extracting all of the bones from their pellets. This was very exciting and the students were pleasantly surprised to see that many of their pellets
contained more than one skull [the highest number of skulls found in one pellet was 7!].”

You might think that inspecting the regurgitated dinners of barn owls was enough, but not for our ACT 4th graders! The unit culminated in a field trip to the Outdoor Discovery Center and their Dewitt Birds of Prey Center. “It was AMAZING. First, we hiked out to the Birds of Prey exhibit, noting all the adaptations that plants and animals make during the winter months. Then, students had time to view the birds at the center [all of which were injured in some way and cannot survive on their own in the wild]. They saw hawks, owls, two bald eagles, and a peregrine falcon. The staff then took us into the classroom onsite where they showed us a horned owl, peregrine falcon, and a red-tailed hawk up close. The students and parents were thrilled to learn so much about these amazing animals.”

Ms Clark knows that these types of experiences make a lasting impact on students. “I have been so proud of the work of these great fourth graders.  They learned a lot in just six class sessions.  The students’ response to the project has been great.  When students first give me “the look” when I announce that we will be dissecting “owl puke” I remind them of two of our Core Values in ACT: Stay Open and Take the Risk.  Inquirers want to know.  We learn with enthusiasm and always seek to try new things!”

“I am proud that Jenison Public Schools understands the value and importance of ACT.  Where other districts may have had to cut or scale back their programming for academically talented students, JPS has continued to invest in providing unique and thought-provoking learning opportunities for these children.  When challenging academically talented students, it is essential that students are presented with opportunities to not only learn about subjects that they wouldn’t necessarily see for a few years, but to also afford them chances to explore, create, problem solve, and above all, try new things.”  Parents can learn all about ACT here.

Thank you, Ms. Clark, for keeping our students engaged and curious! Our district is better because of the ways you’re preparing students for new experiences, problem-solving, and thinking creatively!

Let’s Read!

Did you read the Boxcar Children books as a child? They were first published in 1942 and written by Gertrude Chandler Warner about four orphaned children who create a home for themselves on an abandoned train car. Eventually, they are united with the kind [& wealthy!] grandfather who moves their beloved boxcar to his backyard so the children can use it as a playhouse. Gertrude Chandler Warner passed away in 1979 but her stories live on in a great new adventure series, starting with Journey on a Runaway Train!

Beginning February 19, you are invited to join the entire JPS family in reading this wonderful story together as a family. Your child will bring home an order form in their Friday Folder tomorrow and you can order the book for just $1! If your family reads two to three chapters each week, the story will be finished by the end of JPS Reads on March 16. Elementary Media Specialist, Jan Staley, knows how important it is to create a love of reading by practicing it as a family. “Reading together as a family, creates a strong foundation for literacy in your child’s life.” Also, by reading the same book as a community, “we help to create a shared reading experience for all of our elementary school families.”

If you, like Gertrude Chandler Warner, are intrigued by the idea of living on train car, then you will love the adventures the Alden children find themselves in this story! The children have been recruited by a secret society where they are tasked with returning ancient artifacts and treasures to their rightful locations, taking them all over the world! After finding an ancient painted turtle, they board a train to return it to New Mexico where it originated. To complicate things, however, they must deal with people who would rather the painted turtle is not returned home! Find out what happens with your entire family this month!

One difference in this reading initiative is that you won’t hear a lot about the book in your child’s classroom. “For this project, we are hoping that the value of literacy and reading out loud as a family will be carried into homes.” So parents, put on your “teacher hats” for a few minutes each night this month and join in the fun of reading together!

This story is incredibly accessible for kids of all ages. Most second and third graders will be able to read it on their own, but the story is fun for everyone. The littles will love following along with the adventures of the main characters and even your older kids will love the nostalgia of being read aloud to. It’s also a great opportunity around the dinner table to have a family book discussion about what everyone thinks might happen and highs and lows of the story so far. Your family can tailor the adventure to work for you!

We hope you will join JPS and The Boxcar Children as they take off on their latest mystery and your family finds its own adventure in reading together!

Look for the order form tomorrow and start reading on the 19th!

 

Celebrating New Teachers in the New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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