Hola! from Rosewood 1st Grade Spanish Immersion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Do you know how to follow the Group Plan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something Special to be Thankful For!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seats and Stories for Elementary Classrooms!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pinewood Design Team Takes Home the Gold!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Photo courtesy of the GH Tribune

Kindness Rocks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pinewood is a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing our new Sandy Hill Principal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dude, Where’s My Bus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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