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!

Readers are Leaders!

MIII0041Don’t be surprised if you start to see stickers all over the Jenison community soon declaring, “JPS Reads” and you’ll probably want to join in on the fun!

Curriculum Director, Kristy Rogalla, Media Specialist, Jan Staley, Bauerwood Principal, Crystal Morse and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz are partnering to capitalize on the excitement and popularity of the James and Giant Peach initiative. With this next phase, all Jenison citizens will be challenged to set their own specific reading goal and when it is reached, they receive their own cling-on letting everyone know they did it!

MIII9995According to Ms Schultz, “It will be great to drive through our district and notice all the paws displayed in the front of homes.  Our community will shine with the importance of READING!” Of course, you can also brag about your reading skills by putting your sticker on your car and give a little wave to others who’ve done the same!

But if you think this is just for our students, think again! “This is not just a school based reading program, but a way to get everyone in the community excited and involved in reading. We have talked to business leaders and also our senior citizen community members to join in the fun of showcasing our love of reading here in Jenison. Our students and community members will even have the opportunity to share favorite authors, favorite books, or even share reading photos on Twitter at #JPSReads.”

Parents – you play a critical role in your child’s interest in reading! “Together…We are Jenison!! We believe that the love of reading often starts inside of the family and as a school district we are here to grow, build upon, support, and encourage that love of reading!  Together with our families and community we are committed to continuing to foster a love of reading and learning in ALL our children.”
“Not all readers are leaders, but…All Leaders are Readers.”  – Harry Truman

This phase of JPSReads runs from January 16 – February 27 and will kick off all this week.

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Spanish Immersion Opens Doors to New Cultures and Possibilities!

The Spanish Immersion teachers at Bursley Elementary are going above and beyond to help their students incorporate their growing knowledge of the Spanish language into many aspects of their lives. Check out these four classes and their amazing lessons!

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Cover Artist Anijah Huffman

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One of the authors, Owen Cole

1st Grade, Shelly Giron

This fall, Ms. Giron’s class decided to publish their own book about their favorite animals and they went one step farther by not writing or printing it bilingually but only in Spanish! The class brainstormed lots of different animals, the reasons they like them and then wrote rough drafts and polished off original illustrations. With the help of Mr. Tamayo, the class parapro, their final drafts were completed! 29 copies of the book were ordered and everyone had a great time writing their first book together.

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Students across third grade created welcome cards and posters to welcome in refugees from other countries [coordinated through Bethany Christian Services] – our Spanish Immersion students created a Spanish version which will be used for Spanish speaking refugees who come in to make them feel welcome in a new country. Ms. DeYoung explained to her students that when she moved to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, natives of those countries extended this welcome to her and it helped her feel less nervous in a new place. 20161123_111935

We also created Spanish friendship cards/holiday cards to share with an orphanage in Mexico [where Ms DeYoung used to live and volunteer] to bring holiday cheer and kindness to the children living in the orphanage.  “Our Spanish Immersion students were eager to use their bilingual skills to spread love and kindness to other Spanish speakers both locally and abroad.  I’m so proud of them for using their skills to make the world a better place.”

image-812524th Grade, Kelli Darciaimage-81333

In Ms Darica’s class students work hard to incorporate their Spanish skills into all aspects of their curriculum.  They each have Spanish speaking pen pals that require them to write letters [a lost art?!] as well as read and translate the letters they receive. They are also learning and applying economic skills in Spanish as well!

5th Grade, Rebecca Chicklon

Students responded to the following quote: “¿Cuales puertas te abre el programa de inmersión?” / “What doors does the Spanish Immersion program open for you?” Students searched for their favorite doors from Spain and created GoogleDocs showcasing these doors and a paragraph answering the prompt. Check out a few of them below! [What a great way to practice your Spanish!]

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Cuando hace inmersión hay muchas oportunidades para la vida real, Como: empleo,ayudando al mundo.

Si usa bien es un super poder y solo toma la tiempo de escuela. Yo hice porque quería y porque,y si no yo voy a ser en sandy hill. A mi me encanta a la inmersión porque es un reto para mi cerebro para saber más que un idioma.

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En la programa de inmersión   abra muchicimas puertas.  una puerta que abre es que tenemos un buen chanse de ir a un universidad más bueno .      

Podemos viajar a lugares hisbanoblantes y ayudar y mejorar el mundo. Tambien tenemos mas opciones de donde podemos trabaja y que trabajos queremos . Y si más tade queremos aprender otra lenguage sea mucho más facil . más tarde en la vida esta programa. Es cuando tenemos trabajo y tenemos familia vamos a estar muy felizes porque hicimos una  y  mejor vida que muchas personas no tienen. Entonces niños y niñas y digan a sus amigos, mamás y papás digan a sus amigo y abuelos y abuelas sigue diciendo a todos  sobre la programa de inmersión de español.

Thank you to our amazing Spanish Immersion teachers in Jenison for helping our students be successful in so many interesting ways! We’re proud of our students who challenge themselves every day by learning in a second language!

#JPSReads!

1448499790-4841895-james_giant_peach_ticketsWhen Junior High theatre director, Holly Florian, chose James and the Giant Peach for this year’s winter performance fifth grade teachers, Michelle U’Ren knew that she wanted to read the classic story aloud to her class. She knew it would help them appreciate the show even more to be familiar with the story.

But it didn’t stay specific to Ms U’Ren’s class! It didn’t take long before a district-wide project was born! Other teachers were interested in reading the story to their classes as well and and soon, Holly, Michelle, and Jan Staley, media specialist, were organizing the first ever district-wide read aloud, which came to be known as JPS Reads!

All of the teachers are encouraged by the response so far. “The feedback from teachers, students, and parents has been really positive.  Perhaps the most exciting part is hearing the connections being made at home!  There are many stories of families discussing James and the Giant Peach during dinner and younger kids begging older siblings to tell them what happens next in the story.

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Story brainstorming in Mary Veldink’s 3rd grade Pinewood classroom

When Ms Florian was considering scripts for the junior high performance she was excited about the visual and production challenges posed by James and the Giant Peach. “[It] stood out to me right away as being a fantastic option – the story is so wonderful, and the stage version has many featured roles, which gives lots of students a chance to show off their performing skills. It will also be a technical challenge! Figuring out how to create a giant peach that rolls off the cliffs of Dover and into the Atlantic ocean is going to be a creative challenge for the entire production team.”

Not all teachers had a copy of the book but thanks to a grant from the Jenison Public Education Foundation, those teachers were provided a copy. Even our Spanish Immersion classrooms are reading the story in Spanish! In order to empower teachers, weekly emails are sent to participants offering suggestions for activities and ways to connect with other teachers in the project.  Each individual teacher can choose which activities they would like to implement within their own classroom. Lori Barr, Pinewood 6th grade teacher, is engaging students’ writing skills by having them write blog posts with their thoughts and questions. Check out their Letters to Ms Florian here

If you have ever wondered if reading at home matters, it does! “Statistics have shown that a powerful predictor of reading success is having a parent who personally reads aloud to their child 5–7 days a week. Our community read aloud, JPS Reads, will hopefully ignite the joy of reading and the community bond it builds within the classroom family…the hope is that this will then be talked about and become part of our individual family habits also.”

Congratulations to all the teachers, students and families who participated in the first JPS Read Aloud! We can’t wait for the play this January!

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*Photo courtesy of goldstar.com

Preschool Class Joins Forces with Autism Classroom!

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In a classroom at the ECC something very exciting is happening. It’s not just the amazing opportunities to learn through art and play but also the chance for students in the Great Start Readiness Preschool and those on the Autism spectrum to learn together.

Classroom teacher, Tricia Maday explains, “The ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorders] preschool classroom is very unique because it services children on the autism spectrum as well as children included in the Great Start Readiness Preschool.  The intention behind our program is to provide support to all children while using age typically developing peers to help with social and behavioral modeling.

thumb_MIII0821_1024 copy“There have been great successes witnessed already this year in just the few short months we have been in school which is exciting to see and helps build confidence in all children. As an example:

We had one student join our program recently. He had never attended any schooling and has very limited communication skills. At the beginning, he had a difficult time attending to activities and participating in lessons. Through peer modeling and implementing accommodations he is able to follow routines, transitions and attend to activities. He is now demonstrating personal care and daily living skills that we weren’t seeing initially. Another great accomplishment we have been thrilled with is his increased daily communication and demonstration of appropriate expression of emotions. These things might seem very basic but for young children it can be difficult to know the appropriate times to express these feelings and knowing how to communicate them. Every little accomplishment is a huge celebration every day.”

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Of course, creating a learning environment for fourteen four-year olds can be exciting as well as challenging: “Our students are very eager to learn and help each other, but just like any four year old child they certainly keep us on our toes. It’s important for the teacher to take time to facilitate appropriate play with peers, provide strategies for problem solving and create an environment that encourages imaginative play.”

Ms Maday is encouraged by the witnessing the growth and accomplishments that each child is achieving already this year.  “It’s amazing to witness a group of diverse children working together to accomplish their own individualized goals and become their best selves.”

“Children with autism are just like any other child. They have obstacles to overcome and things that may be difficult for them. They all have something to teach and we learn from one another. This experience has been beneficial to everyone involved. Children learn about the unique needs of others as well as their similarities. This exposure helps shape the child into a well-rounded person who is ready for the world outside of the classroom.”

Thank you Ms Maday and the ECC for providing challenging and supportive learning environments for all of our young students!

And on this Thanksgiving Day we are especially thankful for all of the wonderful teachers, staff and administration that make up Jenison Public Schools! Thank you for all you do for our community and students each day!

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Yes, You Will Use Math in the Real World!

IMG_5505 copyJenison Junior High Math teacher, Lisa Douglass, wants her students to learn more than just math.  This year, she started off the school year motivated by her reading of books like “Teach Like a Pirate” and “Growth Mindset” she set out to capture students attention and imagination in a new way but also to answer their ubiquitous questioning, “Where will I use math in the real world?”

IMG_5506 copyFor the first day of school Lisa set up her classroom like a carnival complete with ring toss, duck pond and smash the cans. As the students made their way through the various stations they were learning about probability and statistics. The next day they were taken through a Black Friday shopping trip where they had to decide which store offered the best deal on an iphone, computer or digital camera, learning about percentages and rebates. Next, they had to consider what it would look like to get a summer job to pay for their school supplies and they learned how to factor in state and federal taxes, learning about minimum wage, as well as thinking through what qualified as a school supply. “It was interesting because at the end some of them would say, “Oh, maybe I don’t need five outfits, maybe I only need three. It was  interesting to see them adjust [their budgets] when they had to work the hours vs when mom or dad had to work the hours.”

Finally, students were asked to decide if Mrs. Douglass could get a self-sustaining fish tank for her classroom and how much would it cost up front as well as carrying costs such as electricity from the building, etc.  This final lesson was capped off with a field trip to Pet Smart where students not only learned about various kinds of fish suitable for this environment but, of course, all the costs involved in setting up a proper tank. IMG_3130 copyOnce the students had their findings, they were were asked to draft a letter to Mrs. Douglass stating what the problem was, what research they did and their results and if she would or would not be able to buy that fish tank, just as an employer would ask and expect of an employee tasked with a project.

“I did that to really get their attention and show that you really do use math in real life.”

Future lessons include a field trip to a local restaurant where they will be given $10 each and need to factor in tax and gratuity [not using a calculator!]. Mrs. Douglass also hopes to include a Thanksgiving lesson where students are given a limited budget and are required to go to the grocery store and plan the Thanksgiving meal.

Lisa as been teaching for 22 years and this is her 16th year at Jenison. She has seen her teaching style change over the years and in her research she has been studying what employers are looking for in employees, including the ability to problem solve and work on their own. “I want them to be able to think on their own, I want them to be able to problem solve on their own without having to run and come to me. I want them to know that they can learn math and it’s not a fixed thing and it is important because you’re going to use it your whole life. I want them to be able to rely on each other, we’re working together and I don’t know everything and sometimes your peers can teach you more than I can.”

IMG_5510 copyModeling the idea that we need to move and reset our minds throughout the day to learn well, students are encouraged to get up and move during lessons, help themselves to the water station in the room, having choices, “preparing them for life in general with math skills”.

Mrs Douglass knows that her role is not only about math but so much more. “I get to impact 800 kids every day and how many people get to do that? Even just a smile in the hallway, saying “hi” to somebody is huge.”

Thank you Mrs Douglass for making math relevant and fun for our students!  Your willingness to go above and beyond for them is amazing!

Rosewood Students Partner with Herman Miller!

MIII1678This past summer Rosewood Intervention Specialist, Rachel Elenbaas, took a class called Unite 4 Insight through the OAISD [Ottawa Area Intermediate School District] and she came away with a project-based lesson for her third and fourth graders that not only taught them real world skills but had them partnering with one of the world’s largest office furniture retailers.  “The teacher of the class called Herman Miller to see if they would partner with me.  Because they have quite an extensive education program they were happy to do so.”

MIII1746The project entailed designing a chair, creating a prototype, presenting it to fellow students, collecting feedback through surveys and adjusting the product based on survey results.  “The students are so excited about this project.  They are working in teams to create a chair and they are able to be creative, yet learn how to use surveys and questionnaires to fine tune their designs to a chair that people would find practical to use in the classroom.”

MIII1759As with any good community partnership, Herman Miller was present and integral in crafting the lesson plan as well as working with students directly to ensure their success.  “Alison Freas is the director of the education department of Herman Miller.  She had a unit that she used with a middle school group  in Grand Rapids and we tweaked the unit to fit with third and fourth grade.  Alison came into my class to help teach the lessons and this has helped a lot since she knows what goes into creating a chair.  She knows the language that is used in the business world and this helps the students expand their vocabulary.”

“The main goal of this program is to instill skills for success.  Students learn the importance of teamwork, being on time, technology, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, ethical citizenship, personal accountability, collaboration and global thinking.” 

While students are busy asking questions about design, technology, ergonomics and completing this assignment on time they may not realize the valuable skills they are being taught as a foundation for this assignment. “Project Based Learning is a way to teach students in a way that relates to real life.  Rather than learning the traditional way – workbooks, worksheets, etc. – students solve real life problems in a way that challenges they way they think while using the strategies and methods taught in school.”

Thank you, Rachel and Herman Miller, for the amazing ways you’re going beyond traditional teaching methods to reach our students!

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ACT Teacher Julie Clark on The Today Show!

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Julie Clark brings Wildcat Pride to New York’s Rockefeller Center!

It all began when Pinewood Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown nominated Julie Clark and the ACT program for The Today’s Show’s “Cool School” feature.  Ms. Postle-Brown knew she was an ideal candidate for a story because “Julie is very creative when it comes to her lesson planning. She is always looking for new and exciting ways to get the students engaged.  Julie also is very focused on teaching content standards and challenging the students. This combination ensures her lessons are covering necessary content while keeping students excited and connected to the experiences.”

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Julie Clark introducing a new lesson in her classroom.

The ACT program, or ACademically Talented, is housed at Pinewood Elementary and Ms. Clark works with just over 200 Jenison students in third through sixth grades.  “The program gives a chance for our students to challenge themselves and push beyond the traditional classroom limits.  It is an opportunity for them to bond with students from other buildings and build a community based on loving learning and academic excellence.  We provide an array of supports and interventions for students who are struggling and we want to be sure we are offering the same supports to students who are excelling. Our job as educators is to meet every student where they are at and to help them grow and go further. ACT let us do that for our gifted learners.” – Ms Postle-Brown

Mrs. Clark’s visit to NBC’s The Today Show featured her and current ACT third grader, Morri McCluggage, as well!  They featured her lesson on using carnival games to to teach probability and had constructed Morri’s game to be played on the show.  In the classroom, students played “various games [such as dice games, board games, card games, etc.] in which we explored data collection, measures of central tendency, theoretical and experimental probabilities of the games, the likelihood of winning, fractions, and percents. The students were asked to show what they learned by developing their own carnival games and rules.”

As part of this culminating activity, we invited parents and other classrooms to play our games. The ACT students put on their “teacher hats” by asking players to make predictions about the likelihood of winning their games, teaching the mathematics involved, and explaining whether or not their game was “fair.” In the end, the students were able to showcase their learning through a hands-on, team, or self-led project.”

When Morri was asked to join her beloved teacher on the show her response she couldn’t believe it.  “When Mom asked me in my head I said,”WAAAAAAAAA, this is just a dream. I will wake up now.” Then I pinched myself on the face hard.Neutral FaceSmiling face with open mouth Turns out it was real. It felt awesome.Thumbs up signSmiling face with smiling eyes”  [Emoji’s her own.]

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Proud ACT Students!

Morri was joined by her dad in NYC and Mrs Clark by her husband.  They didn’t get a lot of time to sight see but did have the opportunity to experience the behind-the scenes action of TV!  “[Last Wednesday morning we] headed over to the “green room” for hair and make-up. Imagine our delight when Tom Brokaw and John Cena sat right between us! To top that off, Lionel Richie was warming up in a room behind our chairs. Carson Daly, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford also passed by and gave us a big thumbs ups! As we were waiting to go on-air, we were excited to have the opportunity to see Wrangler [the Today Show’s service dog]. Of course, we wanted to get a picture with him [let me tell you, puppy kisses before going “on-air” are fantastic!].

Once we got on set, Natalie Morales greeted us as we prepared for our segment. Our three minutes on-air flew by! Afterwards, we had an opportunity to chat briefly with Natalie, John, and Willie Geist. It was clear that the hosts, producers, and crew members were excited about our segment and really interested in featuring our nation’s “Cool Schools” in such a positive light.”

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Julie Clark + Morri McCluggage in NYC with their Today Show Probability Plinko souvenirs!

Mrs Clark is a JPS graduate and has been working in the district for nine years.  She is challenged by her students and loves to design learning experiences that are hands-on and challenging. “Fun is a passion of mine. As an educator, it is important to me to open the minds of my students to an array of learning possibilities while helping them to grow academically, socially, and emotionally. Above all, I want my students to know how special they are as unique individuals.”  She also acknowledges that working with this group is not without it’s [good] challenges.  “My students are able to manipulate ideas and draw generalizations. I appreciate when they are excited to teach me and share their personal problem solving strategies — it certainly keeps me on my toes!”

MIII8299 copyMorri is certainly thankful for Mrs. Clark’s hard work:  “ACT is a challenging, but it is fun! Mrs. Clark is the best teacher ever!!Pencil”  Mrs. Postle-Brown agrees, “Julie builds great relationships with her students and there families.  Students and parents love her for her welcoming and kind nature.”

“Unfortunately in today’s media a positive story on education is not always easy to find.  I really appreciate the Today Show and NBC doing a series that shows all of the amazing things that happen in public education across the country.  Julie was the perfect representative for all of the great things that happen at Pinewood and throughout Jenison.  Julie is one of many awesome teachers we have and when I walk into classrooms throughout my building every day I am impressed with passion and enthusiasm every Jenison teacher has for their students.” – Ms. Postle-Brown

Of course, you can see Mrs. Clark and Morri rock national TV by clicking here.

Congratulations to Julie, Morri and all of the ACT students who were represented!  We are so proud of you and thrilled you got to show the whole country how awesome things are happening every day at JPS!

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Bauerwood 5th Graders Wow with Historical Wax Museum!

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Ben Smit as Benedict Arnold, Sidney Kruer as Deborah Sampson and Riley Sigler as Roger Williams

Anyone who was anyone was at the Bauerwood Wax Museum this year: Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Abigail Adams, Betsy Ross, Pocahantas and many, many more famous faces in American history!  For the past 15 years, students at Bauerwood have been participating in the Wax Museum project to learn about key figures in American history in a creative way.

Students have been researching and preparing for the Wax Museum since Spring Break and are responsible for “collecting as much data as they could through books and internet sources. Then, they took that information they gathered and constructed their speech, wrote a poem, designed a poster, and created a newspaper with articles that purposefully portrayed and represented their wax museum character. The idea was to have the students really understand their character and the challenges they faced.” says Kathie Berens, Bauerwood 5th grade teacher.

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Caleb Dean as Francisco Pizarro and Ella Bond as Sir William Berkeley

The performance aspect of the day first began 15 years ago with a 30 second speech that was performed in the hallway and younger students would come and “push the button” to hear the speech. Every year since that time, the project expanded and improved and now involves a 1 – 2 minute speech that is also performed with the entire class in front of parents and guests.  Ms Berens adds that this is an important and anticipated part of the 5th grade curriculum. “This is now a tradition for all incoming 5th graders and something the younger students are already planning for. Due to the complexity of the tasks there are multiple common core curriculum standards that are met through this project from reading standards, writing standards, speaking and listening standards, as well as social studies standards. It culminates many learning experiences.

Of course, American history is full of fascinating and important figures but the Wax Museum focuses on characters who “have lived during the time period of our year long study, from the Native American Nomads and Vikings through the Revolutionary War and the 18th century.”  Ms. Berens also encouraged students to research their own character as long as they could prove how this individual impacted history and a handful of students took on the challenge, found their own resources and added a character to the list!

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Stacie Toering as Pocahontas

The process of of researching and memorizing an original speech  and even dressing like the historic figure all adds up to a meaningful learning experience for students.  “This process really allows history to come alive for them. Students are also excited to share out the, “did you know….” statements about their character and it gives them the understanding of the cause and effects of why things happened the way that they did and allows them to connect the dots. Probably the biggest “a-ha” moment comes from the girls who get to represent actual girls in the time period who did something amazing. Due to the fact that woman were held in the background during this time period they don’t hesitate sharing out the strength and impact one voice and one woman could do. It really becomes inspiring.”

5th grader, Avery Graham, was excited to present a new character to the Wax Museum through her own research.  Avery portrayed Lydia Darragh, an American spy during the Revolutionary War and says, “I think this is a good way to learn because you learn about so many important people throughout history and you study one person and you get to know so much about that person.  It’s a good activity where kids aren’t bored; it’s an interactive, hands-on project.”  Avery contends that performing the speech in front of so many people was the most challenging aspect of the project but that her “favorite part of Wax Museum was the experience of doing the penny drop in the morning and little kids come up to you and they’re genuinely interested.  They get to see everybody and how much work they put into the project and their costume.”

“The big importance of this event is really celebrating the challenge that these students take on. From all of the preparation and memorization to actually performing for their Bauerwood family and  in front of a large group people the students grow and stretch like crazy. In the end they are exhausted but are truly proud of their accomplishments, which they should be. I have never had a student not be able to complete the Wax Museum performance no matter their disability, their fear, or their challenges.  We have always found a way to make it work.”  – Ms Berens

Way to go, Bauerwood 5th graders!  Thank you for sharing what you learned and we hope you always remember this challenging experience!

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Avery Zimmerman as Lafayette

 

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Stephanie Toering as Pocahontas and Mason Hecksel as Ferdinand Magellan

 

Deputy Sampson Leads SAVE Program for 6th Graders

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For the past five years Deputy Michele Sampson has worked in the district and been a positive police presence as she walks the halls of every school and spends her lunch hours in the high school cafeteria to greet students and field their frequent questions.  She is there to keep all of our students safe but she also works hard to keep them informed and educated.  For our 6th graders, this means a dedicated curriculum that she leads each year called S.A.V.E:  Substance Abuse Violence Education.

Over a series of six visits to all five elementary schools, Dept. Sampson covers various criminal and health related issues as a means to educate students at this critical age to the realities of these choices as well as their options.  Topics taught and discussed during the program include drug, tobacco or alcohol use, methods of saying “no”, dealing with violence and providing students with tools to make good decisions in every day life.

MIII2348 copyBursley 6th Grade teacher, Becky Steele, is especially thankful for the SAVE curriculum and says, “As students move on to Junior High and High School, they will be [unfortunately] more likely to encounter peer pressures, including those related to the use of drugs or alcohol, and violent or destructive behaviors.  Pre-teaching students skills for dealing with these struggles, including skills for saying “No” assertively and for keeping themselves safe, sets them up for success in the future.  In addition to this, students seem to be connected to technology and social media at a younger age now than they were even five years ago.  These social interactions, with both their peers and strangers, expose them to countless temptations and pressures.  Through the SAVE lessons, they are able to learn the legal ramifications of some choices they could make online and brainstorm safer or healthier alternatives.​”

Dept.Sampson says that the most important part of this program is to encourage discussion and discovery with students as they learn and ask questions about the topics at hand.  Students are encouraged to talk with their parents about what they learned in each session.  They are also asked to not only think about the health-related consequences for drug, tobacco and alcohol use but the legal and social implications as well.  She reminds students that it can be easy to ignore what might happen in your family and friendship circles when you are caught using and illegal substance but it can be especially difficult when extended family members find out as your parents determine a course of action and friends may be asked not to spend time with you.  Having Dept. Sampson visit the classrooms, students are able to develop a sense of trust and they know she is there for them.  “Having Dept. Sampson in our building once a week for six weeks helps students feel like they have the ear of and a relationship with a very important member of our community.  We have been able to utilize that trust, respect, and relationship between Dept. Sampson and our students, having Dept. Sampson talk about legal consequences that can come with some of these choices and to reiterate with the students the importance of practicing the skills they have been taught in SAVE in all aspects of their lives.”

6th grader, Iam Brauning, is thankful for the SAVE program because, “All of the information about gangs and specific information about drugs and the impact that they have on our bodies was new to me.”  “SAVE provides all Jenison students with the opportunity to see police officers as people​, and to build a relationship that is meaningful enough that they can voice concerns, ask questions, and take away valuable knowledge.  We are so thankful that Dept. Sampson is able to take time out of her busy days to invest in our children!  They truly enjoy her visits and can’t wait for her to come back each week.”

MIII2378 copyThank you, Deputy Sampson for keeping our students safe in and outside of school!