Home Ec Gets a Makeover!

You may recall sitting in Home Ec class years ago learning the difference between and tablespoon and a teaspoon but our Jenison High School students are learning so much more!

Lifeskills teacher and Career Technical Education [CTE] Director, Kelly Kirkland, offers a variety of electives for students looking to expand their knowledge of every day tasks, responsibilities, and skills. In order to decide what she teaches, Ms Kirkland has learned to listen to students and take note of what interests them.  “When I first started at Jenison, I followed a curriculum and as time goes on I see what the needs of the students and community are and switch things up. Also as I have a HS student myself, and I see things that I want my kid to know as he prepares to leave home. A few years back our Family and Consumer Science department recognized an increased interest in Interior Design so we incorporated some units in this to help kids with house designs, color trends and coordinating colors with accessories to give a seamless appearance within our Teen Living course.”

Ms Kirkland tries to focus on meaningful skills that students will use either at home or when they leave the nest. Sometimes there are bumps in the road learning new things but students always “seam” to see the benefits.  “When the students start sewing it is new to many of the students so it can be very frustrating for them but as soon as they get the hang of it they love it and it is a skill they can use the rest of their lives. When it comes to cooking, some students have no skill and some have been cooking since a young age. We start very basic and work our way to more advance skills. However, the cooking we do is focused on simple foods that students can make after leaving home. We also learn about importance of nutrition. Many former students say they think twice about the foods they choose to eat and impacts them to make healthier choices.”

Learning basic sewing skills!

If you think there is a small population wanting to learn to manage life on their own, think again! Ms Kirkland’s classes are typically full, hosting 30 – 33 students a class. Some of these students end up finding a talent or passion that’s new to them, but has meaning for their futures. “Years ago, a student made their own prom dress and many students have gone into the culinary and bakery programs at the OAISD and GRCC . Also, parents find it helpful that they can rely on their child to participate around the house by starting dinners and fixing their own clothing [buttons, hems, rips]”

Ms Kirkland is proud of the things students are learning in her classes and what it means for their futures. “These are skills that many working parents cannot teach at home and that students will need to use throughout their lifetime. I teach life skills that students help them ease their way into college and adulthood. These skills will be carried with them the rest of their lives.”

Learning to tie a tie with our athletic directors!

Thank you, Ms Kirkland, for teaching our students these important life skills! We can’t wait to see where these new chefs, bakers, checkbook balancers, and tailors show up down the road!

Student-made chicken pot pies!

Food safety flyer created in Foods & Nutrition Class

 

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!

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!

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]

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.

MIII9994

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!

img_0313

Cover Artist Anijah Huffman

img_0335

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.

20161123_1120593rd Grade, Kristin DeYoung

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!]

capturePuertas de inmersión by Dane DeVries

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.

Las puertas de inmersióncapture2

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.

ct3svpkw8aaapci

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!

csvp4lnwaaaukrr

 

*Photo courtesy of goldstar.com

Preschool Class Joins Forces with Autism Classroom!

thumb_MIII0808_1024 copy
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.”

thumb_MIII0836_1024 copy

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!

thumb_MIII0838_1024 copy