Full of Thanks and Giving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope this day finds you embracing the people and places that fill you up and enhance your life! I am thinking about my loving and supportive wife, terrific children and the blessing of a new grandson! I am also thankful for the supremely talented and committed group of educators I get to work with daily. Not only do they sharpen each other as they strive for academic excellence, they sincerely invest in the heart and character of our students.

This month marks the 21st year that our staff has been encouraging our students to think outside themselves, cultivate true gratitude and give with compassionate hearts through the “Your Change Can Change Hunger” fund drive (YCCCH). That means there have been several graduating classes that have participated every year of their time at JPS. It truly has become a holiday tradition that we all look forward to. Initiated by Susan Hodson, a mom with two elementary daughters that many years ago – it just goes to show, one person can make a big difference.

I’m so proud to share more about this year’s YCCCH fund drive and all the ways our amazing Jenison community is giving back this Thanksgiving!

Kids First Pet Supply Drive

We love to see the generosity of our students combined with a little entrepreneurial spirit! Two sixth grade El Puente students, Grace Roth (left) and Randi Pennington (right) brainstormed and organized a collection for the Harbor Humane Society during the month of October and delivered the donations earlier this month. So inspiring to see our students putting their compassionate hearts to work!

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Grace and Randi, and their KidsFirst classmates collected over 100 pounds of food, dog beds, blankets, a bag full of toys, multiple bags of treats, leashes, and food dishes.

Jenison Parent Liaisons

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Ms. Tracy and Ms. Veldink

The mission of the Jenison Parent Liaison program is: Building bridges between home, school, and community to promote student success for all families of Jenison Public Schools. One tangible way they do that is through organizing collections of things that can be used to support local families.

1) Ongoing collections of gently used, in-style, in-season clothing for community partner, Threads Clothing Ministry. Also, currently collecting snow pants (through the winter season) in partnership with Rosewood Reformed Church. This provides JPS families access to any type of clothing as needs arise. If you would like to donate clothes or snow pants, please drop items to the Family Resource Center (Room 1) at Pinewood Elementary.

2) They partner with Mars Hill Bible Church, Fair Haven Ministries, Baldwin Street Christian Reformed Church and Sunrise Ministries to provide Christmas and Thanksgiving Assistance for our families.

3) Now accepting donations for family activities in the area; such as bowling, Rebounderz, movie theatre, etc., to give to families to enjoy special together time over Christmas break. Donations can be brought to the Family Resource Center (Room 1) at Pinewood Elementary. 

1st Annual Turkey Trot 5k

An idea led by senior, Max Zuber; the Jenison Men’s Cross Country team hosted the first Jenison Turkey Trot 5k. It was a little more wintry when the race actually took place this past weekend but it was an overall success for their first year. The donation table ended up nearly overflowing and items were delivered to Love Inc.: the Turkey Trot is good for your heart in more ways than one!

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There were over 60 runners of all ages at the first ever Turkey Trot 5k!

Jenison Public Education Foundation

To keep our little ones warm and cozy in the coming months, the Jenison Public Education Foundation conducted a hat, mitten, sock drive at their Expo event on November 3. A donation competition between elementary schools revealed Pinewood as the winner. They won $250 for their school and a school assembly with a magician! Since 1995, JPEF has been enhancing learning environments and funded more than 162 programs valued at over $200,000, for the students of Jenison. 

National Honors Society Thanksgiving Baskets

The NHS members (high school juniors/seniors) organized a Thanksgiving basket program. They donated the items needed for a full thanksgiving meal for 10 Jenison families. They traveled together to deliver the food to each family on November 16.

Jenison High School Thespians – “Trick-r-Treat So Kids Can Eat”

Of course, the Thespians had fun dressing up and getting into character on Halloween but they also organized an event called “Trick-r-Treat So Kids Can Eat”. They had another great turnout this year with many donations brought in to keep members of our community fed this holiday season.

Your Change Can Change Hunger (YCCCH) benefiting Hand2Hand

This annual change fundraiser began in 1998 and is something the kids plan for each year. After a 15 year partnership with another food pantry in West Michigan, it shifted to a more local organization. Hand2Hand partners with local churches and schools to provide a backpack filled with supplemental food that bridges the gap of weekend hunger. When students became aware that their change was going to help kids in their own school district, possibly even their own building – giving sharply increased. The fervor with which students wanted to take care of their own is so inspiring! We keep breaking the previous year’s record for giving – and I think we’ll see that again this year.

Coming into the 2018 fund drive, JPS students have raised over $196,000 since 1998 – nearly half of that had been given in the last 5 years! While the final totals are still being counted, I think we can quite confidently say that we will pass the $200,000 mark this year! That’s amazing! Your Change really CAN Change Hunger!

Thank you so much Jenison students and families!

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ECC: Introducing our youngest Wildcats to this awesome and impactful tradition.

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El Puente students show off their own collection box. Excelente!

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Bauerwood Elementary students excited to hear the final count for the district!

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Pinewood Elementary Student Council with their cash donation.

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Rosewood 5th graders proudly show off their school’s contribution of over $1,700 this year!

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The Sandy Hill third graders surpassed their collection goal on the last day of the change drive. They raised over $150 on Friday alone so Mr. Mosher took some pies to the face!

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Bursley kids excited to give back to others.

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Junior High Students with a hefty donation to YCCCH! When the final count is confirmed, the JH hopes to break their current school record of over $10,000 dollars collected. It definitely seems within their grasp!  Many students have come up with creative collection ideas such as coffee/hot chocolate sales and candy & pop sales. Good old fashion  competitions against other classes in the building have really kept the excitement high!

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JH Students paid $1.00 towards YCCCH to play in the gym for 1 hour before school.

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The High Schoolers also had unique fundraising opportunities: here they are selling pizza at lunch time as a fundraiser for YCCCH.

If you would like to join Jenison Students by supporting the work of Hand2Hand, please visit their website for more information about how to get involved.

 

Summer Series: Teachers Choose Jenison [Bursley]

This summer, in an effort to celebrate the amazing teachers at JPS, we will feature one each week and their decision to make our schools their professional home. We are thankful for their boundless creativity, pursuit of their own education, and passion for not just their students, but the entire school they serve. We hope you will enjoy learning more about these incredible men and women as you enjoy your own season of rest and fun!

Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD] Categorical teacher, Kate Walker:

I choose Jenison because Jenison’s program for students with Autism is excellent.  I had the opportunity to work here briefly as a long term substitute and was so impressed with the building leadership and teamwork within the program, when I had the opportunity to come back one year later, it was a “no-brainer.”  While I loved my job within another district, I knew I wanted to be part of this tight-knit, supportive team, which has stretched me and supported me both professionally and personally.

I think Jenison is a different school district because of the support.  I see the community step in and support the district. I see students step in and support each other, especially our students with special needs.  The peer program at the elementary level and the LINKS program at the secondary level allow our students with autism to be supported in unique and tangible ways.

My building exemplifies this by living life like a family.  As staff, we do not hesitate to step into both the personal and professional situations we find ourselves in.  We come around the families of our students to care for them in times of crisis and we do not hesitate to support students with kind words and extra encouragement on a daily basis.

I look forward to summer because I love to spend time with my 3 kids.  We enjoy trips to the beach, the ice cream shop, and many hours at the baseball fields and the pool.  We work to strike a good balance between being busy with friends and activities, and having time to rest and relax.

I am looking forward to continuing to work with my students next year.  One of the best parts of my position is that I typically work with my students for 3 to 4 years.  This allows us to build very close relationships and I get to see their growth across time. It is always amazing to get to the end of their 6th grade year and look back at how far they have come since the beginning of 3rd grade!

Thank you, Ms Walker, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!

Ms Walker was chosen for this story by Bursley Principal, Brent Huck

Jenison Celebrates Autism!

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

Incredible ECC teacher, Tricia Maday + a student

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

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

Parapro Extraordinaire, Diana Zeitunian with a student

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

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

Stupendous 6th Grader, Monae William

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

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

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

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

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

Brilliant Bursley teacher, Kate Walker + a her student

Super Social Worker Salena Corner with a parent

Sensational Sara Hayes + a student

Magnificent Music Teacher Les Rowsey + a student

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

Let’s Read!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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]

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!

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!

Summer Series: Student Art Sample [6th Grade]

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Over the course of our summer we will feature various artists and art pieces from each Jenison elementary school as well as the Junior High and High School. Each piece was carefully chosen by our art teachers and we hope you will enjoy the talents and hard work of our students while you also enjoy a beautiful and relaxing summer!

“Complementary Color Wheel Graffiti Name”
By Mady Popma
Bursley Elementary

We began this unit with the background and history of the art form of graffiti. During the first step in this process Mady had to choose a graffiti font, and sketch her name in the middle of the paper. Next, we studied color mixing. Using tempera paint in primary colors [red, yellow and blue], students were able to create secondary colors [green, orange and violet], and tertiary colors [red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet and red-violet]. The next challenge for Mady was to divide her Graffiti Name into 12 sections. She mixed paint and filled in each of the background sections of the color wheel with paint she mixed. After completing the background, Mady created a second color wheel within her name, this time using complementary colors, or those across from one another on the color wheel. Finally, Mady had to outline everything very carefully with black paint.

Mady did an outstanding job on this project. It was very challenging, and Mady showed not only excellent craftsmanship, but perseverance as well.

Mady and her artwork were selected by her Bursley Elementary art teacher, Ginger Brown.

Summer Series: Student Art Sample [3rd Grade]

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This summer we will feature a writing sample from a student in each grade as we all enjoy a beautiful summer in West Michigan! Please join us each week to read these fantastic teacher-submitted examples of excellent writing!

“Friends and Rainbows”
by Evelyn Fortney 
Bursley Elementary

Art with a Big Idea! Community Collage

In art class students are not only learning how to use materials and techniques, but also how to communicate “Big Ideas”— those that are personal, important, and a part of every person’s life. For this project students discussed and brainstormed all the various communities they belong to, and focused on one that is particularly important in their life. This community became the catalyst for a collage.

Evelyn was inspired by a memory of playing with her friends. Describing this memory, she said, “I still remember it! In first grade we went outside and there was a rainbow. No one else was by the tire swing. We each got a lot of pushes because no one else was waiting.” Evelyn began by making the various pieces needed for her collage “Friends and Rainbows”. Evelyn put a lot of thought into the details of the various parts. From ruffles on dresses, to a tire swing and textured grass, I was impressed with her attention to detail and seeing the way she made her ideas come to life through paper.

It was the next step of the project that highlighted Evelyn’s creative thinking and excellent problem solving skills. When it was time to assemble the the pieces into a collage, Evelyn had a vision of developing her collage into a 3-Dimensional version. I believe that for Evelyn, these kinds of challenges and problems to solve launch her into her best-artist self; the problems to solve invigorate and excite her creative brain! It is a delight to watch her work. Soon, Evelyn had constructed a wonderful scene of her and her friends playing on the playground. You can feel the movement of the girl in the tire swing as her arms sway to the side. There is a sense of whimsy with the clothing, rainbow, and metallic grass— simultaneously sophisticated and yet perfect for an elementary artist. And if you take the time to really look, you’ll notice so many unexpected and delightful details. Flowers and “Mint Gum” in the purse, a wallet in one of the girl’s hands. The more you look at this artwork, the more you will appreciate the scene that Evelyn has created. Evelyn has infused this artwork with the joy of childhood!

Evelyn and her artwork was selected by her elementary art teacher, Emily Derusha.

#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