Many things have made this year especially challenging. In response to public health concerns, the Jenison Public School educators and our students and families, have been rockstars in navigating the twists and turns of this academic year. The constant has been the widespread positive attitudes and commitment to flexibility. Now here we are, we made it to 100 days of school!
Local Reporter, Maranda from WOTV4 recently made the most of technology for a socially distanced interview with Pinewood Elementary School Principal Dr. Rachael Postle-Brown and 5th grade teacher Michelle U’ren.
Fifth graders from Pinewood Elementary, Eliza and Collin joined the conversation as well to discuss their experiences with the different learning modes and their appreciation for being back to in-person learning and with their friends.
It’s always great to see our staff and students representing the Jenison community. I’m so proud of how the district has been navigating this really tricky year, thank you Dr. Brown and Mrs. U’ren for leading your students well!
This school year has presented many challenges to traditional teaching methods but the Pinewood team has forged ahead with giving their students every opportunity possible.
Our teachers are the best and are really showing their relentless spirit this year! Among many other unique ideas: outdoor learning and reading sessions have been a welcome break by students in all grades. Michelle U’Ren’s 5th grade students were able to visit the Gerald R Ford Museum virtually and they really enjoyed the very timely lesson of learning about the importance of Character in Campaigns.
A few weeks into the school year, Pinewood Elementary students received a great donation of new playground toys donated from local church, Chapel Pointe. We are grateful for all of our community partners.
Introducing Judy Ko
Formerly a youth pastor, Judy Ko became a JPS substitute teacher in 2018, returned to school for her teacher certificate and completed her student teaching this past spring. This year, she is taking the position of 5th grade long term substitute (for Kristen Carpenter) at Pinewood Elementary. Growing up in Jenison, and raising her kids here, she describes this as her dream job.
She has fallen fast for her colleagues and students, appreciating their friendly help and welcoming attitudes. When she’s not living her dream with her students at Pinewood, she enjoys being outside and spending time with friends and family, taking walks and bike rides. If she wasn’t a teacher, she could see herself being a stunt driver!
It was something offered to calm children during times of catastrophe and most of us have probably heard the famous quote from Mr. Rogers.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of “disaster”, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers
It’s a great piece of advice and definitely not surprising that it has stood the test of time. Finding the helpers and even joining them, offers each of us hope in times of chaos and uncertainty.
When I look around our community, I’m beyond proud to see Jenison Public School teachers, staff, coaches and even students showing up to support others in a variety of ways.
I’m thankful for all the efforts we are already witnessing. This is uniting us in ways that we don’t always see and bringing hope and joy in a new way. There are many ways to be neighbors and helpers, here are some local examples I’d like to share with you.
I’d also like to extend an invitation, how might you join the helpers? Possibly make donations, support small businesses, finding a way to pay-it-forward, or even just extending an encouraging word or smile of support to a fellow shopper or hard working essential employee. We’re all in this together and together we’ll make it through this.
COMMUNITY FOOD DISTRIBUTION SERVERS:
Sunrise Ministriesis a local church in the heart of the Jenison Public School district. In response to the school closure and the expected effects COVID-19 would eventually have on families, they opened their doors as a drive-thru food/personal care distribution site.
They started with their first distribution on March 16 serving 41 families and have seen an exorbitant increase in demand on a weekly basis. They are preparing to serve 750 families in the coming week. A large amount of the volunteers are JPS employees. Sunrise Ministries Pastor, Dan Fisher has really appreciated their help and he is witnessing first hand the passionate, hardworking individuals our students get to see in their classrooms. It’s so exciting to have each one of our buildings represented by the caring hands that are packing and distributing these necessities to our neighbors in and outside of our immediate community.
Volunteers spend hours sorting donations and packing bags in preparation for the Monday and Wednesday distribution nights. Even though many of the teacher volunteers are back to the books with their students while operating their online learning schedules, they have remained committed to their helper role. Bursley First grade teacher, Rhonda Johnson; Rosewood First grade teacher, Kelly Osterink and El Puente Second grade teacher, Jenna Kragt were part of the crew that were busy serving this week. Spanish speaking volunteers have been incredibly helpful in the last few weeks.
The line for the drive-thru distribution at Sunrise Ministries is sometimes full a few hours before they even open. This week they even needed to discontinue services early due to running out of items to distribute.
As the need continues to increase, Sunrise Ministries relies on donations from companies and individuals to keep their food bank running. Donations dropped off to Sunrise Ministries directly are most appreciated! If you are able to do so, please consider donating to help. Below is the list of items that are needed and the location where they can be dropped.
STUDENT HAND2HAND MINISTRY SERVICES:
There is another crew of volunteers assisting the families that are part of Hand2Hand Ministries. Hand2hand partners churches with schools to provide food for students facing weekend hunger. This is an amazing program that has worked with Jenison Public Schools for years, and has proven an unwavering commitment to their families – through debilitating snow storms and now a global pandemic. However, the distribution model of their service is through the school buildings. This left a number of families in the position of not being able to get their meals. Starting day 1 of the COVID-19 school closure, Jenison teachers filled that gap and loaded up their own vehicles to make deliveries. Now a few weeks later, the supporting churches as well as the JPS teachers are delivering weekday meals and weekend meal kits to over 50 families. This is an exciting example of resources being pooled and collaboration at its finest. We are so thankful for these organizations remaining committed to the students they are supporting right here in our own community.
FRONTLINE HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS AND 3D PRINTERS:
Laurie is a busy mom with 3 children attending Jenison International Academy. She is also a very essential frontline medical worker at a local hospital. Feeling the exhaustion of these uncertain times alongside tiring, long shifts, Laurie liked the idea of making things at work as comfortable as possible. There was also the real possibility of increased exposure to germs through irritated skin from wearing a face mask all day. She had heard about 3D printed plastic straps that were created to hook the mask straps as opposed to wearing them around the ears all day long. Laurie reached out to Mrs. Krista Osterberg, Principal of Jenison International Academy for help. Unfortunately, during the stay-at-home order, the school building was off limits – which meant the 3D printers that are part of the JIA STEM and Engineering programs were unavailable as well. Mrs. Osterberg connected Laurie with another JIA family who owns a 3D printer. The family was happy to use their supplies to print a few dozen mask straps for Laurie, her colleagues and some of her family members who are also hospital workers. Simple acts of kindness make us big helpers!
8 YEAR OLD BAKERS:
Everleigh Schusteris a hard worker with a big heart! As schools closed due to the Corona virus, some grocery staples also started to dwindle. This Pinewood 3rd grader noticed a problem and wanted to help. Before the official stay-at-home directive had been given, she was baking bread with her grandma, Mary Mapes almost daily. They were willing to bake bread for anyone who needed it. Clickhere to watch the story.
Following her bread efforts, Evy turned her attention back to the veggie seedlings she had been preparing for her spring/summer veggie stand.
She hopes to sell veggies and gift excess food and seedlings to help others start growing their own food. Growing and giving back is something Evy has been working for since she was 4 years old! Thank you Everleigh for stepping up and being a great example to our community!
On a grander scale, very exciting possibilities are being worked on in response to the COVID-19 virus, one of which is being worked on by a Jenison Alumna. You make us proud, Deborah Heydenburg Fuller (Class of 1982) – and we are pulling for you and your team! Click here to watch the interview.
No matter the age, students have a courageous and contagious level of creativity and they love to put that passion into practice with hands-on experimentation. While this is encouraged in the traditional classroom where possible, specialized environments give them a chance to take it to the next level.
These environments are called Makerspace. These spaces allow students to take what they have learned in the classroom and extend their learning in a very unique, explorative way. The Makerspace environment is tapping into their imagination in a different way, according to their own interests and creativity.
Upon attending a conference in Grand Rapids in 2018, inspiration sparked a team of Pinewood Elementary School teachers. The Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning conference (MACUL) exposed them to other districts who had these types of spaces. They too wanted to encourage this type of learning and make it available to their students so they decided to write a grant that was offered through MACUL.
The grant from MACUL allowed Pinewood Elementary School to implement a Makerspace as part of their extended library time for all grades. It is housed in the library which makes perfect sense as this sort of learning is a natural extension of books! Since the beginning of time, we’ve experienced librarians creating interactive content to engage children and augment their learning.
While in the Makerspace, students are able to explore various learning tools and resources structured to inspire creativity and hands-on learning. The ultimate goal is to have a variety of consumable items that students can use to tinker and create their own masterpieces. Different activities can be added to the rotation to spur fresh exploration. Some incorporate technology while others are purely ‘old-fashioned’ analog exercises.
Pinewood teacher Andrea Pattison oversees the Makerspace and loves watching the students be creative, build, and collaborate with classmates with the age appropriate activities and tools that are in the space. The students’ only negative review is that they never have enough time! The kids do a fabulous job respecting the space and the special tools. She also has a team of Makerspace Champions comprised of 5th and 6th grade students who help organize and run the space.
Pinewood Makerspace: (foreground) 3-D Printer and student using the Osmo tool with an iPad while classmates build and create in the background.
Students are able to learn how to maximize the Makerspace through the Pinewood Makerspace Website, created by district ACT teacher, Julie Clark. How-to videos and website resources help them make the most of their time in the space and give them options to use outside of school as well. Julie has also gone on to complete an additional grant request for new tools for the Makerspace through the Jenison Public Education Fund.
JPEF has been funding best teaching methods and innovative ideas from JPS educators for over 20 years. Since 1995, JPEF has funded more than 162 programs valued at over $200,000, for the students of Jenison. It is so great to have them partnering with our RELENTLESS, world-class educators to bring these ideas to life.
It is exciting to see the students engage their thoughts and ideas with courage, while facing risk of a mistake. I see huge benefits as these experiences are preparing their brains to see opportunity in a challenge, and is giving the world builders and tinkerers who are not afraid to try and ask, what if?
Zome Tool was added to the Makerpace through a generous grant from the Jenison Public Education Foundation. Zome Tool is a building set with connectors and straight struts. This allows the students to create a multitude of shapes.
Osmo is a tool that uses augmented reality in conjunction with an iPad. Students can explore with tangrams, numbers, words or interactive drawings.
Five years ago, the first annual Global School Play Day was celebrated as the kick off of a grassroots initiative to raise awareness about the necessity of unstructured play. This week, Pinewood students were counted in the 563,283 students from 75 nations who participated in a Play Day at school.
If you walked into some of these classrooms yesterday, you might have thought “all play and no work” was happening. However, this unstructured, self guided play is allowing our children to develop socially, emotionally and hone problem solving skills. Play is an important part of learning and these are necessary skills that will be used for the rest of their lives.
Global School Play Day gives the students an exciting opportunity to let play take over the classroom for a day. Teachers encourage students to bring toys from home to share with their friends in class. They leave the devices and battery operated fun at home (which is easier for some). It also encourages some of the older kids to reacquaint themselves with toys and hobbies they haven’t enjoyed in a while.
Teachers and staff arrange the day and invite the toys, but nothing is organized beyond that. Children receive no adult instruction on how to play the games or who to play with.
Shanna Richey, Pinewood Kindergarten teacher enjoyed supervising her students and observing a special kind of leadership emerge from some of them. “Their faces just lit up as they were able to lead in sharing their toy. Some students had to explain how to play a game from home. It was so much fun watching each child find ways to share and play with others. I have had some very shy kids blossom on this day because they are able to lead in a new way of sharing their toy.”
While some students found a new game or toy they really enjoyed, and some even found a new depth of friendship through this experience – everyone agrees, they can’t wait for next year’s play day! Play is a way of communicating and connecting so let me encourage our students and families to keep this sort of play alive!!
Cards were fun for the older kids, they had fun teaching each other different games.
Cross age learning buddies! Pinewood 4th grader (Brower) and Kindergardeners (Machiela) took this opportunity to play with and learn from each other!
Classic games are always a hit!
Dr. Peter Gray, Ph.D. is a research professor at Boston College. His current work focuses primarily on children’s natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play. In his TEDx lecture, Peter Gray clearly argues the case that today’s kids do not play enough and this has impacted them negatively. In the past 60 years, quality unstructured play has declined, while society sees a gradual increase in anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.
“Make your mark and see where it takes you.” That’s the sentiment behind International Dot Day, a worldwide celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration. This holiday started just 10 years ago and has grown from a single classroom to thousands of schools across the globe. All because of a book with an inspiring message.
Dot Day is inspired by the Peter H. Reynolds book, “The Dot.” The book depicts the story of a little girl who is shy about expressing her artistic abilities. Following some encouragement from an art teacher, she begins with a tiny dot she put on a piece of paper and from that dot creates multiple works of art.
The concept of this book and the participation in International Dot Day both encourage a ‘growth mindset’ and helps students believe in themselves – something we feel strongly about at Jenison Public Schools. Throughout the day, the students created projects that emphasized the importance of embracing individuality. I love that the Pinewood students joined the celebration again this year and are reminded – that as unique individuals, they can grow and learn and be successful.
I’m grateful for teachers that believe in our students and want them to believe in themselves. These may seem like easy art lessons to some but if our students can learn like the character in the story, Vashti, to be brave and help others, they will eventually believe they can really “make a mark” on the world.
The Pinewood students crafted unique dot-inspired drawings on a paper plate, cutting them in half and then combining them with a partner’s to form a whole circle.
“I think the message behind Dot Day is so important for students of all ages, it reminds them that they are unique and have something special to share with the world. Dot Day is a celebration of this but we try to help our students see this every day. We feel passionately about giving students opportunities for leadership, and to recognize their gifts and share them. At Pinewood Elementary, all of our staff believes that each child is special and unique and has something they can contribute to our community.”
Rachel Postle-Brown, principal of Pinewood Elementary School.
It all started back in August, when the elementary classes began tallying each new day they were in school. Counting in singles, then bundling into 10’s and 20’s – a real life math lesson in progress.
The 100th day marks a special opportunity to reflect upon and celebrate major milestones in our students’ academic achievement. There is so much hard work and learning that happens in the first 100 days of school! We’re thankful that Michigan seems to be feeling back to normal, otherwise I think many were concerned we would never be able to celebrate this year!
Check out Pinewood, Sandy Hill and El Puente as each child was crowned “100 days smarter” and enjoyed a day of celebration!
Creative student contributions of 100 items brought unique collections to the ‘100 Day Museum’.
Some students read a book called Hooray for the 100th Day, about a student who was trying to accomplish 100 good deeds before his 100th day of school was over. He finally reached his goal, but not before several messes were made!
Another activity was writing about how to spend $100! Students shared many fun ideas how to spend the money on themselves and others!
“Dress like a 100 year old” is a favorite, the kids always have so much fun seeing each other and imagining who they will be when they are 100 years old!
Thank you to our amazing teachers who go above and beyond to engage our students in fun, meaningful ways!
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!
1st Grade teacher, Kelsey Radvansky:
I chose Jenison because of the great community and phenomenal teaching staff. I had the opportunity to student teach in Jenison 5 years ago. As soon as I walked in, I knew this was the district for me! The teaching staff, administration and students were all so inviting and warm. It felt more like a “family” environment than a work place. After a few weeks of student teaching, my beliefs were confirmed by the daily conversations with other staff members, the obvious care and concern for every student, and the interactions and support from families. It truly is a dream environment to thrive in!
I KNOW Jenison is a different school district because of its environment. I’ve been in numerous other districts and none have compared to what I’ve felt here. The level of love and support to all kids and staff in this school community is unmatched! Jenison really takes the time to teach the whole student: academically, socially, emotionally and physically. All aspects of education are truly embraced in Jenison.
Pinewood exemplifies teaching the whole student in so many ways. Our building constantly strives to present our students with top of the line curriculum. We are constantly reviving curricula to best meet our students needs. Teachers here are willing to do whatever it takes to give the best material to our students and present it in an exciting way! In addition to that, we have adopted a Social Thinking curriculum. With that, students are exposed to how to be socially self-aware, take on new perspectives, self regulate, and further develop their executive functioning skills. These lessons help students socially and emotionally grow with each coming school year. Finally, at Pinewood, it is not uncommon to see staff attending student events and volunteering outside of the school day. Our staff really wants to build meaningful relationships with each and every child and it shows!!
I always look forward to summer time because I love to go for morning walks with my little yorkie, Cooper. I start my day with a cup of coffee, then him and I hit the trails! I also love to lounge on our back deck and curl up with a good book. Summer is the best time to catch up on house projects, too! I love seeing what I can renovate, decorate or paint in the summer time!
If I wasn’t a teacher, I would probably be the next Joanna Gaines! If you haven’t heard of her, you need to turn to HGTV and watch the show Fixer Upper immediately! I would love to buy and fix up old, run-down houses and make them new again! I love getting my hands dirty with a project, as well as design, decor, and everything about her farmhouse style. Luckily, with being a teacher and having my summers off, I get a glimpse of the lifestyle in my own home with new projects.
Thank you, Ms Radvansky, for your dedication to our schools and community! We’re thrilled you’re on our team!
Ms Radvansky was chosen for this story by Pinewood Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown
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!
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!