Book Buddies on the Bus

Last fall, a conversation was started by a concerned parent. One that I’m sure many of you have experienced within your own family. How much technology is too much? And while devices and access to technology can be good (you’re probably reading this on a pocket sized device right now), how do we protect our younger students from dangerous activities and content, and promote positive alternatives to screen time? And as an administrator, how can we support best practices while our students are in our care?

After months of research and conversations, I am happy to support our Jenison transportation team as they have introduced a “No Electronics” rule for our elementary school buses. Our district decided to allow the students to keep their devices in their backpacks (eliminating the potential for lost/stolen items or inappropriate use); and saw this as the perfect opportunity to go one step further to give the students something different to occupy their time.

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Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 1.17.25 PMI’m excited that a simple yet impactful solution was born. Working with the Transportation team on this idea, Kristy Rogalla, JPS Director of Curriculum followed the ‘Classroom Library’ strategy and worked with Scholastic to provide 25 buses with bins of books for the students to read while on the road.  

The bin contains books from a wide range of reading selections, appropriate for Kindergarten through 6th grade. Accomodating all readers including comics/short stories, nonfiction and more  for even the shortest bus rides. It is exciting to continue to encourage a passion for reading and life long learning; we’re already seeing very positive reactions and an outpouring of parent support.

140798462e0b154610057ef1cc788fd81427c3daProviding books for all students has encouraged them to read to themselves or with their seat partner and teachers in the classrooms have been hearing about which books they are choosing while on the bus. Bus drivers report that students have been excited to board the bus and get the books they want! The book bins are available during the traditional before and after school bus routes as well as field trips and any other times the buses are in action.

MIII4628After implementing this program, one driver shared that it was the first time since the beginning of this year that the older grade students were engaging in conversation and actually getting to know each other rather than being glued to their screens. Overall, this change has created a calmer atmosphere as students are not clamoring over the seats to see what other students are watching, listening to or playing on their gadgets.

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Jill Brower, Penguin bus driver

Jill Brower, Jenison mom and driver of the Penguin bus for El Puente and Kids First, considers herself a concerned parent when it comes to technology and is grateful for the book bins. She loves to see the excitement on the kids’ faces when they get on to see which book they can get next – as they are swapped out weekly. Older students on her bus are embracing the concept as well – often bringing their own books from home and sharing with friends. She has had a great year with her students and she loves getting to know them and creating a respectful riding environment. She has introduced “Whisper Wednesdays” – so students can read aloud but only by whispering. “It sometimes lasts just a few minutes but the kids all get a kick out of it and some students ask if we can do Whisper Wednesdays on other days too! I love my students, we have so much fun and I’m happy to see them engaging each other more and diving into the books!”

One of my favorite outcomes of this change comes from the Penguin and the Dino busses who are reporting a grassroots ‘book buddy’ program starting to form. Older students showing interest in sitting up front with the younger kids to interact with them and read to them. Readers are leaders and readers are who we are in Jenison – whether we’re in the classroom or on the road!!

It is our fundamental belief that the successful education of our students is dependent on a positive partnership between parents, teachers, and administrators. When you think of all the obvious school partners and resources, please don’t forget the support teams and your child’s bus driver! I am proud that our transportation team and our 30+ daily drivers are every bit of an extension of the commitment I feel for our students in regards to their academics and mental health and wellness.

Get connected with all the news from Jenison Transportation.

Transportation Services Letter to Parents – New Electronics Rule

Learn more about our Jenison Classroom Libraries.

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Wild Winter Week

January 2019 was a stark contrast to the mild and snowless December we recently experienced – and it was probably the most in-depth meteorology lesson this generation of students has ever experienced. Words like polar vortex, lake effect, arctic blast, and snow squall paved the way for a Governor issued “State of Emergency” for the lower peninsula!

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While it looked like a beautiful Winter Wonderland outside our windows, those conditions always cause concern for the safety of our students and staff. Even after the snow somewhat calmed by midweek, the bitter cold was still a force to be reckoned with. Windchill temperatures were the coldest on record since 1994 rendering the use of ice-melt salt ineffective. This turned out to be the perfect storm of “inclement weather”, thus keeping us home for a whole week! 

Now, as I reflect on a difficult weather week, and even as we sit in the midst of more delays this week, I wanted to share that I’m so proud of the community that Jenison is, even when the busses aren’t running.

Snow Day Learning

Just because school wasn’t open, doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. Many of our dedicated teachers took to social media to interact with students and read books to them; encouraging them to sharpen their brains with learning while on snow break. Students had a lot of fun seeing their teachers at home with their own kids, still being teachers! With a few breaks in the weather, some even gathered for impromptu reading time! A ‘snowpocalypse’ can’t even stop our tremendous staff!

Jenison Students and Teachers keep the brainpower going during a long snowy break!

Jenison students and teachers stay cozy while keeping the brain power going!

 

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Jenison Teacher and Coach, Kelly Krepps is an excellent role model and consistently sets the bar high for our students. Coach Krepps put a call out to his athletes on Twitter, challenging them to get outside and shovel a neighbor’s driveway and sidewalks. Insisting they do not accept payment; unless of course they were being paid in sincere gratitude and maybe hot chocolate. Way to think outside yourself, Jenison Wrestlers!

While many squeal with excitement at the prospect of an unexpected day off school, 30415482_1783281571691849_4282489301717136922_nthere are families in our community that rely on school meals for daily nutrition. On the first day of the break, Hand2Hand founder and Executive Director, Chari Honderd put out a call on social media and through a television interview for those who may need help to get through the week. 

Rachael Postle-Brown, the principal of our Pinewood Elementary School was one of the volunteers who hand delivered bags of food. 

“All of the families were very grateful and thanked me. It was an adventure. I got stuck in one family’s driveway and the Dad came out to help. He took the time to share how much he appreciated the support his family receives from Jenison Public Schools. One of our former elementary students (who is now in high school) saw me from across the street and came out in the cold to help. It was so nice to see him and his character shining through. At the next house, the parents said how much the food was going to help over the weekend. At the final delivery of the day, the student was so excited and thankful that he jumped up and down. I felt blessed to be able to be of service for our families. I want our community partners to know that we are so thankful for all they do for our students. It is so appreciated.” 

We’re so happy to partner with a forward thinking organization and that selfless volunteers were abundant. Over three days during that week, 82 families in the west Michigan area received deliveries of food, hope and love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cultivating a Love for Reading

There’s often talk about how teachers pour so much time and energy into decorating and designing their classroom experience. While some may think this is simply for fun, there is deep purpose and intention behind every detail. We know in order to stay true to our mission to build generations of lifelong learners, a love for learning and a culture of literacy must be developed as a foundational principle right from the start. So it should come as no surprise to hear that the recent addition of our Classroom Libraries is much more than a Type-A pleasing, color coordinated, neatly organized, book-nook tucked in the corner of the classroom.

Kristy Rogalla, our District Curriculum Director and a team of our teachers and literacy coaches, have been working behind the scenes on a multi-year journey to provide each and every classroom with a mini library of its own. Many hours were dedicated to the selection process, ordering, receiving, and cataloging long before they were delivered and teachers could start their organizing fun! Efforts started at the elementary level, and the focus continues to grow and expand into classroom libraries for all kids, in all classrooms.

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1st graders in Kelly Osterink’s class at Rosewood Elementary enjoy choosing their own books for independent, structured reading time.

Two years ago, the team began to build robust classroom libraries and has worked to add to them this year, with future plans to continue. Considering state education expectations; book selections have been targeted for high interest books, at a range of reading levels (meeting students where they are) and choices that include fiction, non-fiction, science and social studies. Diversity is a key focus so students can see themselves in books and find reading enjoyable and relatable. The team also plans to add more interactive read-aloud choices for teachers and student books to support the work in Units of Study for Reading. 

132669468cd79bec71be52823f973543ea171940.jpg“The development of the classroom libraries also helps for when new teachers are hired or teachers move grade levels. This allows for rich student experiences with a variety of texts in whichever classroom family they may belong.  Equity is important in this journey.” – Kristy Rogalla, JPS Director of Curriculum

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 John Scholma’s 4th graders from Bursley Elementary have been devouring new books from the classroom library.

We have heard great stories of success with all the books that have become available. Our teachers have responded gratefully for the resources and have seen a love for reading that is organically growing. Students of all ages are engaged and motivated to read, not necessarily for a reward, but for the love of reading. We find the Classroom Library project to be an uncomplicated way for us to invest in our students daily and further our mission of building generations of lifelong learners. I applaud the efforts of Kristy and her team over the last few years and look forward to seeing this foundational program grow and evolve; setting our students up for success at school and in life.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Harry S. Truman

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Some of Jane Brown’s High School English Students; we have seen students of all ages growing a love and passion for reading with all the books that have become available in the Classroom Library program.

 

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Junior High Spanish Immersion students in Clare Chamberlin’s class have really enjoyed their classroom library to sharpen their second language skills. 

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Lots of planning, ordering and sorting work is done before our amazing JPS teachers get their hands and creative brains busy on their custom classroom libraries! These pictures are from this past summer; High school shipment being organized and new Units of Study curriculum ready for delivery.

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