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Big T Elementary Playscape closer to fruition!
The Big Thompson Elementary Playscape Project committee came closer to its goal of raising $100,000 to leverage a potential grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) this fall that will provide funding for reconstructing the outdoor play areas at the school. Last week Thompson School District received notice that a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Waste Tire cycle was awarded. Additionally, as a sponsor of the GOCO grant application, to be submitted as part of a "School's Initiative" project, Larimer County's Open Lands Advisory Board set aside up to $30,000 as match for these kinds of grants. The County's dollars can assist this project, or any school with a green playground project, with these funds.
The Loveland community was the first to step up in supporting the Big T Playscape Project with many in-kind donations from local businesses:
"We are very excited," said Sarah Walgast, new principal at Big Thomspon Elementary, "this is something the teachers, students, and parents at Big T have really rallied around."
As a School of Nature and Science, Big Thompson has already seen the results of getting kids outdoors to learn and play. After implementing more of an experiential outdoor learning curriculum in the 2010-2011 school year, the CSAP Science scores went from unremarkable to the top 5 in the District!
The project committee, through many community fundraisers and small grants, has now raised $83,000 leaving $17,000 to raise by the end of the year. Donations, both in-kind and cash, are still being accepted. Call Christa at 218-7174 and/or visit www.bigthompsonelementary.org for project and donation information. All donations are tax deductable. The GOCO grant will be submitted in late August with potential awards made in December.
School district continues Options program as LEAP
Thompson School District has absorbed local administration of the Options Program for home schooled and unschooled students. The program was formerly operated through Aurora Public Schools since 1998. Enrollment continues through May for the 2012-2013 school year.
The new name for the program is Loveland/Berthoud Enrichment Access Program or LEAP. "In April 2011, Aurora Public School contacted the home districts of each of its Options schools to determine if the home district would be interested in taking over the administration of the Options program," said Judy Skupa, deputy superintendent of the district. She said Thompson responded affirmatively and has been working with Aurora and Options for the transition scheduled to be completed with the opening of the 2012-13 school year.
LEAP responds to growing programming to meet the demands of students for alternative learning opportunities. LEAP joins the district Innovation Lab in providing an enrichment opportunity for homeschooled and unschooled students. Unschooled students are defined as those students allowed to learn through natural life experiences, including work and social experiences and exploration, differing from the traditional learning structure and curriculum.LEAP is held one day a week, either on Wednesdays or Thursdays, at the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The Innovation Lab's main point of entry will be at the BU House located at 320 E. Third Street in downtown Loveland. Ferguson High will also serve as a point of entry. Students are expected to complete at least 90 hours of work by the end of the first semester. There will be many learning sites that host the student's learning throughout the Loveland community.
Teachers, administrators, and support staff for LEAP are well-trained and dedicated to educational excellence outside of the traditional school setting, said Judy Skupa, deputy superintendent in the Thompson School District.
All teachers are fully accredited and must hold a valid Colorado teacher's license appropriate for his/her assignment. In addition, teachers are highly qualified as deemed by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Teachers are able to provide the personal attention necessary for an outstanding educational experience. Teachers maintain ongoing communication with parents to ensure school and home are working as a team toward excellent education for each child. The benefits to families who enroll in the Options program include:
Ferguson High School Principal Sheila Pottorff will oversee the LEAP and Innovation Lab program. A learning administrator (formerly titled Thompson Online Principal; continues to oversee Thompson Online) will oversee the day-to-day operations and work collaboratively with the LEAP and Innovation Lab Coordinators who are charged with the responsibility of program development, enrollment of students, school safety, evaluation of staff, and attendance.
The LEAP School is staffed at one teacher per nine students. Teachers are expected to be on the campus for seven hours, six of which are contact time and one for planning purposes. Instructors serve as mentors for students in their project-based learning.
As a home school/unschooled family, the State of Colorado requires all home schooled/unschooled students to submit a Letter of Intent to Home School to the Thompson School District every school year. If a student is enrolled in the LEAP program, they are considered a part-time public school student and therefore are officially registered through the Thompson School District for enrichment. Parents are required to submit the Letter of Intent. Many home school students participate in athletics and extracurricular activities through the local district. Students need to be registered with a letter of intent through the district in order for local athletic departments to be in compliance with CHSAA (Colorado High School Activities Association) regulations.
Help Kids Succeed is community effort
Nearly 1,400 students in the Thompson School District will receive backpacks full of school supplies before school starts in the fall, thanks to a community-wide effort.
The need for funds and supplies is ongoing.
Help Kids Succeed is an annual drive for funds and school supplies to fill backpacks for students whose families might otherwise not be able to afford their supplies for the start of the school year. All the packs for this year need to be filled by the end of July.
The effort began some 10 years ago when United Way, Hewlett Packard, the Salvation Army, the Thompson Education Foundation and others responded to the need in the Loveland-Berthoud communities. Over the years, the event has expanded to include more sponsors and more individual donors.
A few years ago, the Thompson Education Foundation (TEF) assumed the lead duties for Help Kids Succeed and the core team includes representatives from the Salvation Army, United Way, Rocky Mountain Cheer and Dance, the Thompson School District, Loveland Sertoma Club, the Chamber of Commerce, TEF and several individuals. Annual $1,000 sponsors include or have included the Thompson Valley Rotary Club, the Loveland Sertoma Club, the Loveland Rotary Club, Wal-Mart Foundation ( Sam's Club and Distribution Center) and more. These sponsors are crucial for the success of the program, but so is the response from other agencies, churches and individuals, which truly make this a community effort.
In the coming months, you might see briefs or coupons in the paper that seek support of the Help Kids Succeed campaign. A $15 donation sponsors one backpack, but any amount is appreciated. Many area churches will have barrels for their congregations to fill with supplies. The Thompson School District administration building at 800 S. Taft is also a collection site.
Another part of the effort boosting community participation is the dozens of volunteers, including some students, who inventory the supplies and fill the packs for each school, including the district's Early Childhood program and homeless students.
Recipients are identified at the school level and students are presented with the backpacks before school starts so as not to draw attention to who receives them.
There are many ways to participate. And everything collected goes right back into our community. Checks may be written to Thompson Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, 800 S. Taft Ave., Loveland, CO 80537. For more information, call the foundation, 970-613-5074.
And thanks ahead for your support of our students!
MVHS students attend international DECA conference
Patty Roberts and Michaela Wiseman represented Mountain View High School and Thompson School District at the DECA International Career Development Conference (ICDC) in Salt Lake City April 27-May 1.
Roberts competed in the Entrepreneurship Participating Independent event, where her small business proposal, Dazzling Dancers, was well-received by ICDC judges. Wiseman attended the Leadership Development Academy, where she learned a variety of leadership techniques and networked with other students from around the world.
Roberts and Wiseman also attended a leadership seminar headed by Men's Warehouse CEO George Zimmer. Zimmer treated students to his business philosophy and the reasons behind his popular "I guarantee it" company slogan. Additionally, Wiseman and Roberts toured the University of Utah, Red Butte Gardens, attended a Salt Lake City Bees baseball game, and attended an Eli Young Band concert in between their leadership activities.
"The DECA ICDC was so rewarding! I met marketing students from all over the US and feel like I got so much better at networking and feeling confident about my business idea. Next year I hope to become a finalist in my event," said MVHS junior Roberts.
DECA is a student-marketing organization available to students at Mountain View, Loveland and Thompson Valley High schools. More than 13,000 students world-wide attended the ICDC to further their skills in marketing, entrepreneurship, finance, management and finance. For more information on DECA visit www.deca.org. To learn how to help with our local DECA chapters, contact advisor Dave Dillman at 970.613.7818.
Hass recently moved from his position as assistant principal to manager of this grant-funded project. He has been with the district for 23 years and at TVHS for 18 where he served as a math instructor and then assistant principal. His position with the Colorado Legacy Integration Project is paid for through grant funds.
Multi-district Integration project kicks off at Thompson
Innovation is the Key to Improving the World – Bill Gates in his annual Gates Foundation Letter
The Colorado Integration Project, with Thompson School District being a key player, kicked off 2012 with its first session at Thompson School District, where educators began work on a Literacy and Math Design Collaborative for grades 6-12. All funding for this project comes from the Colorado Legacy Foundation.
Thompson, Centennial School District, Denver Public Schools, Eagle County School District and the San Juan BOCES, which includes nine school districts in Southwestern Colorado, comprise the partners. The project design is aimed at improving the number and rate of students who graduate from Colorado high schools and ensuring that they are prepared for college or work.
Following their two-day session, teachers walked away with targeted instructional tools to practice, refine and track that can lead to improvements in delivery of deeper student learning potential, said Lanny Hass, the TSD manager for the project
Educators, including 60 from Thompson and several from four of the partner districts, began the process of building a systemic learning structure for staff and students. The approach emphasizes a formative assessment system that emphasizes student learning rather than test score results and addresses learners at all levels, as well as educator effectiveness. Hass, who has worked in the district for 23 years, primarily at Thompson Valley High School, is excited about the prospects of instilling change to improve education.
"We want to build proficiency in all of our students, not limited to the assessment of proficiency," Hass said. The group has a three-year window to effect change and Hass believes it can be done. A key to this is collaboration, he said. "We have some great professionals out there but do they work collaboratively? We have to be in an environment that allows for constant feedback, one that includes the students and their learning processes."
At the state level, Thompson is known as a leader in change, new ideas and concepts with a very qualified staff, Hass said. This is likely a major reason why Thompson was selected for the project. He is excited to be part of a shift to enhance the system as a whole. "We want to build a consistent framework that gives teachers autonomy, provides the basic concepts but also advances learners," Hass said.
He has no doubt that TSD teachers can meet the challenge. It takes many types of teachers to meet the needs of many learners, but their multiple backgrounds and approaches need to head in a focused direction. One of the tools introduced at the two-day session is the Module Creator, an online system that provides a template for structure but allows teachers to maintain their own styles or autonomy, he said.
Teachers already feel overwhelmed with demands on their classroom and planning time with different approaches and ideas, he said. "The selling point here is not about learning another tool – but about having one that embeds all of the necessary tools they have." He believes both new and master teachers can use the module to develop and build confidence in their teaching skills. "Plus, there is a scalability that is quantifiable and qualitative so it can measure and build effectiveness on a broader scale," Hass said.
With the web-based creator, Hass said teachers can write a task, build a formative instructional plan and structure a lesson plan that provides ownership for the students.
Teachers who attended the sessions will develop a module and implement it within their unit of instruction with students as they address the challenges associated with the "template task," returning on March 27-28 with student work to be scored when the group meets again. Initially, the group of teachers hailed from language arts, science and social studies. Mathematics teachers are participating in a similar endeavor referred to as the Mathematics Design Collaborative. Hass hopes to broaden the scope. "We want to push the envelope and see how it works with electives like physical education, business and other areas that are equally responsible for student learning," he said. Ultimately, about 180 of the district's 500 secondary teachers will participate in sessions. But while he speaks of creating more effective teachers, the bigger goal is about the students. "We have to optimize learning for every student and shift the focus from a teaching model to a learning model, where the emphasis is on the students' ability to take the necessary information and empower them to enhance their own understanding in new learning situations," he said.
To meet the challenges and demands of today's society will take collaborative practices, Hass said. It will take a concerted effort from all parties including teachers, administrators, parents and community. "Fragmentation doesn't optimize education for kids," he said.
The scope of this project is not just about Colorado, he said. "We have to look at the bigger picture – regionally and nationally. We want to see results and optimize the opportunities for students to succeed beyond high school."
The integration project dovetails into the district's 2020 Strategic Plan through the Robust Learning, Equity in Access and Responsible Stewardship goals.
BHS students impress CSU with science, technology, engineering, math skills
Dr. Tom Siller, dean of Engineering from Colorado State University, glanced around the classroom full of students with several stereo speaker systems surrounding them. "I have talked to most of you about your projects and I am really impressed with everything," he said. The Berthoud High School students were impressed as well, being critiqued so positively by a college professor. "I've been studying engineering since I was 13 and I don't remember doing this caliber of work in high school," he told them. Siller, Dr. Michael DeMiranda, professor of Engineering Education, and graduate fellow Dr. Paul Hernandez, an educational psychologist, all visited Scott Kindt's General Physics and AP Physics classes on Jan. 27 as part of their CSU GK-12 collaborative project with BHS (and Thompson Valley High School) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes.
This inventive program is designed to train a new generation
of scientists in biomedical science and engineering
who are inter- and multi-disciplinary in their training,
better equipped for multilevel communication
across ages (GK-12) and fields (engineering, biology,
chemistry, computer science, mathematics), and finally
prepared to take leadership roles for scientific inquiry
and progress into the 21st century.
Research component consists of activities in silicon
sensor design, modeling, and understanding
how molecules move and the functions of multicellular
tissues and organ systems in response
to external chemical and physical stimuli
through intercellular communication.
Education component involves graduate fellows
and doctoral advisors collaborating with K-12
teachers to make new STEM content using engineering
approaches accessible to K-12 STEM
Industry partners provide practical experiences
for graduate fellows, teachers, and K-12 students.
From the CSU GK-12 website:
The GK-12 project is a college/K-12 program that provides multi-disciplinary training across the ages in science, technology, engineering and math. At CSU, the primary focus is on biomedical sciences through three components: research, education and partnerships. Along with their projects, students in groups of five to 10 each created posters to communicate their work to other scientists, engineers and mathematicians. "The essence is how can we translate our research from CSU into the classroom at the high school and use this educational collaboration to communicate and advance scientific inquiry," DeMiranda said. After receiving some suggestions from their CSU visitors, the students will complete their 4-foot x 3-foot posters. Kindt said these projects, along with the science poster, will be on display at the National Science Foundation GK-12 conference in Washington, DC, in March. Kindt's AP Physics and General Physics classes have been involved in the CSU GK-12 engineering project for the past two months. "This is an integrated project that also involves the collaboration of Physics, Algebra II, and Principles of Engineering classes at BHS," he said – a total of about 200 students. "The physics students designed and built stereo amplifiers and speakers. They worked with Rob Sommerfeld's Principles of Engineering students, who experimented with various materials to design and build the boxes to hold all the electronics." Then, he said, Mil Santos' Algebra II students tested and measured the electronic equipment using algebraic principles.
Kindt is in the third year of the CSU-Thompson collaboration. The idea for the speaker systems came during a brainstorming session last summer. "Kids can really relate to the speaker systems," he said. He was right. The students loved the projects and were anxious to share their knowledge and processes with DiMiranda, Seller and Hernandez. "This was really fun," said Trevor Vonsegdern, a sophomore who knows what he wants in his future. "I definitely want to be an engineer – it's my dream," he said. "This taught us a lot about circuitry," he noted. He said each group had a lot of flexibility in how they approached their problems and solutions. "We chose the lm 3886 chip, which is a high performing chip, but we found that it overheated our system, so we had to work out that issue," he said. Junior Sarah Brickey loves the class, even though her future aspirations are in political science. And Sierra Stippich wants to be a doctor, but this multi-level and multi-disciplinary project "is a really good project for application of all aspects of engineering." Being able to work in such depth on a project provides students enough detail about what they might expect in college, and they like being able to see that now. One student said she was sure she was going into engineering, but wasn't sure if her focus would be chemical, electrical or another area.
Hispanic parents at Winona Elementary School
forge new relationships in the classroom
Parents and staff at Winona Elementary School are fostering new relationships that ultimately support the students at their school.
Several Spanish-speaking families in the Winona community have taken the step across the language barrier to work with Winona staff so they can better help their students become successful learners.
Padres en Acción or Parents in Action are empowered and ready to enter the classroom and volunteer to assist with skills that English language learners might be struggling with.
"Relationships are the key to everything," said Michelle Myers, family outreach liaison for the district's Title program. "When kids see their parents helping in the classroom, it is synergistic." The process to draw families closer to the Winona community started a year ago with staff going out into their school community to meet with Spanish-speaking parents. "We felt a disconnect with our Spanish-only speaking parents," said Principal Larry Shores, who ventured out and visited with some families with Myers. "Michelle and I met with 4 or 5 Spanish-speaking families twice last year at one of their homes," Shores said. "The conversation was nearly identical in content and concerns to that of similar meetings with English-speaking families, except that it was held in Spanish. It became obvious that this segment of our school was being left out of the education conversation that's so rich and immediate for Winona."
By identifying a core group that staff felt had significant influence with similar families, Myers called more than a dozen families with an invitation to participate in a discussion about being involved in making Winona the best possible place to learn. "It's been a very organic process because parents wanted some avenue for getting involved," she said.
"Thanks to the incredible efforts and energy of Michelle, Julie Peters and Lenora Valerio (English Language Acquisition teachers), we have been able to welcome more of our families to participate meaningfully in their children's education," Shores said.
Peters explained Padres en Acción as part of the hope/esperanza building daily at Winona Elementary School. There have been three Acción Clases de Instrucciones Académicas or classes for the group. The parents signed up for the classes on a voluntary basis and signed all the paperwork with the VITAL (volunteer) office. "We had everything translated by our ELA (English Language Acquisition) department," Peters said. "The parents indicated they wanted to be volunteers in the school in a meaningful way and we provided the instructional classes for them. We had asked the teachers what could be emphasized."
The meetings began and they have had up to 16 parents attend. "Our first class was Nov. 29 and then Dec. 6 and 13. Our parents came on the coldest night of the year – Dec. 6!" Shores also provided childcare. He even presented parents with diplomas in front of their children for their efforts.
Armed with their new lessons and tools, the parents started their volunteer service excited, empowered and a little nervous, Myers noted. "We are all a little nervous the first time we go into a classroom," she said. "Volunteers have individual bags of instructional aids such as flash cards for math and the alphabet, Spanish/English translation dictionaries and more. The volunteers bring their bags each time they come to work with the students," Peters said.
People want to be connected with their school community, Myers said. "It's about relationships and being able to be who you are and feel useful with the time you have to give, whether it is once a week, once a month or whatever," she said.
Students address leadership skills at conference
Stories of burdens, challenges and success are shared
Eduardo's father, who was born in the United States, lived with his extended family in Venezuela, where he was a doctor. But when Eduardo's parents moved to Florida in the early 80s, they had $500 and three suitcases, and his father could not practice medicine in the U.S.
"We moved to Miami. We lived in a tiny apartment in Little Havana. We were poor … I didn't speak English. I got beaten up at school," Eduardo Navidad told 40 middle and high school students attending the three-day Hispanic-Latino Leadership Institute recently at the Pulliam Building.
He told how as a lonely kid, he learned how sports could build his self-esteem, thanks to a gym teacher. He struggled with English and found success in math because numbers are the same in both languages. He spoke of the ever-present lure of gangs. "There were these obstacles, hardships and burdens or cargas that often set people up to fail," he said. But he drew strength, pride and dignity from his family, his faith, teachers and his athletic abilities. He went to college and beyond. Now, Navidad is a teacher in the Thompson School District and has also earned his principal's certification.
His was just one of a handful of speakers who told their stories to the students so they could relate to people who struggled past their hardships to become successful. The students then wrote words about the gifts that they have to help them cope and placed them on the "healing tree" to remind them of the positive influences they have in life. "These are your regalos, your gifts, and sources of strength and dignity or fuerza," Navidad told them. They placed these words on a healing tree, which reflect such words as friends, family, teachers, faith and college in the students' handwriting.
During the three-day workshop, students worked in groups of six with a Latino leader that holds a position within the school district. These group leaders will continue to correspond and counsel members of their group throughout the school year. Students addressed many topics during the conference, and on one morning, focused on coping mechanisms to help them with whatever burdens come their way. "We really worked to introduce ways to balance the physical, emotional and mental well-being," Navidad said.
One of the final projects the students completed was to make a quilting square reflecting something about their life, whether it be their name, a symbol, a word, or a picture. As in past years, the squares will be placed onto a quilt to tell the story of this year's group. Their final activity was for the group to define a community activity or project that they will participate in during the year to reflect their leadership abilities.
The HLLI conference is sponsored by the district's Diversity Council composed of staff, students and members of the community.
gives $10,000 for arts in district
The Loveland Sculpture Invitational Group presented $10,000 in checks ranging from $150 to $1,000 to art teachers from 25 schools in the Thompson School District. The group, which sponsors the Sculpture Invitational at LHS in August, has donated funds to art teachers for nearly all of its 20 years of existence. The checks were presented at a reception on Nov. 14 at Mountain View High School.
"As a former art teacher, we decided if we were going to make money at the sculpture show, we would give some to the local school system," said Sculptor George Lundeen, one of the founders of the show.
"I want to thank you for everything you have done for us," said MVHS art teacher Ann McManus. "We are honored to have an organization be this generous to us."
Prior to presenting individual checks to art teachers with members of the Sculpture Invitational board, Mayor Cecil Gutierrez commended the group for its civic support. He said he knows how important the donations to art programs are because it affords teachers to do some great projects. He noted that his wife, Kay Gutierrez, is a retired art teacher in the district.
"We are blessed to have an organization that helps to cultivate and nurture us," said Superintendent Ron Cabrera.
Jerry Houser, a sculptor and founder of the show, emphasized the importance of the organization's investment in the schools. "Without these people, arts in Loveland may not be propagated." He added that in the 20 years of the show, 1800 sculptors have participated, some of whom went through the Thompson School District.
The amounts schools received correlated to their work with the Emerging Artist project. The Emerging Artist tent at the Sculpture Invitational is an opportunity every summer for students and teachers to come together to view the work of professional artists from all over the country. Students with a high interest in art are chosen to work in the tent producing clay art pieces with the guidance of their teachers.
High school students also volunteer time to help adult and children attendees of the LSG Invitational create clay bowls that benefit the Food Bank for Larimer County Empty Bowls project.
Students treat storyteller to her own story
Author and storyteller Vivian Dubrovin was treated to a presentation of one of her own stories, complete with visuals – ghost marionettes, made by 4th and 5th graders in Julia Peters' early language acquisition class recently at Winona Elementary School.
Dubrovin, author of 17 books, has visited Peters' classes at three different schools. "I first met her years ago when she was at a family reading night at B. F. Kitchen and my daughter was a student there," Peters said. "She is a master storyteller and has won several awards," Peters added.
For this visit, the students made the marionettes and performed one of her stories. "They wrote questions to interview her - it was great," Peters said. "She also read one student's story that he had written - a big thrill for him to have a 'real author' read his story."
Peters said Dubrovin began writing her books using a typewriter. "The students have really enjoyed using a typewriter that I brought into the classroom – they think it's really neat, but to imagine writing a whole book with one really broadens their perspective."
Dubrovin's visit culminated a week and a half-long project. Her visit was followed by thank you letters written by the students.
Group Publishing welcomes 5th graders to Fun Shop
Group Publishing hosted 27 students, mostly from Thompson School District to the Fun Shop, a career selection project in which students wrote instructions for a game.
The Group has offered the Fun Shop several times in the past 10 years as a way to give students career skills. More than 60 staff members were involved in the event where students experienced the following job roles as part of this assignment: accounting (sales/cost forecasting); supply chain (buying supplies); marketing (focus grouping titles and slogans); editing (writing the game instructions out); design (choosing templates and color schemes); media (posing for photos). Schools were invited to bring one student per 5th grade classroom. Schools that participated were: Big Thompson, Carrie Martin, Edmondson, Ivy Stockwell, Lincoln, Mary Blair, Monroe, Namaqua, New Vision Charter, Ponderosa and Winona. Resurrection Christian and Heritage Christian school students were also in attendance.