FCPS Feature Articleshttp://www.fcps.netUmbraco / FCPS custom codeRecent articles published on the FCPS Web site featuring our kids, staff, and communityenSTEAM sophomores search out ‘American Dream’http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/digitaldream2014-11-25T10:25:07http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/digitaldreamThe “American Dream” takes on new and different meanings for today’s teenagers. To unpack the possibilities, sophomores at the STEAM Academy banded into groups for brainstorming and completed multimedia projects working off the question “What does the American Dream look like in the 21st century?” Kelli Reno, who teaches the Advanced English II classes, had called on her students to explore how stereotypes, bias and pressure to conform affect their lives and the decisions they make.

“Some groups really struggled with the idea of ‘What is America? Is it a good place? Is it a positive place?’ Some students were really upset, really disillusioned, and felt like opportunities are only there for certain people,” Reno said. “There was a lot of focus on how (the dream is) different for everybody – it depends on the individual and how they define it.”

In preparation this fall, the teens studied Gene Yang’s graphic novel “American Born Chinese” and Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun,” along with several short essays. They also participated in the school’s Chinese Festival, which aimed to raise cultural awareness at STEAM. One of the challenges was the class readings were from unfamiliar authors and varied perspectives, including Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and contemporary poets Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco. “It was an interesting snapshot,” Reno said. “What is the state of the American Dream? What is it that we want?”

Shawn Reynolds, whose group produced a rap video featuring Thomas Jefferson and President Obama, saw no problem with myriad dreams blending old traditions with modern advancements. “All the versions are so different but still related – in trying to be the best you can be and making sure you’re happy,” he said. Classmate Katelyn Mofield was also excited about the assignment. “This is something I’ve had a passion about. It challenged me to go deeper with my learning,” she said. After interviewing classmates, Katelyn wrote a poem to bring her vision to life. “The American Dream isn’t cookie cutter,” she noted. “We are so blessed to have the opportunity to chase our dreams, whatever that means to you.”

Gary Fisher, who teaches Intro to Music Technology, was available to help with students’ digital media projects, which incorporated music, art and technology skills through such programs as Movie Maker, iMovie, and Adobe After Effects CC.  Most of the teens turned in videos; a few created podcasts and narrated drawings. “As we got into it, I realized how important it was how we present this project,” said sophomore J.T. Hickey, whose five-member group used all their diverse ideas. “The American Dream should actually be individual to who you are and what you think personally,” they decided, “and it doesn’t matter if you were born here or are becoming a citizen.”

Guest judges assessed the group projects based on the students’ live presentations, marking their clarity and purpose, creative and critical thinking, technical skills, and professionalism. The panels included STEAM and FCPS administrators and teachers, community partners, parents, and personnel from local universities. Reno planned to post the top-rated videos on YouTube.

For Sabri Williams, the visual and verbal presentations were crucial to others’ understanding the dreams the students tried to depict. Each group had a total of only 10 minutes to share with the judges, including their 3-to-5-minute video. “We struggled at first because many of us hadn’t developed our dream. We’ve only lived a small portion of our lives, so our dream has potential to change going forward. What happens in your life really shapes your dream,” Sabri said, referencing a team member from Palestine. “This was a real exploration of self – to realize there’s diversity and to accept other cultures. This project really helped us grow as individuals in who we are as people. It was diving deeper into who I am and what I want in life.”

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Group of Dixie boys ‘Making A Change’ for the betterhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/omac2014-11-20T13:43:36http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/omacSixteen boys at Dixie Magnet Elementary are bonding this year as the OMAC team (Operation Making A Change), which is gaining a certain cachet. “You are all setting an example for others and becoming leaders in this school, and others notice,” Dean of Students Cheri Presley told the group at a recent session.

These students are accustomed to garnering attention, though not always for the right reasons. Some have behavior issues; others, poor work habits. But all have the potential to turn things around. “Each of these students has positive things to offer the team as well as areas they need to grow,” Presley said. “Their teachers felt like a male mentor would be highly beneficial.”

That’s where OMAC comes in. Gerald Gibson, an employee of the Fayette County Attorney’s Office and a former gang member from the Illinois and Wisconsin areas, developed this program to help youths understand the impact and consequences of their decisions. He and former police officer Greg Howard spend a half-hour on Tuesdays at Dixie, and Gibson occasionally drops by unannounced. “It’s amazing when you go in there and they see your face and they light up,” he said.

OMAC covers a range of topics such as respect, bullying, violence prevention, asking for help, society’s expectations and the importance of education. Gibson and Howard also plan a field trip to a camp outside town for team-building and social-skills activities. Each message is tailored for fourth- and fifth-graders; sometimes it focuses on specifics for Dixie like personal responsibility. For instance, Presley assigns the boys chores and duties – whether planting mums, greeting visitors at the door or raising the flag outside. “Those jobs are teaching them to become responsible,” she said.

One recent afternoon, Gibson threw out several questions including “Who could be nicer to you?” “Who did you help today?” and “If you were the teacher, what would you teach?” As the boys raised their hands to answer, the others listened attentively (for the most part), and Gibson allowed their responses to steer the informal conversation. Though he welcomes active participation, he doesn’t allow the students to take over. A quick reminder to “Snap it up!” prompts the kids to face forward, sit up straight, make eye contact and button their lips. “We did a great job today, but we can do better,” he told them. “Every time we meet, we should be making progress.” 

The boys respect Gibson, who brings a gritty backstory. “I definitely was the first student of OMAC. I had a lot of personal issues and was on the wrong track,” he said. Drawing from his own experiences, he created OMAC in 1999 to help young people turn their lives around and pursue positive goals. “It’s teaching the kids accountability and to make good choices. It’s just having a strong presence of a male role model in there, and we get some good results from that,” he said. “I want them to know that regardless of where they grow up or live, it’s not an issue of who they can become in the future. And I just want the kids to always remember there’s hope – no matter how many mistakes you make in life.”

Dixie piloted OMAC last spring with a handful of boys, whose shift in attitude spurred Presley and social worker Jodie Carper to expand the program this year. Now, younger students recognize the OMAC team around school, and team members take pride in their efforts to work together and support one another. They’re also striving to collect compliments and 10 “Good job!” stickers so they can earn an OMAC T-shirt. “They feel a sense of family and a part of a group, which is something they need,” Presley said. “We try to keep it a mix of guidance and fun. We want it to be positive because we’re helping them grow into leaders.” She also hopes OMAC instills self-confidence in the boys, saying, “When you believe in yourself, that’s when you see success and feel it.”


FUSE’s level-up gaming approach hooks studentshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/fusepilot2014-11-20T10:37:56http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/fusepilotFor about three dozen students, this particular day out of school meant fun and games of a whole new variety. Teams from host Bryan Station High, the STEAM Academy and The Learning Center at Linlee (TLC) tackled the “solar roller” and “wind commander” kits in a pilot of FUSE, an interest-driven learning experience developed by researchers at Northwestern University and supported by Siemens Corp., a global energy company. “For students to get this kind of technology and just dive right in, it’s true inspiration in learning,” said Bryan Station physics teacher Tommy Warner. “It opens up different opportunities for students with a loose structure, and it gives them the freedom to tinker.”

Superintendent Tom Shelton saw immediate results, including adaptive problem-solving, creativity and persistence. “When a student is learning and they don’t even realize it, that’s when you know you’ve hit the sweet spot,” he said.

FUSE provides tools for pressing ahead in the STEAM areas – science, technology, engineering, arts/design and math – through a series of challenges that engage students much like video games, with each level increasingly difficult to master. FUSE offers modules in robotics, electronics, biotechnology, graphic design, 3D printing and Android app development. The kits can be reused and shared. In Fayette County Public Schools, the goal is to expand the Chicago-based initiative in high schools districtwide.

“This is a never-tried-before approach to STEAM,” said Tresine Logsdon, the energy and sustainability curriculum coordinator for FCPS. “It is carefully designed to appeal to students who are already engaged by the leveling up, video-game interface. It’s an environment they’re comfortable in and accustomed to. It’s orchestrating a ‘geek-out’ moment while they’re actively learning engineering concepts.”

With the solar roller kit, for instance, students advanced three levels – from designing the car’s basic functionality to storing battery power for traveling through a tunnel to directing their model’s movement with a hand-held light source. With the wind experiment, students encountered two separate challenges. In one, they determined larger fan vents would generate the power needed to lift a weighted cup; in the other, smaller vents resulted in more speed as they charged a light board. “It forces you to think differently and figure out real-world problems,” said Bryan Station senior John Rhodes. “If every class were like this, there’d probably be a lot more engineers!” Maggie Pool, a junior, agreed. “It was a lot of fun to create a project and work past those ‘aha’ moments,” she said. “We really learned more by figuring it out for ourselves.”

To advance through each challenge sequence in the custom online learning platform (www.fusestudio.net), students upload digital artifacts such as photos, videos or 3D design files to document their completion and “level up.” Along the way, they can access video tutorials that answer the most commonly asked questions, which enables the teachers/facilitators to serve as coaches. “I get to teach the content, rather than troubleshoot the technology,” Warner said, adding, “I can teach them based off their designs and interests.” Logsdon said FUSE certainly breaks the mold of traditional instruction. “In this learning environment, trial and error is what leads to success,” she noted.

Students from the pilot sites seemed enthused by the prospects. “I learned some really cool stuff,” said Ryan Moore, a sophomore at the STEAM Academy. “They have so many projects on the website. If all are as creative and educational and fun as the two today, this program is going to be great!”

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Maxwell students groom next wave of gardenershttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/harvesttime2014-11-19T14:58:30http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/harvesttimeA sense of responsibility, generosity and compassion is growing along with the new garden at Maxwell Spanish Immersion Magnet School, where Leadership students shepherded younger kids through the first fall harvest. “We’re trying to teach them about the garden so they can take it on,” said 10-year-old Sophie Ecker, who proposed the project. “Since we won’t be here next year, the kindergarteners will take over, so we want them to know as much about the garden as possible.”

Last year as students kicked around different ideas of how to better their school, they agreed a garden was the best option. “It would really bring the Maxwell community together,” Sophie thought. The Leadership Class, which is made up of gifted-and-talented fourth- and fifth-graders, wrote a proposal and secured a $1,000 sustainability improvement grant that is renewable annually, which will enable Maxwell to add more raised beds and a fence to protect the street-side garden. Delia Scott, a Cooperative Extension agent for horticulture in Fayette County, has served as mentor – advising the children on the garden’s location, types of beds, soil testing and needed materials. As students divided the duties, fifth-grader James William Grant found himself on the planning end – doing Web research and checking into the types of vegetables they should plant and how much the project would cost. “I’ve been doing more of the inside stuff in bringing this garden to life,” he said.

Leadership Class instructor Rachel Jones said the staff is pleased to see the kids’ enthusiasm. “The most important lesson so far is that you have to persevere when you have an idea. It won’t always turn out exactly as you envisioned, and it’s not going to be perfect the first time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still great successes and things we can learn along the way,” she said. “Most community-based projects that are sustainable over time are meant to be improved upon. It’s been a hard lesson for them but a productive lesson.”

On Nov. 7, the Maxwell crew harvested the August plantings of kale, spinach, broccoli, beets, radishes, lettuce and cabbage, Swiss chard, carrots and peas. While not everything had survived, the thriving plants were ready for picking; others needed more time in the ground. James William was amazed at how everything had progressed from summer to fall, saying, “Wow! It was quick, easy and fun!” Amayiah Cheek was also excited to see the results; she was among youngsters in Maxwell’s after-school program who tended the vegetables this fall by watering the plants and spraying for bugs. “Whenever the little kids get bigger, they can help with the garden, too, so we have even more food,” she said. 

The fifth-graders, who paired up with kindergarteners, guided their charges as they took turns pulling up vegetables and snipping leaves. “It’s on-the-spot lessons about what part of the plant do we harvest and eat, and what’s the best way to harvest that vegetable,” Jones noted. The produce, which children piled into a wheel barrow, was destined for the Lexington Humane Society, where rabbits and others will feast. “We care about the animals, and they need food to survive,” said fourth-grader Kyzaun Butler, explaining the donation.

Principal Heather Bell still wanted the children to taste their work, however, so she cooked up a big pot of soup to sample in the cafeteria, using the same vegetables. “You have gone from garden to table, and you’re giving back to the community,” she said in praising their efforts. The Weekly Juicery, a nearby business, also provided several beverages packed with nutrients and vitamins, such as carrot juice and beet juice. 

The goal is that students take full ownership of their garden. “We’re still developing a plan for managing the care and maintenance and for how all students can play a role. It can be a load of responsibility that is shared by many so we all can have a piece in the project,” Jones said.

Bell agreed. “Our fifth-graders are grooming our future gardeners,” she said, “and these are the things that make memories in school.”  

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Liberty coalition steps up for humane societyhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/petproject2014-11-13T14:50:48http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/petprojectA group at Liberty Elementary found that puppy love warmed their hearts on a brisk day as they handed off donations to the nonprofit Lexington Humane Society. The effort involved more than two dozen students in the Girls on the Run (GOTR) after-school club and the gifted-and-talented Leadership Team. “The whole group really feels like we should share with the community, and animals is a love we all share,” said fifth-grade Leadership member Arden Ensor. “If you want to do something, you can’t just keep the idea in your head,” she noted. “Ms. Wheeler gave us the basics and we elevated it. It was really simple with all of us working together.”

Team sponsor Amy Wheeler wanted to show the youngsters how true leaders step up to help. “Our Leadership motto this year is ‘giving back to the community,’ and Girls on the Run wanted to do a service project, too, so we combined to get a better turnout and more donations,” she said.

The result was several boxes full of blankets, towels, bleach and hand sanitizer along with dog food, treats and toys. Brittany Chambers, volunteer coordinator at the humane society, loaded up the contributions after the promotional event outside Liberty. “It’s definitely very much needed, and I’m always so amazed at the generosity of the kids,” she said.

A few weeks ago, the students tossed around various ideas for service projects and then voted to help the humane society. “We talked about it since mid-October and spent a day making posters and yard signs,” said fourth-grade GOTR member Olivia Johnson. Students also decorated cardboard boxes to place around school for donations and included reminders in the morning announcements. “A lot of people brought stuff,” Olivia said. “We’ve learned that you think of others before yourself.”  

Teacher Jill Niemi, who said this was the club’s biggest project in her six years as GOTR sponsor, was pleased at how the students planned and carried out the event. “I really wanted them to see that even though we aimed really big, we were able to do it,” she said. “They could pick something and see it all the way through. They started with a brainstorming idea and narrowed it down. Then we set a goal to finish it, and they saw it through.”

“The biggest thing we teach is that the girls are strong and can do everything they set their minds to,” Niemi added. “They can stick up for themselves, choose their friends, finish a 5K, impact their community – GOTR is kind of an empowerment program.”

That mindset dovetails with the Leadership Team, which is why the partnership worked out well. This type of project can also give students confidence going forward. “They can see how they were able to organize this huge event, so when faced with something, they already know they can do it,” Niemi said. “They see the power in an individual and power in a group project. If you band together and you’re all doing it, then you can get something done.” 


Students uncover meaning of traditions on ‘Day of the Dead’http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/daydead2014-11-13T14:36:57http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/daydeadStudents who ventured into the Old Episcopal Burying Ground on the Day of the Dead said the traditions and symbolism of this Latin American holiday are nothing to fear. “To a lot of outsiders it seems morbid, but they’re celebrating the memory of their loved ones,” said Angela Wei, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.

Angela and about 10 classmates in the Spanish honor society were among groups that set up altar displays in the cemetery for Lexington’s ninth annual festival, hosted by the Living Arts & Science Center. The Dunbar gravesite featured flowers, fruits, gourds and candles, with beans arranged in the shape of skulls. Each year, the honor society’s display tends toward general motifs and styles of decorations, rather than specifics such as a person’s favorite foods. Meanwhile, youngsters in the art club and Spanish club at Southern Elementary colored pictures of skulls and set out religious icons and votive candles. And nearby, a Spanish Immersion Program group from Maxwell and Northern elementaries and Bryan Station High put up a colorful canopy, draped an obelisk with flowers, and set out gallon milk jugs cut and painted as skulls. Tates Creek Middle and Clays Mill Elementary students also participated.

“The belief is that the art shows they’re still remembered and appreciated,” said Dunbar senior Samuel Wycoff. “The dead live on through the people they’ve influenced, so we can perpetuate their life after they’ve passed away.” “It’s really a cool experience,” he added.

Along with the altars, the “Night of the Angels” festival offered rich visual, musical, dance and culinary experiences of the holiday, which is celebrated in Mexico and parts of Central and South America. “We really like showcasing the different art forms and traditions. It’s trying to educate the community and let them know this is not just Mexico’s version of Halloween,” said Heather Lyons, executive director of the Living Arts & Science Center (LASC). “It’s actually much more related to our Memorial Day – just more colorful.”

Students of all ages from Fayette and surrounding counties, along with their families, turned out on the blustery Saturday evening. While some prepared the burying ground for the candlelit parade, others gathered outside and inside the LASC for face-painting, crafts, fashion displays and other activities. Dancers from Cardinal Valley Elementary performed, and fourth-graders from Maxwell guided the making of “God’s eye” yarn weavings. “They learn a lot about cultural differences and the way that other countries may celebrate,” Lyons said. “It really opens their eyes to all the different ways you can create ideas through music and song and dance and art.”

“There’s a lot to be learned from this holiday,” Lyons added. “It isn’t at all about being sad and gloomy or scary. It’s just a positive, happy time and a healthy way to look at death and dying.”

This year’s community art project was based on the Guatemalan tradition of flying giant colorful kites over the village cemetery in Santiago Sacatepequez. “They make enormous kites and work on them for months. The belief is that by flying these kites high in the air, they’re sort of reaching out to the spirits,” Lyons explained. Among the student groups participating were Lexington Traditional Magnet School, Crawford Middle, and Athens-Chilesburg, Glendover and William Wells Brown elementaries.

At Crawford, teacher Margaret VanHook Stevens recently led a sixth-grade unit on the culture of Latin America and students spent two weeks on the Day of the Dead in Spanish class, so the LASC festival offered an opportunity to reinforce those lessons. The kite-making also gave them a chance to create artwork for display in the wider community. After a field trip to LASC, the sixth-graders made 16x16-inch kites using materials like trash bags and bamboo fondue skewers, and explained the meaning behind their designs.

Meanwhile, eighth-graders from LTMS created about 50 diamond-shaped kites, mostly decorated with skulls. “Thinking about the positives of when someone was alive reassures that you can continue the life cycle,” said Spanish teacher Veronica Randall. “The kids like the idea of communicating with people they love.”


Special friendships develop through mentoring at The Stableshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/peermentors2014-11-11T16:41:35http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/peermentorsEnjoying a fall festival atmosphere at the Kentucky Horse Park, students at The Stables and dozens of others with moderate and severe disabilities (MSD) mingled and laughed together as teachers nodded knowingly. The peer mentoring program, in its third year, is working out well for both sides.

“At first they felt uncomfortable, but now they’re stepping up,” said Brian McIntyre, administrative dean at The Stables, an alternative program for grades 7-12. “I want our kids to go outside themselves to help someone else and develop relationships outside the box.”

Meanwhile, students with special needs from all five high schools in FCPS participate in the peer mentoring program, which also involves staff from Central Kentucky Riding for Hope. While visiting the horse park recently, they had a chance to soak in the beautiful landscape and build some friendships. “They were in a different setting, and a lot of stuff required them to follow directions and stay on task, but it was in a fun way,” said Lorraine Thomas, a resource specialist in the school district’s Special Education Department.  

The morning included four rotations, with students from The Stables volunteering as helpers at each activity station. Indoors, several tables were stocked with fresh-baked cookies that needed icing, while next door, students decorated small trick-or-treat bags with Halloween flair. Outside near the pond, groups made their way through a scavenger hunt on the sensory nature trail, trying to spot the brown-and-white horse, a wishing well and a mailbox, for instance. And in the covered arena, students paired up with miniature horses that stood patiently as oversized sunglasses, sparkly tiaras, tutus and such were added as colorful accessories.

“Making their day is just rubbing a pony. It’s amazing,” said sophomore Patricia Stanfield. “Horses are so lovable, and it’s neat the MSD kids get to come out and work with them. We can learn from them, too,” she added.

McIntyre noted that The Stables encourages giving back, whether mentoring fellow students or wiping down seats in the horse park’s Alltech Arena. “Our whole model this year is community service,” he said. “Our students like to make a difference, it makes them feel good, and it could spark them to a career.”

The peer mentoring program offers about a half-dozen outings each year with structured, life-skills activities in a social setting. “These events provide invaluable learning experiences to our diverse learners as well as providing time for all students to network and connect,” said Thomas, who with colleague Lisa Wasson coordinates with each high school. “The students are having fun learning, and this provides our special-needs students multiple opportunities to work on the variety of skills they are learning in the classroom each day.”

At the same time, students at The Stables benefit by applying their skills the areas of equine science, culinary arts and recreational planning. “They are kind of like our peer network,” Thomas said. “The students are building that rapport with each other, and a lot of the students at The Stables are familiar with our students because they’ve attended school together.”

“I’ve seen them take on a leadership role as far as guiding activities, and it’s given them a sense of ownership in building this program,” she added. “I see them coming out of their shells to see they have good skills to help not only themselves but others as well.”

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BTW parades new vocabulary words through the hallwayshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/vocabparade2014-11-07T15:55:10http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/vocabparadeStrolling and strutting down the hallway came “lava” in a sparkly orange shirt, “shy” with a cardboard box over his head, “patriot” waving a flag, and “camouflage” wearing camouflage – all among the string of new words in the inaugural vocabulary parade at Booker T. Washington Intermediate Academy. Faculty and staff also dressed their part, including “incognito,” aka Principal Wendy Avila in all black and dark sunglasses. “Our student growth goal is vocabulary and writing, and this is just another way for us to be creative and focus on that goal,” she said.

Students in grades 3, 4 and 5 lined the hallways as each group paraded through in turn. Afterward in the gym, several received certificates for their design, such as “most unforgettable,” “best literary” and “best verb.” Later in class, the youngsters each explained how they had defined and illustrated their word. “We tried to choose challenging words to increase their vocabulary,” said fifth-grade teacher Laura Kegan, who organized the event. “Every kid will get a grade for how they made their costume and presented to their class.”

The idea came from the book “Miss Alaineus” by Debra Frasier, who wrote about a little girl getting confused about a vocabulary word. It comes with teacher resources and a vocabulary list, but the staff at Booker T. Washington found various ways to assign words. “I chose the words I thought would make the best costumes and my students drew them out of a cup,” Kegan said. “Another teacher had students pick words they would like to do and then looked them up in the thesaurus to find a more challenging synonym.”

In Michele Jacobs’ class, for instance, third-graders set about their projects after reading “Miss Alaineus” and watching a parade video. They worked in groups to create a list of common words used regularly. To enhance the activity, they referred to the thesaurus (a new vocabulary word in itself) to find additional words with the same meaning. After compiling a bunch of synonyms, students chose a couple of words to look up and practice saying aloud. The class then decided which word fit each child’s personality.

“The students helped each other to choose the best word, and we had small-group discussion of what that word looks like in ‘our eyes.’ This helped the students to get a different perspective, which is a reading standard,” Jacobs said. “From there, we started using the words in class whenever possible. Some of the words were much easier to use than others. For instance, ‘scholar’ is used daily. ‘Stealth,’ on the other hand, maybe not so.”

Her students spent two days creating their costumes – some elaborate and others simplistic. One girl, for instance, had the word “product,” which is a multiple meaning word. Her costume featured a double panel of breakfast cereal boxes and other products, along with several mathematical equations.

Kegan aimed for the parade to be meaningful and relevant, saying, “It is a fun alternative to homework or a worksheet. Students can enjoy learning new vocabulary words and have fun doing it.”

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Did you know?

Ordinarily, students at Booker T. Washington Intermediate focus on a book character to cap Red Ribbon Week. This time, they each portrayed a noun, adjective or verb in the new vocabulary parade. Meanwhile, posted outside each classroom door was a list of students who signed on to the Red Ribbon campaign:

I pledge to stay in school and learn the things I need to know.

I pledge to make the world a better place for kids like me to grow.

I pledge to keep my dreams alive and be all that I can be.

I pledge to help others and to keep myself drug-free.


Harrison kids confident in becoming World Changershttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/worldchangers2014-11-05T23:57:07http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/worldchangersFifth-graders at Harrison Elementary are leaving an imprint on their little corner of town. “We’ve been learning about how we can make our futures (brighter) and change other people’s lives,” said 10-year-old Jaden Parker. “You can be a world changer simply by doing something positive.”

The school’s leadership team launched the World Changers program three years ago to promote leadership among the older students. It has evolved into a broader initiative to ensure these youngsters know how to pursue their dreams, whether the college or career route. Behavior coach Sherry Coles reinforces the message at their weekly gatherings. For instance, she talked about the drag of old baggage – adding 1-, 2- and 4-pound hand weights to a backpack to illustrate the added burden on her shoulders. “Yesterday a lot of stuff happened, and yesterday there were mistakes,” she told the children. “If you can learn from those mistakes, you can let that go and become a better person. Today can start off new – a whole new day!”

Coles also handed out laminated bookmarks in the shape of a key with bullet-point reminders of how to succeed in school and in life:

K – Keeping under authority. In other words, students should thankfully remain under the protective wing of family, teachers and other supporters.

E – Encourage yourself. Coles provides real-life examples of people who persevere through adversity, such as the woman who took her driver’s test 950 times before passing.

Y – Your yesterday does not determine your tomorrow. This is where she encourages students to move forward with a clean slate.

S – Self-control. “If you have self-control, you can walk through any door,” she told them. “Everything you need is inside you, and you’ve got to unlock your potential.”

The fifth-graders also regularly recite the World Changers creed, which reminds them of their worth. “Some of our kids need something to hold onto, something to believe in,” as Coles said. Next month, she plans to unpack the theme “What’s driving your car?” with lessons on how thoughtful actions, not rash impulses, should lead the way.

The classroom teachers help guide the World Changers, too. Before a field trip to nearby Saul Good, for example, they covered restaurant etiquette and table manners, the practice of tipping to reward good service, and the art of networking. They also talked about the range of job opportunities in the culinary industry. “Kids don’t realize all the different careers involved in a restaurant and all the different people it takes to make it run well,” said guidance counselor Laura Van Epps. “We want to introduce them to as many career options as we can to make sure they are aware of all of the possibilities for their future.” 

As Saul Good chef and operating partner Jeff Mayer circulated in the dining area, he offered some advice, noting, “Busing tables and washing dishes is a good way to start and see how everything works in a restaurant.”

Meanwhile, as youngsters politely passed around fresh chocolate chip cookies, Jaden reflected on how the World Changers program has affected him and his classmates, who strive to set a positive tone at Harrison. “We’re not just a little group – we’re part of something bigger. We’re like a family,” he said. “The younger kids look up to us. And once you’re part of this family, you’re always a World Changer for life.”


BSMS seventh-grader uses Heimlich to aid choking classmatehttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/heimlichhero2014-11-05T23:57:07http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/heimlichheroAn ordinary stroll to class at Bryan Station Middle School turned into “a pretty serious situation” as a 12-year-old student performed the Heimlich maneuver to help a choking classmate. “We were always good friends, but this has made us closer,” said seventh-grader William Wharton, who was thankful that Bryson Fields was by his side that day.

The pair was headed to their sixth-period class, carrying their backpacks and chatting in the hallway as usual, when William suddenly stopped. “I was eating a Jolly Rancher and sucked in, and it got stuck in my throat,” he recalled. “It felt uncomfortable, but I could still breathe.”

Bryson, knowing how his friend likes to kid, initially wasn’t concerned. “I laughed at first when he pointed at his throat, but then I realized he wasn’t playing,” Bryson said.

As a crowd of 10 to 12 students circled around, Bryson yelled down the hall for a teacher and proceeded with the Heimlich, which he remembered from a health-class lesson last year. “I was a little bit scared at first because I didn’t know if he was choking.” Bryson said. “I don’t feel like a hero, but I wasn’t going to just watch him die.”

After one attempt and a sip of water, the hard fruit candy was still lodged in William’s airway, so Bryson performed another abdominal lift on his taller friend and the green Jolly Rancher popped out onto the floor.

Laura Marshall, the first teacher on the scene, praised Bryson’s confidence and clear-headedness. “By the time I got there, he had taken matters into his own hands,” she said. “It was scary – a pretty serious situation. Everybody was so relieved afterwards.”

Health/P.E. teacher Melissa Ratcliff normally doesn’t cover the Heimlich with sixth-graders, but had time last year to move ahead in the curriculum. In fact, Bryson was the “victim” as she demonstrated the maneuver for his class. When William needed help the other day, Ratcliff was proud that Bryson remembered to stay calm, assess the situation and do what he could. As she said, “Basic first aid is so crucial.”

Marshall sent a positive referral to the school office describing Bryson’s actions, and Principal Lester Diaz presented him with a commendation certificate and a restaurant coupon. “The fact that he stepped in there and he took control of the situation, something so scary and something that could be so dire really, it’s just phenomenal,” Marshall said. “Hopefully in 20 years he’ll look back and realize that what he did was a huge deal.” 

On the news: WLEX Channel 18’s “Making a Difference” video


Liberty awash in kindness for Bullying Prevention Awarenesshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/bullying2014-11-05T23:57:06http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/bullyingAs fifth-grader Aiyana Meeks pasted compliments on the “Anti-Bullying Wall of Kindness,” she marveled at the project’s impact within Liberty Elementary. “Every time I look at the wall, I can tell everybody has a good feeling in their heart, and everyone’s being very kind to each other,” she said on Unity Day, when all were encouraged to wear orange in a show of solidarity.

Throughout October, students in grades K-5 are writing personal pick-me-up notes and stashing them in the wall’s nooks. Each day, fifth-graders pull out the colorful notecards and glue them to the huge, six-paneled display in the foyer. With the diverse silhouette figures already covered in kindness, the children’s words spill into the background. Among the hundreds of brief notes: I like Daisy’s black shirt and her personality and she is so happy and I like her brown hair and she is so nice and Dear Ethan, You are a good friend and you’re funny and you have a great sense of style. Sincerely, Nathaniel. “It makes me feel happy to know somebody actually cares how you’re feeling,” Aiyana said. “You need to have nice thoughts from other people to help you get through your day.”

Art teacher Jeanne Crosby has guided the project. “In class, we talked about the expressive nature of art and how color can be used as a major factor when creating expressive artwork,” she said. “We also discussed the negative feelings involved when bullying takes place and the positive emotions you feel when someone gives you a compliment.”

Liberty’s Wall of Kindness was only one component of Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, organized by intervention teacher Rosalind Hurley-Richards. Classes created visual art for the large interior windows in the library and the cafeteria, and the specials-area teachers led themed lessons. Binding it all together was the book “The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin,” which each student read or heard. “All the other pumpkins made fun of him,” 8-year-old Sebastian Faglier explained. But Spookley proved that being different can save the day. “Don’t judge people by their looks,” Sebastian advised as his classmates rotated through the Spookley trail in the gym. In the literacy exercise, teachers at nine stations reviewed an excerpt from the book and the salient points on citizenship, understanding, responsibility, self-esteem, self-discipline, loyalty, justice, compassion and respect. Sebastian said he’d learned a lot from “Spookley” and the other activities and would try to practice kindness year ’round. “If somebody was pushed down on the playground, I would lift him up and be his friend,” said the third-grader.

That’s the type of response Hurley-Richards hoped for after the schoolwide collaboration. “As you see, so many of us are quite serious about growing compassionate people,” she said. “When you’re bullying, you’re being cruel and thoughtless, so we’re trying to do everything in a positive light – what you want the children to be.”

The librarian set out a range of anti-bullying books for easy access; in P.E. class, students practiced expressive dance movements depicting negative and positive emotions; and in computer lab, they reviewed cyberbullying. In drama, the youngest learned a little rhyme about not bullying and made Spookley stick puppets, primary students performed using a readers’ theater script, and older kids watched a true-story video and role-played scenarios of how onlookers could have changed the outcome by standing up to the bully. Meanwhile in music, anti-bullying videos prompted emotional reactions. “Some honest tears were shed since some of the videos were sad,” said teacher Mary Jane Elliott. “It really made the kids do a lot of thinking.”

Hurley-Richards also mentioned how well the classroom efforts complemented October’s message. For instance, second-graders illustrated a diverse bunch of pumpkins on a vine. “All the pumpkins are different; they’re all unique,” she said. “That’s what we want them to learn – it doesn’t matter what you look like. Everybody is somebody.”

Did you know?

The Safe Schools Week theme is "LEAN on Me".



Safe Schools office in FCPS


Stonewall pulls Appalachian region closer homehttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/appalachia2014-11-05T23:57:06http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/appalachiaStonewall Elementary emits a distinct Appalachian vibe this month as classes focus on the region’s people and traditions. “We want students to have a deeper appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of Appalachian music, dance and folk art as it is an important part of the fabric of Kentucky,” said Sarah Spencer, a reading intervention teacher. 

One highlight was Berea artist-in-residence Jennifer Rose, whose sessions were funded by the school’s PTA. “This is still a live culture for a lot of people, and she brings a wealth of information,” said music teacher Bonnie Mooney. Students rotated throughout the four days during their regular music class time, so Rose spent only an hour with each group. She made the most of it, however, with engaging tidbits and active dances. She and her two young daughters also harmonized on the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” while playing dulcimers crafted of cherry, walnut and poplar. 

“The goal has been to expose students to some traditional Appalachian dance and the social aspect of it. I want them to have had an experience that was fun and memorable,” Rose said toward week’s end. She varied the instruction by age for grades 2-5. Among the dances taught were the Cumberland Square, the Paw Paw Patch, the Bridge of Athlone and the Kentucky Mixer. Rose noted that the English, Scottish and Irish settlers of the Appalachian region came from similar backgrounds though not the same experiences, so their new culture melded elements from all the strands. “This is an activity in history and also in building community,” she said.

While demonstrating the dance steps, she tossed in a few vocabulary words such as promenade (to walk side by side) and mixer, a dance in which people switch partners in a planned, organized routine. She also explained how the Kentucky Mixer was a democratic dance because each participant was equal in the circle, while the Scottish “Bridge” with its long-ways formation and lead couple implied a social hierarchy. In encouraging the students to grasp hands appropriately and “act delighted,” Rose reminded them what gathering for a dance meant in a rural society. “In traditional Appalachian life, people were pretty isolated,” she said, “so imagine how nice it was to get out and see people from the community or even the other side of the mountain.” Rose also described how the fiddler would stand in the middle of the circle and call out the next move to keep the action going. “The idea was to move to music and have fun and be social and say ‘hello’ to everybody,” she said. 

During a short breather between dances, fifth-graders in Thursday’s first period noted that the do-si-do was challenging since the partners couldn’t see each other as they passed back to back and returned to their original place in the circle. Youngsters also mentioned how the mixer required stamina, which was no problem for a fit and hardy bunch of settlers. “Often dance or any art form is a reflection of a society’s values, and it takes a lot of quick thinking and thinking on your feet,” Rose added.

Meanwhile down the hall, art teacher Kristin Vittitow guided a class through a traveling display of folk art, including a woven basket, small broom and ceramic mug. She reminded them that such pieces were made not by trained experts but by ordinary people, and it typically was functional art. Stonewall also borrowed a series of black-and-white photographs from the Kentucky Folk Art Museum in Morehead. In classroom projects, Vittitow’s students made paper collage quilts and folk portraits as well as cardboard bird sculptures inspired by Louisville folk artist Marvin Finn.

Librarian Tracy Hayes also contributed to “Celebrate Appalachia” – displaying a set of cane doll chairs and a wooden toy truck made by her father and bringing in a spinning wheel and a loom for students to try. In addition, library assistant Mary McClellen gathered and distributed Appalachian-themed books to each grade level and helped plan the month's culminating event: an Oct. 28 visit by writer George Ella Lyon, with morning presentations for each grade. “Read Appalachia Family Literacy Night” will follow that evening, with teachers reading aloud in their classrooms. 

“We really hope to grow our children’s love of reading and encourage families to read together,” said Spencer, who organized October's special activities along with colleague Kay Clark. “We’re trying to focus on Appalachian themes like family, food and natural resources. We’d like the kids to see that reading and books can be part of the arts and humanities experience.”


‘Alive at 25’ a wake-up call for teen drivershttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/aliveat252014-11-05T23:57:05http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/aliveat25For senior Maddie Toleman, the “Alive at 25” defensive-driving course provided some common-sense reminders and a strong foundation before she received her full license. “You can learn from a class, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way,” she cautioned. “One wrong second can ruin your whole life.”

Maddie shared her experience at a news conference hosted by Lafayette High School during National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 19-25). The focus was how Alive at 25, a state-certified course that keys on behavior and decision-making, has had a significant effect on the number of car crashes and fatalities involving young drivers. “It does impact their driving habits and makes them think twice about picking up a phone while driving,” said Principal Bryne Jacobs, citing distractions as one road hazard. He mentioned how after a traffic death, the image of an empty seat in a classroom haunts teachers and staff. “We care about the health and well-being of each of our students and don’t want to lose any of them,” he said.

About 40 Lafayette students planned to take the course in two afternoon sessions this week. A retired state trooper, Ron Turley, would lead the four-hour class, which satisfies the requirement for Kentucky’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program. He uses workbook exercises, videos, interactive discussion, re-enactments and role playing to reach teenagers, along with personal stories from his 27 years on the force. “We teach you how to deal with peer pressure in a car so you make the right decision,” he told the first group at Lafayette. The course points out common risks and dangers like tailgating, speeding and texting while driving, and emphasizes the consequences of casual attitudes on the road. “We’re putting them in the mindset that driving is something they have to pay attention to or it can lead to death,” Turley said.

Teens make up about 7 percent of the state’s drivers, but are involved in 18 percent of deadly crashes and more than 20 percent of all accidents, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Alive at 25, which launched in 2004, is a partnership among the National Safety Council, Kentucky State Police (KSP) and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc. that aims to improve those numbers. “Alive at 25 really speaks the language teens understand,” said Mike Price, vice president of administration for Toyota. “And it not only makes their lives safer, it makes our roads safer, too.”

In the past decade, the state’s death toll among drivers ages 16 to 19 dropped 46 percent. After the numbers jumped by 20 percent two years ago, Toyota provided a second $150,000 grant to help KSP increase the number of instructors to 32 and take the program statewide. Since the expansion, crash numbers are decreasing. By 2015, the program will reach more than 11,000 high school students.  

Alive at 25 is already booking into the spring semester in Fayette County, with the goal of offering the course at least twice a year at each high school. No students are turned away. If interest is high, KSP simply sends an additional instructor for the day so the class size is limited to about two dozen. “Hopefully they leave here knowing they have to be responsible behind the wheel,” Turley said.

Maddie would recommend Alive at 25 to younger classmates at Lafayette while encouraging them to use wise judgment and make sound choices as a driver or a passenger. “It’s good reminders, but there’s only so much you can tell people,” she said. “You have to get out and experience it, but the class is a good basis before you go out on your own.”

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Wellington delves deeper into culture on Japanese Dayhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/japaneseday2014-11-05T23:57:04http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/japanesedayAt Wellington Elementary, children in grades K-5 study Japanese about once a week along with music, P.E. and other “specials.” So when a handful of guests set up learning stations in the gym for Japanese Day, 10-year-old Asa Thomas was eager to check out the options. After rotating through all eight areas, he picked the sushi-rolling station as his favorite, followed closely by kendo (martial arts). “It teaches us a lot more about Japanese culture, and we can compare it to our lives and see what’s different,” Asa said after the event.

Japanese teacher Vanessa Grossl organized the schoolwide activities to supplement her lessons. “With these workshops, we emphasize the culture part that I don’t always get to in class,” she said. “We want students to be able to understand globally. I want them to investigate the culture and understand different perspectives.” In addition to culture, Grossl tries to cover communication, connections, comparisons and community. “The five C’s are a big part of language learning, and this helps us hit all those areas,” she said.

The learning stations included a chopsticks challenge where students raced to pick up as many puff balls as possible in one minute and a scavenger hunt in which they matched the written kanji characters with pictures of the objects they represent, such as colors and animals. At opposite ends of the gym, students tried out four types of Japanese toys – koma (spinning tops), daruma otoshi (wood stacking), kendama (cup and ball) and wa nage (ring toss). And in one corner, they tried on kendo protective equipment such as a chest guard and mask, on loan from the Central Kentucky Japanese School. Eimii Nishimura, outreach coordinator for the Japan/America Society of Kentucky, also played a short video of experts demonstrating the techniques and noted how kendo requires training of body and mind.

Nearby, Tim Weckman of Berea Bonsai Studio & Nursery explained how his craft of shaping trees with wire is sometimes like training a puppy: A woody plant can be difficult to guide and control at first, but gradually it becomes more compliant as it grows. “Bonsai is a way of miniaturizing or keeping trees small and shaping them in an aesthetically pleasing way,” he told the groups of children, showing a maple and a juniper as examples. “The Japanese live on a small island and are connected to nature, and bonsai is an appreciation of nature. It’s horticultural art. It’s living art.”

Across at the sushi station, chef Brandon Caudill from School Restaurant walked students through the preparation steps using a sheet of seaweed, a ball of white rice, seafood and strips of cucumber. Fifth-grader Daniel Whitaker is no fan of fish, but he said the soy sauce worked wonders as he and classmates sampled bites.

Meanwhile, presenter Lena Masterson explained the minimalist art of flower arranging called ikebana. For the five-minute sessions, she simplified it to three basic lines or points – heaven, earth and humanity – and volunteers each picked a stem to combine in an arrangement. The Japanese manufacturing plant where she works, Taica Cubic Printing Kentucky in Winchester, donated all the flowers for the day. “There’s definitely discipline, like in soccer or piano,” Master said of ikebana. “It’s also meditative and relaxing.” She mentioned how the youngsters’ creativity and initiative also come into play, saying, “Maybe they’ll go home and pick up branches from their yard and surprise their mom.”


Advocacy, inclusion main cogs in Disability Education Weekhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/aimdisabilities2014-11-05T23:57:04http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/aimdisabilitiesStudents at Julius Marks Elementary explore their differences and celebrate their uniqueness during a pilot run of Disability Education Week, whose theme is AIM! – Advocacy and Inclusion on a Mission. “Everybody has strengths and abilities to give back,” said Annette Jett, parent liaison at the school district’s Parent-to-Parent Resource Center (PRC) and PTA president at Julius Marks. “Let’s not be afraid to say the word ‘disability.’ It’s empowering. There’s nothing wrong – it’s just different.”

The AIM! program features guest speakers at an opening assembly and themed curriculum components as students learn about disabilities through the lenses of artists, musicians, scientists, writers, athletes and others. Classroom and “specials” teachers are all on board. For instance, an instructor from the Latitude art studio coaches students to use imagination and heart to describe a cool, amazing trait and then illustrate it by shaping a small piece of clay. A third-grader who plays sports fashions his clay into a football; another molds a nimble figure performing a handstand. As classmates complete their symbolic sculptures, they put them together first in pairs and then larger groups – compromising corners and stretching the edges so multiple lumps of clay become one connected work of art. “It’s surrendering yourself for the greater cause,” said visiting instructor Mollie Rabiner. “It’s about showing the beauty of every individual and then piecing it together to see how it stands together and becomes much more creative and beautiful,” Jett added.

AIM! will also be piloted at Stonewall Elementary next week (Oct. 27-31) and at Millcreek and Cassidy in the spring. The goal is to take it districtwide within two years. Jett, other parents of students with disabilities and civic advocates developed AIM! to promote inclusion and access for all students not only in the classroom but also in the community. The program is endorsed by the FCPS Special Education Department and the LFUCG Mayor’s Commission for Citizens with Disabilities. The hope is that with districtwide coordination and brand recognition, AIM! will gain a foothold throughout Fayette County. “We want to take it beyond the doors of the school,” Jett said. “Our kids eventually grow up and become adults and need opportunities to transition into internships and jobs, and they’ll need friends, too.” 

The PRC supplies the promotional fliers and yard signs, adaptive equipment for demonstrations like wheelchair basketball and walkers for relay races, and connections with community partners like Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital. For example, the four guest speakers at Julius Marks included Micah Jackson, who has used a wheelchair since a 1999 car accident yet remains physically active. He plays basketball at Cardinal Hill, rides a crank cycle and hopes to take up sled hockey. “After I hurt my spinal cord, my legs can’t hear what my brain’s trying to tell them,” Jackson told the children. “I have to learn how to do things my own way so I can live independently.”

Principal Lynn Poe, a member of the district’s Special Education Task Force, wanted Julius Marks to be part of AIM!’s first wave. “We’re really working with the community to build awareness,” she said. “It’s bigger than just us.” And since the school already emphasizes inclusion, AIM! simply reinforces the everyday treatment of students with disabilities. “We focus on pushing them in rather than pulling them out of activities,” Poe said. “We include them in everything and adapt in order for them to feel success.”

She noted that each child received a bright green AIM! wristband to wear all week, saying, “It’s making every student aware there’s a talent and gift in everyone.”


AIM! program: Creating natural networks and community access

Community kickoff: Oct. 22 with keynote speaker Keenan West


Tates Creek Elementary celebrates past, present, futurehttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/rededication2014-11-05T23:57:03http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/rededicationThe rededication of the renovated Tates Creek Elementary was a homecoming, family reunion and kickoff event all rolled into one. With former principals, staff from past and present, and youngsters filling the gym, Sunday’s program was awash with warm memories of the school’s rich history and excitement about TCE’s next 50 years. “We rededicated the building, but there’s still construction going on every day when students walk through this door,” said retiree Steve Case. “We have high expectations here, and students are encouraged to do their best every day.”

Tates Creek, which opened for the 1962-1963 school year, had postponed its 50th anniversary party because of renovations, but the delay didn’t dampen the enthusiasm, and having three of the four former principals in attendance Oct. 12 made the festivities extra special. All shared some thoughts about their time at TCE, echoing the themes of staff dedication and family cohesion:

Wright also recognized members of the original staff as well as two women who have served under each of the principals: part-time reading and math intervention teacher Charlie Brown and part-time writing specialist Donna Kelly. “People come here and stay here through their career. They fall in love with it and want to work with these kids,” said Brown, who started at TCE straight out of college and retired in 2006. “The staff wants to work together for the good of the kids, and when you see results, it makes a big difference.”  

TCE alumna Karen Roser recalled how after she moved here from Louisville before fifth grade, her parents specifically chose a neighborhood for the Tates Creek attendance zone. “At that time, it was a really big deal to have the elementary, middle and high school on the same campus,” she said. Now a third-grade teacher in the district’s Elementary Accelerated Program, Roser has spent 27 years on a TCE staff that boasts little turnover. “I got hired after Labor Day only because they added a kindergarten class,” she noted.

Roser was pleased to see familiar faces and reconnect at Sunday’s event. “It’s like a family reunion – a big homecoming,” she said. “This staff is really close, and it’s like my family.” 

In fact, for several years, a group of retired TCE staff has met on the first day of school for lunch at a Lexington restaurant. Now it’s grown into a monthly gathering at various locations throughout Central Kentucky. “They keep our feet planted in our roots as we move forward into our future,” said teacher Denise Finley, who co-chaired the rededication program with Kimberly Steele. 

Linda McWhorter, who retired in 2010 after 28 years teaching at TCE, keeps track of former employees’ addresses, emails and phone numbers. “All of us feel that if we have something major in our lives, the staff is still very supportive,” McWhorter said. “A lot of retirees come back and substitute or come back and volunteer,” she added. “There’s always a very welcoming atmosphere. There’s a feeling when you teach there that you have a mission to give those children the very best education possible – not just academically but in all areas.”

In keeping with the “passing of the torch,” retiree Marcia Hampton – who has long encouraged Tates Creek to document the school’s story – recently handed off a folder of archives material to office assistant Gail Burge, who helped model the rededication lineup after the 25th anniversary celebration. Sunday’s program included members of the TCE safety patrol leading the Pledge of Allegiance and chorus students performing two songs. Preliminary strings music was provided by former TCE students Jonah Fryrear and Chris Cupp, under the guidance of TCE alumnus and high school orchestra director Ben McWhorter (son of Linda). Afterward, families and guests toured the building and enjoyed refreshments in the cafeteria. 

The rededication committee is now developing a time capsule to house the many letters, photographs, news articles and other artifacts that have been gathered. The collection will be showcased in the library media center. “It’s a kind of living history we’ll continue to contribute to,” as Wright said.

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Mary Todd third-graders open revamped Safety Cityhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/safetycity2014-11-05T23:57:03http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/safetycityThird-graders from Mary Todd Elementary happily took to the streets to christen the revitalized Safety City, a two-acre site on Red Mile Place designed for practical and experiential learning. “The most exciting part for the kids is the cars. To learn about safety and actually practice driving is huge,” said Principal Kari Kirchner. “It’s educational but fun as well.”

After 20 years as a premiere field-trip destination, Safety City closed in 2009 because of budget cuts in Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. Now it is open again thanks to a partnership between the Lexington Division of Police and Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Justice and Safety. Organizers expect upwards of 2,000 students from Fayette County and nearby areas to visit annually.

“It does my heart good to see the kids out here,” police Chief Ronnie Bastin said at the Oct. 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony. “It’s one of the best investments we can make in our community.” Mayor Jim Gray also praised the city and EKU for working together on the project, saying, “Nothing is more important than securing the safety of our children.”

Safety City includes a classroom building and a mini city complete with paved streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, stop signs and functioning traffic signals, along with concrete building facades such as a police station and a schoolhouse with the EKU logo. Children cruise the course at 3 mph in a dozen tiny, battery-powered cars as instructors walking alongside remind them to stop behind the white line and look both ways before pulling into an intersection, for instance.

Nearby, the garage houses a range of bike helmets, traffic signs and other equipment for demonstrating safety points, such as a seat-belt restraint simulator. The program provides several lesson options that can be tailored to a particular school group. Topics include pedestrian, bicycle, passenger, school bus and railroad safety, as well as gun safety, stranger danger, fire hazards, poison prevention, bullying awareness and Internet safety.

In the coming weeks, EKU will name a Safety City director and a graduate assistant to schedule the school field trips and coordinate the lessons. Mary Todd Elementary brought 30 youngsters for the rededication, which was about the ideal number for dividing into small groups among the learning stations.

Kirchner, who recalled visiting Safety City as a teacher two decades ago, was pleased the site has been renovated and the program resurrected. She deemed it a prime opportunity to reach second- and third-graders, saying, “With this age, they’re beginning to understand what a city is, how it works and their responsibility as citizens.”


Leestown party puts the fun in fitnesshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/wellnessparty2014-11-05T23:57:02http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/wellnesspartyEighth-grader Will Turner knows the secret to living well is not that complicated. “Being healthy and in shape is not all starving yourself. You can run, swim, do all kinds of fun stuff,” he said matter-of-factly. That was the main message of the second annual Community Health & Wellness Party at Leestown Middle School, where students and families gathered for taste tests and fitness activities.

Neil Burns, who owns a gym in Richmond, encouraged the crowd to establish good eating and workout habits, stay mentally and physically strong, and find a support group for the tough times. “We can preach to the kids all we want, but it we don’t get to the parents, it’s a waste of time,” said Burns, who has lost 475 pounds through diet and exercise. “I was one of those parents and fed my son the same junk I was eating,” he added.

Burns and fiancée Maureen Graham, who has lost 117 pounds, led a short workout in the Leestown gym, including a bit to Katy Perry’s hit “Roar.” He noted that while not all students are athletic, they still need to incorporate more movement in their daily routine, preferably coupled with fresh air and sunshine. “If you can limit some video-game playing and get outside to have some fun, that’s good,” he urged the students, adding, “We’ve got to find a way to motivate the kids.”

The community event launched successfully last year after Principal Cynthia Lawson sought out parent Jesi Bowman, a member of the 16th District PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Team. “We came up with the tag line ‘It’s not your typical health fair.’ It’s good food, it’s good fun, and we’re just trying to do our part to make a difference,” Bowman said. “We already advocate for our students to reach their full potential, and if we have students struggling with their health and wellness, then that’s another area we can advocate for. This event opened people’s eyes to the fact that being healthy doesn’t have to be boring, and eating healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad.”

Among this fall’s additions were staffers from the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service showing families how to prepare veggie pizza snacks and nurses from Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital offering free blood-pressure checks and cholesterol tests. At nearby tables in the cafeteria were resources from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, Champs Entertainment Complex, Bullock Family Chiropractic, Beaumont Family Dentistry, Fayette's SWAP coalition (School Wellness Action Plan), and the Lexington Farmers Market. In one corner, health coach and chef Kate Horning served up shaved Brussels sprouts salad, saying, “I’m showing people quick and easy dishes they can make at home.” And at the far end of the room, the Lex Swing Dance Club taught swing and line dances.

Meanwhile in the gym, students and family members enjoyed the inflatable bouncy house as well as the balance beam, tumbling mats and vault ramp set up by Legacy All Sports. In the foyer, Burns issued a challenge on Battle Ropes, which provide a fat-burning workout.

At check-in, everyone had received a “Travel the Path to Health” passport, which they got stamped or initialed at each station to be eligible for prize drawings at the end of the night.

“It’s about getting our community to think about taking charge of their health. They don’t need a gym membership or expensive shoes. We’re just trying to show them other options, and maybe that’s one step closer to fighting childhood and adult obesity,” said Bowman of the PTSA. “We consider it a success if they remember one of the recipes or one of the activities they want to do or try. That means something stuck with them, and maybe they’ll take this little puzzle piece and build on it.”

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Dual language approach strengthens foundation, future at Cardinal Valleyhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/duallanguage2014-11-05T23:57:01http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/duallanguageTo enhance the big picture of their lives, Cardinal Valley Elementary is improving the littlest students’ initial engagement in school and building a solid academic foundation in their native language. Two of the five kindergarten classes this year comprise the new dual language program, which ensures Hispanic youngsters grasp the essentials in Spanish before tackling English and gain confidence for continued growth and success. 

“Over 80 percent come to school not prepared and lack the pre-literacy skills, and 75 percent don’t speak the language of instruction,” said second-year Principal Matthew Spottswood, referring to results of the BRIGANCE kindergarten screening. After a year of researching possibilities and preparing the staff, Cardinal Valley launched the program this fall. It’s the first such effort in Fayette County Public Schools, which offers a magnet Spanish Immersion Program (at Maxwell Elementary, Bryan Station Middle and Bryan Station High) and optional immersion strands (Liberty and Northern elementaries). “We’ve got to meet our kids where they’re at,” Spottswood said. “We are a school of language learners.”

All the classroom teachers at Cardinal Valley are now GLAD-certified – for “guided language acquisition design” – and those two kindergarten teachers are native Spanish speakers. About 80 percent of their students’ instruction is in Spanish, primarily in reading and math, while specials classes like P.E. and music and the ESL sessions are conducted in English. The amount of English instruction will increase each year until third grade, when the breakdown reaches 50/50. “Other models exist where Spanish is completely eliminated, but we want our students to value their language, culture and history,” Spottswood said.

For participating kindergarteners, the new approach has made a marked difference. “The real goal is to teach them the content in a language they understand. Some of our kids are already beginning to read, and normally they’re not reading until the end of first grade,” the principal said. “In any other classroom, these kids would be nothing but confused and angry right now. Frustrated isn’t the word – more like defeated or crushed.”

One image that teachers Maria-Eugenia Serey and Alicia Coves use to gradually span the Spanish/English gap is that of a bridge, looking at the structure and functionality of language. For instance, a chart might list the days of the week side by side so kids can compare and contrast the words, or the youngsters might study words that are spelled the same such as “hospital.” Serey and Coves also cover such literacy basics as reading from left to right and turning a page to advance through a book, as well as recognizing fiction versus nonfiction.

“When they learn to read and write in their native language, they are able to transfer that to another language, and they are more successful later on,” Serey said. The dual language approach also bolsters students’ self-esteem and encourages family engagement with school. “We are sending homework, and the parents are getting involved and knowing what to do,” she reported. “Families can communicate and work together, and the kids are progressing very well. They want to show their homework, they want to participate in class, and they want to show what they know.”

Spottswood appreciates how these children now have a chance to excel. “What our program does is take a group of historically ‘disadvantaged’ students and gives them the advantage of being bilingual, bi-literate and bi-cultural.” He suggested the long-term impact will be measured by the number of students who graduate high school and enroll in college. “We are not in this game for test scores – we are not in this game for the short term. We are in this game to change the lives of our students forever,” he said. “The impacts will be lower numbers of high-school dropouts, teenage pregnancies, gang membership, incarceration rates. We are in the business of changing lives.”

Despite some expected growing pains, Cardinal Valley’s initiative has shown these children can thrive in the right learning environment. “We are excited about the progress and invigorated daily to continue on this path,” Spottswood said. “We believe this will be what levels the playing field for our kids who have been underserved for years. We’re breaking generational poverty and changing a community one kid at a time. Hopefully this changes their future.”

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Garden Springs pairs Walk to School Day, annual walk-a-thonhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/walktoschool2014-11-05T23:57:01http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/walktoschoolStudents and staff at Garden Springs Elementary stretched International Walk to School Day into a day-long whirlwind of outdoor activities. With stations ranging from jazzercise, martial arts and jump rope to dental hygiene and healthy eating, Wednesday had something for everyone. And at the closing pep rally on the front lawn, they learned the PTA’s annual walk-a-thon had yielded $7,838 to supplement the school’s computer lab. 

“The students got a one-time pledge donation for walking for 30 minutes, and we offered healthy incentives such as extra recess or a day with the gym teacher,” said parent organizer Emily Stuart. “We call it a walk-a-thon, but it’s evolved into something a lot more, really. It’s about getting kids excited about making better choices for their body. It’s to show them it can be fun to make good choices.”

So when Safe Kids Fayette County put out the call about 2014’s Walk to School Day, Garden Springs was eager to pair the opportunity with its planned health and fitness day. Safe Kids partners with a different elementary school each October to promote physical activity, to improve air quality (reduced gas emissions from fewer cars driving to school) and to foster pedestrian and bike safety. “With it being a neighborhood school, we have a large number of walkers,” said Tiffany Runyon, the Family Resource Center coordinator at Garden Springs.

Safe Kids volunteers came out before and after school to walk a few blocks with students, who received wristbands. In the morning, a handful of football players from the University of Kentucky signed kids’ T-shirts, and in the afternoon, five UK cheerleaders led off the pep rally. Mayor Jim Gray also read a Walk to School Day proclamation praising their efforts and congratulated the students who collected the most walk-a-thon pledges.  

Two days earlier, Safe Kids set up a mini city in the gym, complete with crosswalk mats, traffic lights and laminated road signs. The entire school – kindergarten through fifth grade – rotated through for the pedestrian safety lessons and took home stickers that reminded them: Use your head before you use your feet. “They covered ways to safely cross the street, such as looking both ways and crossing between the white lines and not going in between cars,” Runyon recalled. “They also talked about wearing reflective clothing at night and why that’s important and using sidewalks and bike lanes when possible.”

In addition, Safe Kids set up a special station for fourth- and fifth-graders that focused on potential distractions such as headphones and smartphones, which can be hazardous for pedestrians and for drivers. “When people are distracted, that’s when you’re at risk for things to happen,” said Sherri Hannan, the Safe Kids program coordinator. “These are life-long lessons,” she noted. “They need to take responsibility for not putting themselves in harm’s way.”

Runyon agreed. “Kids need to be safe when crossing streets and really pay attention because drivers are so distracted nowadays,” she said. “Don’t take shortcuts, use good judgment, and make sure you’re paying attention.”