FCPS Feature Articleshttp://www.fcps.netUmbraco / FCPS custom codeRecent articles published on the FCPS Web site featuring our kids, staff, and communityenFifth-graders get an eyeful on Keeneland field triphttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/keenelandtour2014-08-29T09:52:24http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/keenelandtourIn a brisk 10-station tour, fifth-graders caught a glimpse of how Keeneland functions and why Thoroughbreds are vital to the Commonwealth. The field trip led them through the sales pavilion, the paddock, the grandstand and track areas, and they met up with a few horses along the way.

“We wanted to have a partnership with Fayette County Public Schools because many of the students don’t know a lot about the industry,” said Kara Heissenbuttel, who works in the marketing department. During the last week of August, some 2,500 students paraded through the grounds in groups of 50 to 60. Wednesday’s visitors, for instance, included classes from Athens-Chilesburg, Clays Mill, Millcreek, Squires, Tates Creek and Veterans Park elementaries. Keeneland invited fifth-graders districtwide, though not all schools attended.   

Heissenbuttel noted that with youngsters studying Kentucky history and economics, learning about Keeneland is a good springboard to exploring equine career opportunities. The fourth annual tour also featured horse industry partners such as the Darley breeding operation, the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, the North American Racing Academy (NARA) and Locust Trace AgriScience Farm, with each station offering a brief presentation or demonstration. Keeneland also provided students with “Thoroughbred Racing and Sales” books for classroom use.

“We’re about to do Kentucky geography, and we’ll also talk about Kentucky culture and the horse industry and how important it is to the state’s economy,” social studies teacher Maria Harrington said before her Clays Mill group headed out.  

Sales pavilion: The tour began with a short video outlining the history of Keeneland, which opened in 1936, and an overview of activities on the 900-acre property. Then during a mock auction, students learned that Keeneland sells more horses for more money than any other operation (roughly $500 million last year). In the upcoming two-week September sale, buyers from more than 40 countries will purchase more than 4,000 yearlings.

Equine veterinarians: A pair of veterinarians showed students how an ultrasound machine helps with diagnoses and how they can insert a nasogastric tube past the esophagus into a horse’s stomach. On hand to help illustrate was the donated skeleton of Sarge, a police horse from New York City.

Racing academy: Remi Bellocq, the executive director, explained that NARA teaches the care and training of horses and also prepares exercise riders and professional jockeys. “Maybe someday you can end up here at Keeneland as a rider or a trainer,” he told the youngsters. Bellocq also quizzed them after his talk, asking how fast race horses run (30 to 40 mph) and the weight limit for jockeys (110 pounds).

Locust Trace: High school students shared a bit of their favorite parts of the FCPS farm, from the vet and equine programs to the net-zero green features of the building and property. The fifth-graders also petted Trinity, a spotted mountain horse. “It’s planting a seed and exposing them to a wide variety through these field trips,” said Sara Tracy, community liaison at Locust Trace. “It’s getting them interested as early as possible and giving them a positive experience.”

Darley: The breeding farm’s Katie Lamonica explained broadly that stallions and mares produce Thoroughbred foals each spring. “Our job is to fill up this sales pavilion with horses for people to buy and to fill up that racetrack,” she said. “We fly our stallions and Thoroughbreds all over the world to breed mares and run in races.” In fact, Darley is the largest breeding operation in the world, with farms in seven countries. Lamonica pointed out that Kentucky was home to more than half of the 25,000 Thoroughbreds registered in the United States in 2012 and that the state has more than 100,000 jobs related to the industry, with a $4 billion annual economic impact.  

Horseshoe board: At this station, the fifth-graders saw a display of the types of horseshoes allowed on Keeneland’s track, along with a bridle and bit, and blinders. And they were relieved to hear that nailing on the aluminum horseshoes doesn’t hurt the animal.

Starting gate: Head starter Robert “Spec” Alexander, who has 12 employees under him, showed students how the electronic gate works and why blinders are sometimes necessary. “We have to teach horses, just like you go to school,” he said. “This is the most unnatural thing for a horse, to put him in a starting gate.”

Finish line: The children watched part of a race on the giant video board in the infield as they took in the one-mile dirt track with its turns and straightaway. They also discovered the origin of the term “purse.” Back in the day, the first jockey to literally grab the purse suspended on the final pole took home the cash.

Winner’s circle: Standing near the famous oval, the youngsters learned that Keeneland is one of five Thoroughbred tracks in Kentucky. They also passed around a set of green-and-white silks and heard how the jockey sometimes stacks multiple pairs of goggles to fend off the mud.

Paddock: Keeneland’s Wayne Hanks noted that the grounds are always open to visitors and that the Jockey Garden is probably the most photographed spot. The 12 small statues are painted in the silks of all the winners of Grade 1 races at Keeneland, which next year will host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. “It’s a lot of money, and it attracts the best horses in the world,” Hanks said.

Walking tour of the Keeneland grounds


Sandersville staffer creates stained-glass mascothttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/stainedglass2014-08-28T11:26:38http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/stainedglassWhen people walk in at Sandersville Elementary, they cannot mistake the school’s mascot. The front office prominently displays a 3-by-4-foot stained-glass picture of a gray shark swimming through dark teal waters. Richard Fritz, the school’s transportation coordinator, designed, crafted and donated the art to Sandersville, where he has worked since it opened in the fall of 2008.

“Our students are going to be amazed,” said art teacher Barb Willett. “They all know Mr. Fritz and see him in a totally different capacity. It will be great for them to see how art is a part of our everyday lives. Art is for everyone. You don’t have to be an artist by profession to enjoy creating it.” Willett also plans to refer to the shark in her classes, saying, “We’ll use it as an example when exploring shape, color and how artists use different materials to create art.”

Fritz took up stained-glass art back in the 1970s when he was laid up after knee surgery, and he has taken classes at Heirlooms & Gretchen’s antiques and collectibles shop in Georgetown for about six years. “I’ve been at it for a long time,” he said. “Once you try it, you’re hooked.”

About a year ago, Fritz decided to make the shark for Sandersville. He enlisted Willett’s help with a freehand drawing and then enlarged the image to trace the fins, teeth and other parts of the animal. Using patterns for the individual pieces, he then cut out the glass, ground the edges and soldered the seams. “We added water and a border with the school colors,” Fritz said, admitting, “I had trouble picking out the colors because there are so many teals and blues and purples.”

The Georgetown shop supplies 4-by-8-foot sheets of glass for hobbyists, who pay by the square foot for whatever they use, waste or break. “Sometimes you cut it too short or too big, so it’s like a jigsaw puzzle really,” Fritz said. He needed almost an entire sheet of teal by the time he matched up the shades of color and swirls to suggest flowing water. “When you put it together, you have to watch the pattern of lines in the glass,” he explained.

Nearly 100 separate pieces of glass make up the shark picture, which is matted in black within a dark wooden frame. The project took a whole year since he worked on it only a couple of hours on Saturdays. “When it comes out the way it’s supposed to look, it’s real good,” Fritz said proudly after hanging the picture this week.

Through the years, Fritz has also made stained-glass lampshades, bowls, a clock and a chandelier, as well as skinny vertical windows to frame a front door.

Kim Hooks, a co-owner at Heirlooms & Gretchen’s, mentioned that Fritz gives away many of his pieces, not only to family members but also to the Kentucky United Methodist Children’s Home. So she wasn’t surprised when he tackled a shark for Sandersville. “It’s become a way he can give back of his talents,” Hooks said. “It enriches the school and makes students aware that he’s part of the team, and it shows a lot of support for the school.”

Willett agreed. “Richard’s work is wonderful,” she said. “This is a work of art that will be treasured for years to come.”


Steel drums make for innovative band at STEAM Academyhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/steelband2014-08-27T13:11:56http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/steelbandToddlers who relish banging on pots and pans might wind up in the steel drum band at the STEAM Academy, where about a dozen teenagers wield rubber mallets over an unusual collection of instruments. “STEAM is a unique school, and this is a unique band,” said sophomore Gaby Carreno, who embraced the opportunity despite having no musical background. “The hardest part for me is getting on rhythm, but it’s easy to pick up, and it’s a fun instrument.”

The band performed a handful of songs to open August’s school board meeting, ranging from the national anthem to Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” Director Gary Fisher noted that the band members don’t even need to read music. He teaches one-on-one for a particular drum, and then that student passes the technique along to fellow band members. “Everybody comes in on a level playing field,” he said. “They play by what they hear and what they see. We’re all learning by rote.”

Fisher, who teaches music and arts technology, likes the flexibility of playing steel pan drums. “It allows for musicianship and creativity and reaches beyond the traditional band student,” he said. “It allows for a totally free and creative experience.”

With the band growing in its second year, members now rotate and take turns with the instruments as they memorize classical, traditional, pop and original pieces. “The steel pans are more vocals than actual drums. The bass is definitely what brings us together,” Gaby explained, adding, “We’ve become closer, and we’re passionate about this band.”

STEAM has four types of steel drums: tenor or lead drum, which carries the melody; the versatile double second, which handles the counter melody; guitar pan, for chords and strumming; and the bass pan, which sets the beat. But these instruments are not typical drums – there’s no animal skin stretched across a plastic base and no wooden drumsticks. A solid steel drum starts out as a regular 55-gallon oil drum, which is cut down to size and shaped by hand using hammers to make the various notes. The larger the drum, the fewer and deeper the sounds, and vice versa. For instance, the bass has only three notes, while the higher-pitched tenor drum produces many more.

Sophomore Zack Hood can attest to the craftsmanship that goes into such an instrument. “I’m making my own so I can play it at home,” he said before the school board meeting. “You hammer the bottom until it’s concave, then groove out the notes. Each note rises above the rest of the drum so it has an individual sound.”

Zack, who has relied on an instruction booklet and online illustrations, estimated he will have about 30 hours of work invested in his drum. “I still have a lot to go – to tune it and groove the rest of the notes and smooth it,” he said. “It takes a long time, but it’s worth it. I really like the sound it makes, and if I was going to play any instrument, it would be this one.”

The band formed last February after receiving the set of handmade drums from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. “It’s coming alive with the students,” Fisher said. “These were all non-musicians who were willing to try something new. They’ve been able to be creative and expressive.”

Serving as ambassadors of innovation for their school, the students have also played for several events at the University of Kentucky and for the governor’s wife, Jane Beshear. “All our performances have been well-received, but the feather in our cap was meeting the approval of the first lady of the state,” Fisher said. “It would be hard to top that.”

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Did you know? In addition to the steel drum band, the STEAM Academy has a concert band and an orchestra.





Yates scores two soccer goals from Lady Cardinalshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/soccergoals2014-08-26T16:07:00http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/soccergoalsThanks to generosity stretching across county lines, students at Yates Elementary will enjoy playing soccer at recess and after school with regulation-size metal goals.

The Lady Cardinals team from Scott County High School, coached by Andrea “Bug” Brown, donated the two goals and turned out in force one recent afternoon to set them up and attach the nets. A dozen Yates children also pitched in as parents looked on. The school connection is that Brown is a newly hired paraeducator in a kindergarten class at Yates.

“She wanted our scholars to have a healthy and fun activity as well as learn to love the sport,” said Principal Twanjua Jones. “This is an opportunity to bridge the community, with a Scott County group helping a Fayette County school,” she added. “Relationships are important, and then there’s no limit to people helping you.”

When Brown started working at Yates, she soon realized the school had no soccer goals out back. That’s when she turned to the Bluegrass Soccer Club in neighboring Woodford County, which supplied the equipment. One of Brown’s assistant coaches happens to be a welder, so after some refurbishing and painting, the goals were ready for new life at Yates. The Lady Cardinals also furnished new metal stakes for safety’s sake. “These girls are very giving, and we’re very blessed,” said Brown, whose team routinely participates in community service projects.

Jones, who is in her first year as principal at Yates, said the soccer goals can also benefit classroom teachers. For instance, a science lesson could focus on the motion of play on the field and the rotation of the ball, and in math, students could figure the percentage of goals made. In addition, there’s the cultural piece of comparing soccer and American football.

Brown noted how sports can bring students together, too, saying, “This is a diverse school, and it’s a universal outlet for a bunch of kids to play the game of soccer.”


Science teacher savors field research in Arctichttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/polartrec2014-08-21T16:32:22http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/polartrecEmily Dodson-Snowden, a sixth-grade science teacher at Morton Middle School, didn’t have a typical summer break. She spent three weeks in Greenland studying how climate change influences plant/pollinator interactions and plant reproduction as part of PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating). “I’ve always been interested in the Arctic and Antarctic,” she said. “It’s like an unknown world everyone wants to discover.”

Dodson-Snowden applied a year ago along with about 200 other teachers. PolarTREC, whose projects are funded by the National Science Foundation, ultimately picked only 12 to pair with small groups researching penguins, ice melts and other frosty topics. She learned of her selection just before the winter holidays. “Everyone said Friday Dec. 13 was unlucky, but not for me,” said Dodson-Snowden, who also got married that day.

In February she flew to Alaska for a week of training with her team, which eventually included three researchers from Dartmouth College. “It’s become a trend for young researchers to want to work with educators because they’ve grown up with it,” she noted. Then right after school dismissed in June, she headed to Kangerlussuaq on the west coast of Greenland – described as a cold, desert-like landscape with scrubby plants and sandstorms that whipped their tents. Her team worked outside of town and occasionally stayed at the local science station to charge instruments and take a hot shower. “I love camping, so that part was actually really fun,” she said.

On a typical day, the team trekked to three sites along Kangerlussuaq’s longest road, which ends at the ice sheet. The three-degree temperature shift along the way enabled them to observe, take samples and measure how climate and precipitation might impact plant pollination by bees, mosquitoes and flies. “We noticed the plants were blooming larger and faster closer to town, so you can tell the warmer temperatures are having an effect,” she said. And since the ozone layer is so thin, the arctic is a good place to study the potential broader impact of global warming. The majority of flowering plants in nature and one-third of crop plants depend on pollinators to produce fruits and seeds.

The work in Greenland meant long days and little sightseeing, but Dodson-Snowden did enjoy hot chocolate at the ice sheet during the summer solstice and sampled grilled muskox burgers, whale and caribou. Now she looks forward to sharing her adventures at Morton and introducing youngsters to possible career paths in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). “Students just eat it up when they see you’ve experienced stuff. They see that I’m doing science – I experience it and bring it back for them to experience,” she said. Her first unit is ecology, so she plans to show the sixth-graders how to research pollination in their own backyard.

PolarTREC also fueled some creative teaching techniques, especially for experiments design, which is part of the new science standards. “The learning went both ways. The researchers were interested in how teachers would take it down a level to share it with kids,” Dodson-Snowden said, adding, “I’ll definitely use this in my classroom for years to come.”

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Rosa Parks initiatives among highlights of national ‘green’ tourhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/greentour2014-08-21T16:32:08http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/greentourRosa Parks Elementary stepped up to help represent Fayette County on the national “Healthy Schools, High-Achieving Students” tour, which brought together representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and various “green” partners to mark schools’ successes in energy conservation and sustainability. “We’re really proud of our kids’ efforts,” Principal Leslie Thomas said as she spotlighted Rosa Parks’ programs. “We’re a community here,” added teacher Suzanna Weisenfeld. “If it wasn’t for everyone participating, this would not happen.” 

Rosa Parks Elementary, Wellington Elementary, Locust Trace AgriScience Farm and two schools in Scott County made up the Central Kentucky leg of the “best practices” tour, which also includes stops in West Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Minnesota and Maryland. All have received the national Green Ribbon Schools designation for reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and providing environmental education among many disciplines, and especially incorporating STEM, civic skills and green career pathways.

“Everything we do is student-driven,” said Tresine Logsdon, the energy and sustainability curriculum coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools. “And at Rosa Parks, students are making long-lasting changes.”

The principal noted how her students and staff pull together, saying, “There are millions of ways to reduce the energy we use.” For instance, a club called the Energy Stars conducts audits in classrooms and offices as students brainstorm solutions, such as using power strips to turn off computers at the end of the day and de-lamping or lowering the lights throughout the building. “It’s the little things, and we can start that with young kids,” Thomas said.  

As she led visitors through the property, she shared a bit about each initiative, from the school’s recycling team, the no-idling campaign in the car riders’ line, rain barrels and walking trails, to the annual Cans for Cash project, waste-free lunch days and motion sensors in restrooms. “We don’t have anything here built to be ‘green,’ but the small things have had a great impact,” Thomas said.

After Rosa Parks, the group toured Wellington Elementary and Locust Trace farm, where they saw the powerful effects of “green” construction and sustainable practices.

The previous day, some two dozen people gathered at the Big Ass Solutions headquarters for a public listening session. “Healthy, high-performing schools produce healthy, high-performing kids,” said state Rep. Jim DeCesare, co-chair of the Kentucky Green Schools Caucus. “We need to make sure they have the best environment to learn.” 

A six-member panel fielded such questions as how their schools and districts have benefited economically from green practices and how green schools offer unique learning experiences. Logsdon, for instance, noted how energy savings funneled back into schools have funded everything from additional bike racks to school gardens. “Fayette County has aggressively addressed sustainability, and over these past four years managed to divert over $5 million back into the classroom,” she said.

Logsdon also cited the district’s Design 101 and Renovation 101 programs, in which architects and engineers meet regularly with small groups of students to explain permeable pavers, storm-water management and other facets of green construction. Panelist Brittany Phillips, who teaches at Wellington, mentioned how her school provides continual teachable moments. “Our building is a learning laboratory,” she said. “The cool thing is our teachers really want to learn about it, and the students teach the teachers.”

Fayette Superintendent Tom Shelton agreed that sustainability provides opportunities to empower students and to grow from their example. “The generation that follows us will be taking care of the environment, and part of our responsibility is educating them to be prepared for that,” he said.

Partners in the best-practices tour included the Kentucky Environmental Education Council, U.S. Department of Education, Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky School Boards Association, Kentucky National Energy Education Development Project (NEED), Kentucky U.S. Green Building Council, Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, and the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Program. For more information, visit keec.ky.gov or call (502) 564-9298.

FCPS resources: www.sustainability.fcps.net


Like ship’s captain, principals set course for successful yearhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/firstday2014-08-20T09:56:26http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/firstdayAs more than 40,000 students returned to the classroom in Fayette County Public Schools, principals brought their “A” game to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible on the first day of the 2014-2015 academic year.

8 a.m. at Henry Clay High School

Greg Quenon, starting his third year as principal at Henry Clay, walked the halls to welcome students and touch base with his new teachers in particular. He encouraged his entire staff to extend positive greetings as well. “I’m all about building those relationships,” Quenon said. “The first day you’ll make an impression, and you never get a second chance at that. It sets the tone. The difference could be a successful start or a bad first impression. And for freshmen, it’s the toughest transition they’ll face.” 

Teachers and staffers positioned themselves throughout the color-coded building to act as air traffic controllers and offer directions and advice. Amid P.A. announcements about getting to class on time, a crush of students lined up outside the counseling office to find out their homerooms so they could pick up their schedules. Others mingled near the lockers, catching up with friends. Meanwhile, Quenon paused occasionally to jot down reminders such as finding a closer parking spot for a student with disabilities.

Quenon knew Wednesday would be a long day. “It’s one of those things where you have to understand you’ll be on your feet a lot and visible,” he said. “I usually don’t eat very well the first couple of days of school because I don’t have time to sit down and eat. Physically, my feet hurt. It’s ‘go’ time!”

9 a.m. at Morton Middle School

Morton Principal Ronda Runyon stood at the front door offering hugs and encouraging words as students streamed into the building. “I tell the kids I’m just as excited as they are,” she said. “There’s a lot of emotion. You’ve worked all summer long with paperwork and stuff, and then you’re ready for them to come back. I’m ready to see kids.”

The raising of the U.S. flag signaled the official start of another school year, along with teachers’ reminders about the dress code and the various forms for parents to sign and return. Runyon and new associate principal Andy Williams led off the morning news with plugs for T-shirt sales, jazz band openings and the upcoming cheerleading clinic.

Students had no problem finding answers Wednesday: They just looked for someone dressed in bright yellow. “The whole building is in the same T-shirt, so the kids know if they have a question and they don’t know all the staff members, they’ll know who to go to,” said Runyon, who is in her eighth year. “It’s just making sure they feel comfortable in the building.”

This year’s theme at Morton is “Enjoy the journey,” with the image of a road leading to success. “It’s a journey for the students, and we just have to be there for them,” she said.

10 a.m. at Ashland Elementary

Principal Lisa Smith wasn’t worried because she had thoroughly reviewed the what-ifs for Ashland. “A lot of it is practicing procedures and routines and thinking about all the tiny things that could go wrong that could turn into some big headaches,” she said. “I do a lot of preplanning and a lot of work with my staff to make sure everyone understands their roles for that first day. It takes the guesswork out of it. My goal is to be as clear as I possibly can, which cuts down on confusion. We’ve covered all our bases over here, so we’ll start the year on strong footing.”

Librarian Jessica Jones certainly started on a high note when a florist delivered a colorful bouquet from her husband of 10 months; a beaming Jones immediately posted a photo via Instagram. Down the hall, students drew pictures and shared fun facts about themselves as they got to know their classmates. The youngest also learned to walk on the right-hand side of the stairwell with one hand on the railing. Since transportation – or “How will I get home?” – can be a huge stressor, all the students also practiced dismissal a couple of times so the car riders, bus riders and walkers knew where to line up.

“Children need to understand how things work within the school, so we practice how we walk, where we go, how to go through the lunch line,” said Smith, in her second year at Ashland. “It’s to build confidence and become familiar with routines. Then when you begin the instruction, those other things have become second nature, so they don’t stress about that.”


KEMI volunteers ease teachers’ burden with school prephttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/kemihelpers2014-08-18T10:56:20http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/kemihelpersWhen a helping-hands crew from KEMI rolled into Dixie Magnet Elementary, the teachers and staff could hardly believe their good fortune. After all, the week before school starts is a hectic time as they prepare for students’ return. “There’s so much to do, and people don’t realize how much it takes,” said third-grade teacher Mary Chapman, who is in her 15th year at Dixie. “(The volunteers have) measured, cut, stapled, taped, and it’s been awesome,” she said after a break for lunch, which KEMI provided. “They have relieved my mind.”

KEMI (Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance), the state’s largest provider of workers’ compensation coverage, values community service, so having more than a dozen employees turn out at Dixie for this special project was no surprise. Another group of volunteers signed up for Breckinridge Elementary later in the week.

“It’s extra hands to help them get their classrooms set up quicker,” said Jenny Whitis, vice president of Human Resources at the Lexington-based company. “We’re putting up bulletin boards and posters – anything the teachers want done in prepping their classrooms for open house. It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the schools. We just want to be a good corporate citizen.”

Chapman was particularly grateful for the volunteers who were able to climb; heights are off limits since her two knee replacements and a broken leg last year. The KEMI crew brought supplies, including step ladders, and took the opportunity to remind Dixie staffers to always be careful of slippery floors, loose wires and other potential hazards. “We are very attuned to safety, and being out and about in the community promotes safety in the minds of individuals,” said senior underwriter Roger Miller, whose wife happens to teach at Mary Todd Elementary. 

The idea for a KEMI work day first developed at Breckinridge Elementary, where Principal Michael Price welcomed the partnership. His staff planned to spread the volunteers among the grade levels and assign them specific tasks – the thought being that teachers would know best how to channel the extra energy. “It’ll be great for morale,” Price said. “We always need those extra hands, and it’ll help support getting the year started right.”

At Dixie, the volunteers spent nearly four hours working in classrooms, hallways, offices and outdoors, where several pitched in to repaint the game courts near the playground. Music teacher Crystal Peters, whose husband Ryan works at KEMI, was glad for strong backs to lift heavy boxes while she focused on other chores. “My husband knows firsthand what teachers go through to get ready and behind the scenes what that looks like,” she noted.

After hearing about the Breckinridge plans, the Peters set up Dixie as well since so many KEMI employees had stepped up. “At first, you’re stunned that you have a group of willing people who want to be there to support you,” Peters said. “They’re so eager to help in the school, and as a teacher, that makes us feel great!”

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Camp Storm prepares sixth-graders for life at Southern Middlehttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/campstorm2014-08-18T10:53:47http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/campstormA locker symbolizes the step up from elementary to middle school; it’s also the main source of angst for incoming sixth-graders who fret the combination will give them trouble on the first day of classes. “Working on that lock is the first and foremost thing that makes them panic,” said Holly Morrow, the Youth Services Center coordinator at Southern Middle School.  

Morrow, teachers and staff tried to ease students’ minds during Camp Storm, a 90-minute orientation that covered such basics as dress code and behavior expectations, class schedules, supply lists and the building’s layout. They also invited the youngsters to come back any time before the Aug. 13 start of school to practice on the built-in locks and prep their storage area. “You can come put supplies in your locker so your backpack’s not too heavy,” math teacher Adriana Gregory told one group.

More than 150 students attended Camp Storm, which gave them another close-up of Southern Middle. Back in April, the principal and guidance counselors visited the feeder schools to share folders of helpful information with fifth-graders. A poll of elementary students uncovered their top concerns about starting middle school, so for the summer orientation, Southern presented a streamlined session. 

“We shortened it down to the most important things they worry about: meeting their (teaching) team and getting their schedule and lockers,” Morrow said. “It calms them down and makes the first day a little bit easier. They know where they’re going, they know what to expect, and they have a plan. It helps settle the parents as well. It’s a big transition.”

At Camp Storm, the students rotated through their classes in 10-minute blocks and met all the “Blizzard” and “Cyclone” teachers in their respective rooms, which gave both sides a chance to put some names and faces together. The youngsters also got a glimpse of each teacher’s personality. For instance, they saw photos of Chase Smith’s newly adopted dog chilling on the lake and heard that the science teacher will bring in his pet chinchilla to join Sheldon the turtle, the class mascots. They also learned that Gregory is all about school spirit; she even hosts a study hall before afternoon ballgames so students don’t have to go home and then find a ride back to campus. “I have a lot of pride in Southern Middle School. We love our sports, and there’s tons of stuff for you to get involved in,” she told the students.

All in all, the informal session gave the children a better overall view of what life will be like at Southern Middle. “Anytime they’re more comfortable, it makes our job easier,” said guidance counselor Ginger Banks, who stood in the hallway giving directions and fielding questions.

Principal Frank Coffey, who served as instructional coach for the past nine years, said Camp Storm was an effective way to welcome new students. “Hopefully they come in not as anxious. They know the layout of the school and know their teachers and how to get there,” he said. “It gets them excited about being at Southern Middle.” 

Morrow, the YSC coordinator, reiterated that youngsters shouldn’t lose sleep over transitioning to middle school. “Everybody else in their grade is new, too. They’re not the only new kid,” she said, “and their sixth-grade teachers will take good care of them.”


Kindergarten Kickoff gives children, teachers a head starthttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/kinderkickoff2014-08-15T12:15:09http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/kinderkickoffKindergarten Kickoff was a family affair for the Workmans as 5-year-old Ethan met a few teachers, checked out the renovation work at Deep Springs Elementary and collected a goody bag to take home. As for the screening, he breezed through the activities with Emily Hobbs, who coordinated the event.

“Ethan is very interested in learning, and he’s very inquisitive and always wanting to know things,” said his mother, Alex Workman, who waited across the hall with husband Aaron, 4-year-old Layla and 2-year-old Ryan, who practiced the names of various dinosaurs as his sister colored with her favorite marker: pink.

When the teacher asked what Ethan did for fun this summer, he replied, “Sometimes we go to the pool.” And during an exercise to sort colored discs, he shared a little about his interest in coins, saying, “I’ve collected all the state quarters, but I still need New Mexico and all the U.S. Territories.” Throughout the 20-minute screening, Hobbs made note of Ethan’s level of vocabulary and sentence structure as well as his ability to count and even add double-digit numbers without prompting. She also asked whether Ethan knew his home address (yes), and he printed his first name.

Meanwhile, Workman busily filled out forms and paperwork for Deep Springs. The sheets included a self-help and social-emotional readiness scale, which is part of the BRIGANCE Kindergarten Screen III. It asks parents to rate their child in several areas, such as whether he can use a fork, shares thoughts easily and follows directions well. “He knew all his letters and numbers before he started preschool,” Workman said. “I have to help him with the occasional button, and we’re not at tying shoes yet.”

Families can also list their child’s fears, hobbies, and any concerns and expectations about kindergarten. “Every parent likes to talk about their kids,” said Hobbs, who noted how these insights help the teachers get to know each youngster before classes begin. “It’s so important for us to be able to meet the kids and see if they’re shy or see if they’re excited to come to school,” she added.

Fayette County Public Schools introduced BRIGANCE last summer. It provides easy and accurate screening in areas that are critical predictors of school success, including language, cognitive, self-help and social-emotional skills, and physical development. The idea is to base classroom instruction on what a child knows and is able to do, focusing on his strengths and individual needs. The screening data also enable the staff to group the children so they receive appropriate support.

“It actually shows them who is ready for kindergarten and which kids are struggling. It’s a good tool for where to start with each child,” said Peggy Hayes, the district assessment coordinator.  Later, at the first parents’ conference, teachers can offer broad suggestions of where a youngster needs extra attention. “They’re able to tell parents, ‘Here are the things we need to work on at home,’” she said.

At Deep Springs, the annual Kindergarten Kickoff also provides an opportunity to introduce youngsters to their new school and to the handful of friendly adults who will be in their world come mid-August. The goody bags contained a composition book and pencil, a snack, and a welcome booklet with pictures of the kindergarten teachers and the school building, which is under renovation. “It’s nice to be able to say the kindergarten classrooms will be brand new. The parents get excited about that,” Hobbs said.

“We try to form relationships. We want the children to feel comfortable coming back,” she added. “We also try really hard to remember them. We take notes about distinctive things so when we see them on that first day of school, we’ll remember them.”  



Blue backpacks signal start of school is nearhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/b2srallies2014-08-15T12:15:09http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/b2sralliesCrisp spiral notebooks, packs of yellow pencils, unopened glue sticks – all are signs that the school bell will soon ring in the 2014-2015 academic year. “I know it’s time to go back to school when I see kids this excited,” FCPS Superintendent Tom Shelton said Saturday at a “Preparing for Success” rally. “We look forward to seeing you this fall and having you back in school. We know great things will happen,” he told youngsters gathered at Douglass Park.

At 18 sites across Lexington, neighborhoods came together to offer fun activities and community resources at the ninth annual Back to School Rallies. For instance, PTA members from Booker T. Washington Intermediate Academy connected with families, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness handed out brochures at Douglass Park, while downtown churches donated toothbrushes and toothpaste for the Coolivan Park rally. The YMCA of Central Kentucky, one of the event sponsors, also distributed free books for students at each site. Meanwhile, families enjoyed hot dogs and face time with teachers, school district officials and other supporters.

“The most important thing is to let the kids see our school is a part of their everyday lives and community,” said Tammie Franks, principal at Harrison Elementary, who helped organize the Coolivan activities on East Sixth Street. “It’s a great way to remind them we’re all looking out for them.”

YMCA president and CEO David Martorano echoed that sentiment, saying, “Today is about building bridges with our community.”

Through the Back to School Rallies, those bridges are built largely with crayons, loose-leaf paper and colorful binders. Having a drawstring bag full of basic supplies can mean the world to a child whose family cannot afford to shop for classroom essentials. “For many children, it gives them confidence that they start school like everyone else,” Franks said.

Passport Health Plan, a nonprofit, community-based group that handles Medicaid benefits, stepped up this year as the rallies’ main sponsor since its mission is to improve health and quality of life. “We know that a healthy child makes for a better student,” said communications director Michael Rabkin, “and a student with supplies is more likely to do well in school and stay in school.”

Earlier in the week, community and corporate volunteers sorted and bagged school supplies from Kits for Kidz. Other supporters included Kentucky Utilities, the Fayette Education Foundation and Fayette County Public Schools. To help with next summer’s event, contact the YMCA’s Nicola Fleming at (859) 226-0393.


Library of Congress a bountiful resource for deeper lessonshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/primarysources2014-08-15T12:15:08http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/primarysourcesWhen students research historical events, primary sources can be an invaluable tool – especially if the teacher makes the material more meaningful so it’s not dismissed as boring old photographs in a book. Engaging classes with primary sources, or firsthand accounts of actual experiences, is the end game for Joni Maloney, who recently spent a week immersed in the Library of Congress.

Maloney, who is coordinator of Media Services in Fayette County Public Schools, joined nearly 30 teachers and librarians from across the country July 7-11 for the Summer Teacher Institute in Washington, D.C. The intense training left little time for sightseeing, though they did tour the Jefferson Building and the Main Reading Room after hours. “The Kentucky Library Association recommended the institute, and I decided it would really go with the inquiry-based learning initiative we’re starting this fall,” Maloney said. 

Meg Steele, a supervisory educational resources specialist at the Library of Congress, said the program wasn’t designed to turn educators into experts at finding materials. “There’s no way one ever could know exactly everything that’s in the collections and how to find it. The collections are just that vast,” she said. Instead, they learned strategies to effectively incorporate primary sources into lessons. “If you put the actual authentic items – letters, maps, diaries, photographs – into students’ hands, that will just magnify the power of the learning,” Steele said.  

The Library of Congress, with some 15 million items digitized and freely available for schools to use, gathers resources in themed sets for easier access. Teachers can also search by state standards. “They have modules to help you get started,” Maloney said.

She demonstrated the potential impact of “the raw materials of history” by having the FCPS librarians examine a series of old photos and other materials to determine the type of source. For example, a draft of the Langston Hughes poem “Ballad of Booker T” would be a primary source for exploring Hughes’ creative process but a secondary source for researching the life of Booker T. Washington. Also, an 1867 lithograph of the “The Wedding of Pocahontas with John Rolfe” could be a primary source for studying the artist’s style but not the 1614 ceremony.

The PD participants also mentioned how students need to realize that manuscripts, diaries, political cartoons and other primary sources typically aren’t objective; many are tainted by the originator’s opinion or agenda. That insight only spurs additional conversation. In a circle-of-viewpoints activity, for instance, students would consider people’s motives related to, say, the Declaration of Independence.

In one exercise with Maloney, the librarians paired up to analyze photos, marking down their observations (details they saw), reflections (hypotheses or inferences) and questions (what is really going on?). Naomi Carroll of Breckinridge Elementary thought the activity could work well in either her library or a classroom setting. She plans to share individually with Breckinridge teachers what she has learned about primary sources, saying, “I’ll see what they ask for, and I’ll introduce them to the Library of Congress.”

In inquiry-based units, librarians work alongside teachers to deliver content by leading an opening activity, exposing students to new information and having them share with peers. “It’s structured, but it still gives the students enough flexibility to bring their own choices into it,” Maloney explained. She also stressed how pairing primary sources with the guided-inquiry model can enrich project-based learning, saying, “It’s a deeper analysis of documents that were actually created by someone who was there at the time.”


Children’s garden an apt classroom for incoming kindergartenershttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/childrensgarden2014-08-15T12:15:07http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/childrensgardenWhen youngsters traipse through nature, chances are they learn something new. Maybe how hard it is to net a butterfly. Or how much fun can be had hopping on rocks in a cool stream. Or why they need to share the pint-size rakes, wheel barrows and watering cans. That’s what the Kentucky Children’s Garden at the arboretum yielded one recent Saturday during a Countdown to Kindergarten event.

The children’s garden was on July’s schedule for the annual Countdown, in which community organizations partner with Fayette County Public Schools to offer entertaining and educational activities for newly registered kindergarteners and their families. An added twist for 2014 is the passport, which is stamped at each site with stickers to qualify for a prize drawing.

“We’ve done a handful (of programs), and it’s been amazing,” said Tiger Hayden, whose daughter will attend Southern Elementary. “It’s a great chance for the kids to interact, and it’s something to put on your calendar all summer long.” Besides the garden, he and his little girl have enjoyed the math and science learning centers at the public library, sensory exhibits at the Explorium and free admission to city pools. “It’s also a good reason to have daddy/daughter time,” Hayden said. 

Kaarla Stamper, whose son will attend Glendover Elementary, also praised the opportunities for kids. “It’s a good lineup. It gives them a chance to see a lot of different arenas,” she said. “It keeps them busy and gives them a well-rounded experience for the summer.” The Countdown events have also included a measure of diversity that her son was not used to seeing in his small preschool setting. “He’s getting in the mode of learning more and doing more,” Stamper added.

For instance, with that day’s craft at the children’s garden – a nature collage – youngsters handled cardboard, Elmer’s Glue, moss, leaves, twigs and sand as they designed a unique take-home project. Meanwhile, kids in lime green T-shirts darted from one end of the site to the other – pretending to be pioneers in the log cabin, marveling at the model train in the transportation garden and digging in the mud near the hand pump (perhaps glimpsing the concept of erosion). 

Children’s educator Emma Trester-Wilson suggested the Kentucky Children’s Garden is an ideal classroom environment for 5-year-olds, who cultivate independence and confidence while experiencing nature firsthand. “We focus on life cycles, and that is something kindergartners focus on in their curriculum. They talk a lot about growth and development. These kids will come back on field trips, and we’ll talk about the butterfly life cycle, how seeds grow, all of those kinds of basic things,” she said. “Our goal is to connect children to the natural world in an urban setting. We’re trying to introduce these kids to nature so they develop an appreciation of it and can be good stewards for tomorrow. That’s a lifelong lesson, not just a kindergarten lesson.”  

This summer’s Countdown is the fourth series promoting the lifelong value and importance of education. The program is financially supported by the PNC Foundation in conjunction with FCPS, the Childcare Council of Kentucky and United Way of the Bluegrass. “Kids are all different. Some love hands-on dirt, where another might want to be at the ballet,” said Alyce Emerson of the United Way, which organized the 2014 lineup. “We’ll keep building on it.”

PNC Bank this spring received a Golden Apple Award from FCPS and the Community Partners Leadership Team for its efforts as a “high-performance partner.” “The bank has a dedicated workforce who volunteer at various early childhood education centers across the region, hold collection drives benefitting these centers and is generous in providing grant dollars to help these schools provide a quality education to pre-K children. It’s because of all of these initiatives that we feel we were awarded the Golden Apple and are humbled by the recognition,” said Yajaira Aich West, PNC’s client and community relations director. “Our bank and PNC Foundation are committed to helping provide resources for the youngest children of our communities to ensure they are ready for that first day of kindergarten through our signature initiative ‘PNC Grow Up Great’. PNC has been an advocate and financial contributor to Countdown to Kindergarten since its inception and is proud of how many lives the program has positively influenced.”  

Countdown to Kindergarten

Families can find Countdown details in their kindergarten registration packet, including a voucher for a free T-shirt and passport, available at any branch of the Lexington Public Library. The shirt serves as the child’s entry pass to Countdown activities all summer. For questions, please call (859) 381-4105.


In any language, children go wild for animals http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/animaltales2014-08-15T12:15:07http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/animaltalesTheir fascination with animals was a common denominator for ELL youngsters as the English language learners collected tactile and visual cues for future reference in school while filing away new vocabulary words. For instance, they learned a giant African bullfrog feels cold and wet, and a 30-pound capybara has webbed feet and coarse fur.

About 20 children in the ELL summer program at Northern Elementary capped their four-week camp with a house call by Animal Tales from Mayfield, in far western Kentucky. In addition to the bullfrog and rodent, naturalist Keith Wood brought along a tarantula, an aracari (small toucan) and a 9-foot Burmese python. Wood introduced each animal individually, allowing for close-up observation and Q&A. The children gleaned all sorts of information about the spider’s fangs and venom, the snake’s ability to track prey by scent using its forked tongue, the capy’s vegetarian diet and the bird’s 50-mile flight range. “He’s the Johnny Appleseed of the rainforest,” Wood said of the aracari, describing how the toucan spreads fruit trees through its droppings. 

After the hour-long presentation, the five teachers sat with students in small groups to review the animals’ classifications and characteristics using pictures the children had snapped with iPads. It was another successful learning experience for the hand-picked participants, including some who didn’t progress as expected on their standardized tests in the spring and some at risk of regressing during the summer while primarily speaking their native language at home.

“Our goal was to give kids experiences that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to have otherwise – things that weren’t typical family activities,” said Stella Loveland, who organized the camp along with colleague Jamie Wright.

The program, funded by the district’s ESS and ESL offices (Extended School Services and English as a Second Language), also included field trips to Fort Boonesborough and the Hummel Planetarium in Richmond and the Ale-8-One Bottling Co. in Winchester. Two weeks focused on social studies and two weeks on science. Some material was a review, especially for the older students, while some subjects offered new insights for the youngsters. “We wanted to give them experiences to build vocabulary around,” Wright explained.

Most of the participants speak Spanish as their first language; Chinese and Swahili were also represented. The entire month focused on reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. “Everything we’re doing gives them an opportunity to practice the different domains. For instance, they’ve been writing about their experiences and sharing it with the class,” Loveland said. The 5:1 student/teacher ratio also meant plenty of individual attention for each child’s needs.

Before each week’s special activity, the students researched the topic through websites, library books, videos and other resources. That way, they knew a bit about colonial life in Fort Boonesborough, for example, and the economics of goods and services at the bottling plant. To prep for Animal Tales, the children studied animal classifications and brainstormed questions to ask, and afterward they reflected on what they saw and heard. July’s various experiences provided a chance to form opinions, develop narrative writing and gain self-confidence by sharing orally with classmates.

“Our biggest goal was that they were able to practice their language over the summer. Hopefully we’ve given them the experience of hearing and speaking and reading and writing in English. We’ve also used a lot of new vocabulary words,” Loveland said. “They’ve all been practicing English in a really intensive environment. Everybody’s getting something different out of it.”


Migrant children enriched by academic, fun activitieshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/migrantsummer2014-08-15T12:15:06http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/migrantsummerChildren’s smiles and laughter can transcend barriers, especially during a cookout and field-day games, which is how the district’s Migrant Education Program (MEP) capped Week 3 of summer school activities. About 70 youngsters, along with many family members, enjoyed the sunny outing behind host Cardinal Valley Elementary.

Michael Dailey, associate director for Student Achievement and Support in Fayette County Public Schools, served up the hot dogs and hamburgers. “These children need to be afforded the same type of education that children in the general population get. Because they move so frequently, there are a lot of extra supports they need,” he said. “We’re trying to create opportunities, and we try to make it interesting and do things tied to academics but that engage learning differently.”

Migrant children are in households that move regularly to follow seasonal agricultural jobs, meaning they are pulled out of school several times a year. “These kids are missing out socially on a lot of bonds, and they’re missing out academically,” said migrant advocate Teresa Cox.

Many families will stay put for now while harvesting tobacco into the fall, so MEP’s summer school gave the youngsters a chance to spend time with peers and teachers they might encounter in August. The group was divided into several classrooms by grade level, from preschoolers through rising sixth-graders, and the goal was to catch them up close to their age group.

Each classroom had a certified teacher, including staff from Cardinal Valley, Deep Springs and Mary Todd elementaries; several assistants and a sign-language interpreter were also on hand. The younger children concentrated on their ABC’s, phonics and spelling, while the oldest students tackled storytelling, poetry, multiplication and place values. “Our focus was academic language in reading and math. A lot of times they’re ESL (English as a second language), so it’s incredibly difficult if they don’t understand the language of a math word problem,” Cox explained.

The children also went on a field trip to the Newport Aquarium. “They’re learning that school can actually be fun,” Cox said, adding, “One kid would not take his backpack off when he got home because he was ready to go back to camp.”

The teachers came up with engaging activities that often were brand-new for these children. One highlight in Sarah Blades’ grades 4/5 class was their science project, in which students tested water, fruit juice and alcohol to see which liquid caused Sharpie ink to spread. The result was colorful tie-dyed T-shirts, which many wore to the picnic. Blades’ students also read a Judy Blume chapter book and fashioned 3D book reports on cereal boxes, including a summary and the theme as well as a game on the back. One child made a crossword puzzle using facts from his book; another designed a maze for a character to escape the freckled monster.

Blades also guided her group through a narrative exercise in which the students developed their own main character with specific traits, described the story’s setting, and outlined the plot and conflict. She displayed their imaginative results on a bulletin board, noting, “It was easier for them to visualize their narrative, so I let them draw their pieces first before they wrote.”

Blades tested her students in reading and math before and after the three-week session and reported an average improvement of 25 percent.

In addition to boosting the migrant children in the classroom, the MEP summer efforts aimed to draw their families into the FCPS fold. “A lot of our parents are very afraid of the school system because it is a government agency. They’re afraid to be involved or don’t know they’re allowed to be involved or speak up,” Cox said. “A lot of our job is telling them ‘You can come to the school,’ ‘You can volunteer at school.’ They trust us, so if we can get them there, they’re interacting with the principal and the school, and they get more comfortable.” 

Did you know?

The summer school hosted by Cardinal Valley Elementary closed with a week-long session led by the Lexington Children’s Theatre, including a short play as the July 18 finale. (Channel 13's Video on Demand)

Among other highlights of the Migrant Education Program’s summer lineup:

  • Latino Leadership College (July 27 through Aug. 3) – Bluegrass Community & Technical College partners with the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University on an intensive college prep camp for juniors and seniors.
  • Parent meeting at the MEP Center, 460 Springhill Drive (Aug. 7, tentative) -- Migrant families hear what they need to know about the upcoming school year, with a focus on parenting skills to help each child succeed.
  • MEP STEM Camp (June 23–27) – Students in grades 7 through 12 worked with teachers from Locust Trace Agriscience Farm constructing robots, making puzzle cubes, and learning about the engineering of rollercoasters. (Channel 13's Video on Demand)
  • MEP Instructional Access Camp (June 21-22) – Students worked intensely with computers, using Word and Excel, writing a resume, creating a PowerPoint, etc., and each one left camp with a new laptop and printer.
  • Southeast Kentucky Migrant Education Summer Academy (June 16-20) -- Students in grades 7 through 12 focused on college prep and skills needed for success in high school and beyond. 

Migrant Education Program


‘Beep Beep’ outreach distributes books in BTW neighborhoodhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/beepbeep2014-08-15T12:15:05http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/beepbeepChildren who live near Booker T. Washington Intermediate Academy dash outside when they hear the honking horn, but it’s not for the ice cream truck – it’s the school’s mobile library. The Beep Beep Summer Reading Program is designed to put books in children’s hands while school’s out. “A lot of our kids don’t have access to go to the (public) library, so we decided to bring it to them,” said Michelle Tudor, the PGES coach. “We want to keep our kids reading through the summer.”

After third-grade teacher Correy Gannon heard about Beep Beep Reading at a conference, the Booker T. staff was eager to try it in Lexington. So on Mondays from mid-June through July, Principal Wendy Avila, a couple of teachers and staff members, and PTA President Rolanda Woolfork walk the neighborhood, pulling red wagons filled with books. More than 1,000 were donated for this project, including titles for adults and gently used magazines such as “Better Homes and Gardens.” 

Cagney Coomer, founder of the Nerd Squad, a local nonprofit that promotes interactive STEM activities (science, technology, engineering, math), happened to be climbing into her car as the Booker T. group passed by recently. She praised the Beep Beep initiative for offering children a variety. “Why not find books that spark their interest? This gives them an opportunity to make their own picks,” she noted.

Woolfork led the way with a squeeze horn in hand as the group rolled up and down several streets across Georgetown from Douglass Park for about an hour-and-a-half. They greeted residents sitting on front porches, invited folks to select books for their grandchildren, and encouraged school-age youngsters to choose among titles on their reading level and take as many as they wanted. “Some of them really enjoy reading, and one book wouldn’t last them a whole week,” Woolfork said.

Each Monday, Woolfork restocks the wagons so the children have new options to consider. They can exchange the previously borrowed books or keep them if they’d prefer. And at the end of the month, each participating youngster will receive a brand new book courtesy of the North Lexington Family YMCA.

This outreach project not only distributes free books but also gives the Booker T. Washington staff a chance to remind parents about kindergarten registration and to talk up other programs at their school.  “The relationship with our families doesn’t stop in summer – it continues throughout the school year,” Woolfork explained. “We want our community to read, and we want to let them know we’re here for them,” she added.

Beep Beep Reading has been well-received and has spurred prospects of new volunteers once students are back in class this fall. “More community members are now ready to come into our school to read to kids,” Woolfork said. “They’re excited and thanking us for helping our kids improve.”

Channel 13's Video on Demand



ESL students find science niche at summer camphttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/eslcamp2014-08-15T12:15:05http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2014-15/eslcampWhen English is a child’s second language, an enriching summer experience can make a huge difference in their level of understanding and self-confidence when they’re back in school this August. That was the hope at Lansdowne Elementary’s four-week ESL camp, where science took center stage.

Children in grades K-5 – many of them refugees – focused on the interaction of people, plants and animals during the weekday morning camp. Teachers incorporated the science learning with reading and math lessons by having the kids draw and diagram an earthworm’s body parts, for instance, or summarize the day’s hands-on activities. “We encourage the verbal and written language because they learn from each other. They’re interacting culturally as well,” said staffer Betty Simson, who noted the campers included mostly Hispanic, African and Nepali children.

Leaders also introduced the youngest campers to the school building and some basic rules such as waiting their turn to speak and lining up for snacks. “They really pick up a lot,” Simson added.

The guest speakers one Wednesday were environmental educator Blair Hecker from Bluegrass Greensource and Jeff Gosser with the Environmental Management branch of Kentucky’s Department for Public Health. With campers gathered outside near the playground, Hecker walked them through the seasonal life cycle of their school’s rain garden. Playing cymbals, tambourines and drums to indicate their active growing time, the children portrayed milkweed, black-eyed Susans, blazing star and other plants – standing tall in spring and then curling up for winter. They also leaned back on the grassy hill and wiggled their feet to represent the flowers’ vibrant roots. “Throughout the year, the rain garden is still alive whether we see it or not,” Hecker explained.

Meanwhile, Gosser talked with the second group about the importance of soil, which absorbs rainwater, filters out pollutants and provides support and sustenance for plants, among other functions. “The soil gives us food, so we need to protect it and take care of it,” he reminded the youngsters. Gosser also augured handfuls of soil for each child to examine, noting for example why the streaks of iron are red (it’s because of rust, as when a bicycle is left out in the rain).

Earlier in the week, the campers compared sand, silt and clay, and saw how water percolates through each type of soil. They also had a close encounter with red wiggler worms. “It gave them a real-world example of what’s going on,” Hecker said. “Some of the worms we looked at you could actually see inside their bodies and how the soil was being processed. For them, that’s a really fun activity – holding worms in their hands, looking with magnifying glasses, touching worm poop. When they get back into class, they’ll remember.”

ESL teacher Karen Botts found the summer camp offered a prime opportunity to expand vocabularies with these interactive lessons. If a child didn’t know the English word “worm,” for instance, how could he grasp the science of decomposition? 

“I see it as planting seeds,” Botts said. “They’re learning vocabulary that will give them a foundation. When they get back to the classroom, it won’t be a totally new, foreign topic for them.”