FCPS Feature Articleshttp://www.fcps.netUmbraco / FCPS custom codeRecent articles published on the FCPS Web site featuring our kids, staff, and communityenLafayette taking Violence Prevention Initiative to middle schoolershttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/violenceprevention2017-01-20T11:18:06http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/violencepreventionA diverse collection of students from Lafayette High School is determined to reverse the local wave of gun violence that recently claimed one of their own, so a baker’s dozen from the Lafayette Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) met at the Charles Young Community Center on Third Street to plan their next move.

“Nothing will happen unless you act. There’s no reason someone should get shot, and we’re going to do everything we can,” said senior Maya Homer. “We all need to come together as one because we can do more (united),” added sophomore Dara Hisle.

VPI emerged after the October death of 15-year-old Trinity Gay, a Lafayette freshman who was struck by a stray bullet in a restaurant parking lot. “We all wanted to get together and start a movement so younger kids can have a better life,” said senior Chris Wharton, who welcomed Mayor Jim Gray and Commissioner of Social Services Chris Ford to their half-day retreat.

The group intends to reach out to middle schoolers and show them how to set a good example and use their voice to stand up for what’s right; they will also highlight the irrevocable consequences of a moment of anger or carelessness. VPI members are developing three 10-minute segments and skits to present at schoolwide assemblies and other venues, where they will ask fellow youths to pledge to stop the violence.

The retreat gave the Lafayette students a chance to brainstorm ideas and different scenarios and to synthesize their core message. Among the challenges are capturing middle schoolers’ attention and effectively sharing poignant information about violence, guns, and related issues. “What will open their eyes and get them to listen?” Maya asked.

Maya also suggested the Lexington community lacks adequate support systems for youths who are broken or who feel powerless and frustrated. “Some people fight. Some people scream. Some people use guns. They’re not thinking about the end of the story,” she said after the mayor asked if the current criminal penalties fail as a deterrent.

Gray promised to take the students’ concerns to county council that same afternoon. “I can learn from your point of view and perspective, and that’s what we want to do when challenges like this affect you directly,” the mayor said. Ford also thanked the students for their candor. “It’s invaluable for us to be able to listen. Our hearts are right there with you,” he said. “You guys are saying to the community ‘We’re not going to live in a state of paralysis or fear.”

VPI’s leadoff presentation is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at the William Wells Brown Community Center, where all will be welcome. “It’s an easy, good fit for the first workshop – to build their confidence and get ready,” said center director Jill Chenault Wilson, who helped facilitate the Dec. 6 retreat.

Laura Hatfield, executive director of Partners for Youth, encouraged the students to stay focused on their mission and to be well-prepared, and she assured them that the onstage delivery will get easier each time. She also noted how VPI can create a ripple effect among their peers and incoming freshmen to sustain the movement.

Lafayette Principal Bryne Jacobs praised VPI for advocating a culture that does not tolerate violence and for fostering relationships with middle schoolers. “I’m really proud of what they want to do,” he said. “They’re not future civic leaders – they are civic leaders creating positive change among the impressionable youth of our community.”

Channel 13's coverage

Editor's note: The VPI students subsequently changed the name of their group to WAVES, which stands for We Against Violence Encourage Strength.


Longtime volunteer a prime example of living to servehttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/veteranvolunteer2017-01-18T14:57:05http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/veteranvolunteerWhen Rafael Cordoves signed on to teach here in the late 1960s, he might not have imagined he’d be involved in Fayette County Public Schools for several decades. But until this past fall, he volunteered regularly at Leestown Middle School and Meadowthorpe Elementary.  “If I had the energy again, I’d be out there. I wanted to do at least 50 years, but I think it’s not possible anymore,” he said recently, adding, “I feel pretty good about the 40-some I’ve been with the school system.”

Cordoves, now 80 years old, has collected plenty of life experience, and he’s always shared of himself graciously. For instance, he remembers difficult yet fulfilling times in his native Cuba. When civil war protests closed the schools there, the mothers asked a young Cordoves to fill in. “I’d teach for half a day, and we’d play for half a day,” he recalled. “I went around tutoring classmates in mathematics, and I thought about becoming a principal.”

Later he studied architecture at the University of Havana before it, too, was shuttered. His father soon realized Cordoves should flee Cuba, and he landed at Georgetown College through family and missionary connections. There he studied math and physics, which he taught in Scott County schools for three years before coming to FCPS just as Lexington’s city and county school systems merged. 

Cordoves taught at Leestown for 10 years before becoming associate principal and then head principal. He proudly remembers Leestown being among the first Fayette schools to add a computer lab and incorporating a seventh period for practical arts and hobby lessons with guest instructors such as a cosmetologist, a guitarist, and a photographer. “I always said if we did something the kids and the teachers look forward to, that would be a good thing,” he said.

After his retirement 20 years ago, Cordoves remained a familiar figure in the hallways at Leestown and nearby Meadowthorpe – helping everywhere from the school office to the library to the lunchroom. “Children need the attention, and when someone takes the time, it’s more beneficial for them,” he said.

Cordoves patiently tutored youngsters in the basics of math and encouraged them to explore new areas, too. “The idea is if you want to learn something, you have to try first. In trying, you learn as you go along,” he explained. For example, he once used Viking techniques to craft a boat, and he learned to sail on his own. He also built a cabin in Daniel Boone National Forest in Morehead.

“My whole life is helping kids learn something so they can get out of whatever situation they’re in and have a better future,” he said. “It’s the same no matter where you are – to learn the basics, and you have to learn how to learn. Learning by doing is very important.”

Cordoves embodies the commitment and willingness to serve that Superintendent Manny Caulk seeks in FCPS employees and supporters throughout Lexington.  “Everywhere I go, I meet people who want to help, but either don’t know how to get started or want to be sure that their efforts will make an impact. Give 10 is the answer,” Caulk says.

Through this new initiative, each school has identified specific ways that people can support its students, and FCPS has developed a system to match volunteers with requests for help. The challenge is to give 10 hours a month to make a difference in a child’s life.

More details will be available when the Give 10 program launches. For questions, call (859) 381-4241.


Clays Mill second-graders share from heart in poetry caféhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/poetrycafe2017-01-18T14:36:00http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/poetrycafeAt Clays Mill Elementary’s poetry café, second-graders wowed their families with talk of literary devices and free verse, and boldly stepped forward to read their favorite selections for the classroom audiences.

“Poems have a meaning, and they’re not just like a story,” said Hannah Plattner, who shared her piece titled “Horses.” Having chosen a shape poem, she drew a horse and wrote the verse around the outer edges, closing with the line “I think horses look as handsome as a prince on his birthday.”

“We learned how to describe an object with a poet’s eyes – (taking) something that’s everyday to make it special,” 7-year-old Hannah explained.

All five second-grade classes spent the past 2½ weeks on a poetry unit. Students tried different approaches such as writing down the middle of the page and explored rhythms to add interest. They also practiced incorporating imagery like “Her legs are as sturdy as a tree” as they learned about such devices as similes, metaphors, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. For their illustrated portfolios, the children wrote various types of poems – some rhyming and some not, some focused on a particular color, and others expounding on popular themes like pets, friends, holidays, and winter.  

“We teach that poets write about things that give them a big feeling. Some do choose sad topics, like a grandparent who has passed away. ‘Poets write from the heart’ is part of our instruction,” said team leader Jennifer Cook.

“All their poetry is created – it’s not fill-in-the-blank. They’re choosing their words and making their poetry from scratch. We go through the whole writer’s process – brainstorming and idea development, conferencing with the teacher to revise and edit, and printing on fancy paper for the café,” Cook added.  

The unit culminated Dec. 15 with the annual poetry café, where second-graders’ families enjoyed an hour of conversation, refreshments, and readings. The teachers had rearranged their classroom space and added colorful tablecloths and vases of fresh-cut flowers for a coffee shop atmosphere. Parents, grandparents, and other guests joined their students around the small tables and thumbed through the portfolios before the individual presentations.  

“Poetry reading at a café is authentic, and it helps them make connections to the future and also to community,” said Kelly McMaine, a deaf education co-teacher.

The project presented no barriers at Clays Mill, which happens to be the district’s elementary hub for deaf/hard-of-hearing children. “This activity is accessible because the students can make everything personal, from their experience,” McMaine said. “It lends itself nicely to any level.”

Julius Marks rallies to fund another vest for police dogshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/caninevest2017-01-13T14:22:57http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/caninevestCapitalizing on a love of dogs and respect for local police, three youngsters at Julius Marks Elementary put together a compelling STLP project and mustered schoolwide support to buy another bullet-resistant vest for Lexington’s Canine Unit.

“They’re getting new dogs in every month or so, and they constantly need new vests. When an elementary school raises money for a vest, they can keep one more dog safe,” said fourth-grader Chloe Miller.

Chloe, twin sister Zoey, and fifth-grader Noah Jones spearheaded the “K-9 Kevlar” project, which they presented in the STLP fall showcase (Student Technology Leadership Program). “We’re all dog lovers, and we heard about a police dog injured because it didn’t have a ballistics vest, and we didn’t want that to happen anymore,” Zoey said, recalling an out-of-state news article.

The trio researched police dogs and protective gear, and used digital camcorders, iMovie, and Pinnacle Studio to create promo trailers for the JME-TV news. They also wrote to LFUCG officials asking permission to give designated funds, which was another learning experience. After selling candy-cane bookmarks, small stuffed animals, lanyards, and other $1 to $3 knickknacks for several weeks, the STLP group presented $1,300 to police officers at a school assembly on Friday the 13th.

“We were really happy about it because we got to help our community and the police and police dogs who keep us safe,” Noah said afterward.

A dog’s vest, which fits over the torso, is made of Kevlar – the same material that human officers wear under their uniforms. Lexington police currently have 12 dogs, including a black lab serving as a bomb dog and a chocolate lab as a drug dog. The others – highly trained German shepherds – wear the vests when on patrol. The school’s donation will cover a ninth vest.

“They have an expiration date (of five to seven years) because the material breaks down over time, so anytime we have an opportunity to replace these, it’s a great day,” said Sgt. Dave Sadler of the Canine Unit. 

“This is such a big deal for us,” he added. “It shows the support we’ve got, and we absolutely appreciate it. It’s comforting to know our local community, especially school kids, support the police officers and our canines.”  

Did you know?

In the coming weeks, Zoey, Chloe, and Noah will tweak their K-9 Kevlar presentation, polish footage of their sales efforts, and finish a thank-you video to schoolmates as they prepare for STLP statewide competition on April 12. Three other projects from Julius Marks also advanced, including another service showcase, a technical project, and an instructional entry. | Details



LLYP discovers common denominator in Bluegrass businesseshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/llyp2017-01-05T14:34:10http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/llypA group of high school juniors have found prime examples of “Kentucky Proud” ranging from a thoroughbred farm where a Dubai sheikh is a major player in the local business sector to a start-up ice cream shop growing its support base largely through word of mouth.

Students in the Leadership Lexington Youth Program toured the 800-acre Jonabell Farm off Parkers Mill Road as part of Economic Development Day, which was January’s theme in their six-month learning series. Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation houses nearly a dozen stallions there with stud fees reaching $150,000. “This is his hobby. He loves horses and loves to win races,” said Brianne Sharp, market research coordinator. She explained the process, including the sales season and the breeding shed, and also highlighted the Godolphin Flying Start training program for students interested in the equine industry.

LLYP, which is offered by Commerce Lexington, introduces teenagers to their community, highlights pressing issues, and shows them varied career opportunities. “We’re seeing Lexington as a big, complex machine, and we’re seeing how it all runs,” said Drake Witt of Bryan Station High School, who values the networking aspect, too. “I’m not from Kentucky, so this program is a cool way to get me plugged in,” added Kendra Thomas of Tates Creek High School.

On Economic Development Day, the nearly four dozen students also heard from the owner/CEO of North Lime Coffee & Donuts and from web developers at 212ths; toured Awesome Inc.’s creative studio; minded their p's and q's during an etiquette luncheon; and wrapped up at Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream with owner and operator Toa Green.

Drake and Kendra both were particularly impressed that people from many different backgrounds had come together to run a donut shop. “It was cool to hear their stories about starting from the ground up,” Kendra said, noting, “A lot of people just start with an idea and put in a lot of hard work to make it come true.”

That certainly was the case with Green, who has tried her hand in various arenas including Thai Orchid Café, which she opened with her parents several years ago. “They taught me discipline,” Green told the students. After her homemade ice cream became a hit, Green spun off with a mobile operation and then landed in the Manchester Street warehouse district.

“You should be open to opportunities. The story of Crank & Boom is all about the unexpected,” Green said as students sampled the menu options. “Assess your worst-case scenario, and if you’re OK with that, you should go for it!” 

Did you know?

The diverse students in LLYP meet one Wednesday a month and stay in touch through their mentors on the program’s steering committee. Also on this year’s schedule were Ambassadors for Change Day in October, Government & Public Safety Day in November, and Arts & Media Day in December. Still to come are Health & Human Services Day on Feb. 1 and Higher Education & Career Day on March 1. The program’s graduation luncheon is slated for April 12.

Roll call

The Class of 2016-17 has 45 outstanding students, including 33 from Fayette County Public Schools.  

  • Bryan Station High School: Sidney Bibbs, Simone Bibbs, Karishma Srinivasan, and Drake Witt;
  • Carter G. Woodson Academy: Zion Walker;
  • Henry Clay High School: Shelby Amato, Ella Franklin, Nick Joseph, Charlotte Kessinger, Ellie Phillips, Kassidy Stumbo, Colton Warner, and Alex Welch;
  • Lafayette High School: Kasey Fields, Chris Giuliani, John Giuliani, Sarah Gleeson, Abby Holthaus, and Erin Remley;
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar High School: Emma Draper, Akhil Kesaraju, Rohith Kesaraju, David Ma, Flor Mucino, and Julia Radhakrishnan;
  • STEAM Academy: Claire Page;
  • Tates Creek High School: Caroline Dunson, Ellen Harrington, Sarah Hornback, Hannah Isa, Eliana Shapere, Lauren Skidmore, and Kendra Thomas.

Leadership Lexington Youth Program

Amy Carrington, coordinator, (859) 226-1610


Life skills social gives MSD students chance to explorehttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/lifeskills2017-01-05T14:01:08http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/lifeskillsWhen middle schoolers with special needs gathered this week for a social outing, they found new friends and potential hobbies as they danced, made crafts, and played games together. The field trip to the Family Worship Center out Tates Creek Road, which hosted the FCPS event, brought together some 100 students from eight schools for the first districtwide life skills social for middle schoolers with moderate and severe disabilities (MSD).

“We focus a lot on skills at school and in class. This is a larger setting, which can be a big step for our students,” said resource specialist Lorraine Thomas. “One, we’re developing relationships with peers outside their own school. Two, we’re working on health and wellness and fundamental skills (like tossing small bean bags).”

Gina Jones, who teaches at Jessie Clark Middle School, was impressed with the setup and appreciated the organizers from central office. “It’s a good way to get students out of the building, and it’s a great opportunity for them to be involved with same-age peers and do fun activities with classmates and other kiddos,” said Jones, who is in her first year with Fayette County schools.

Special Education resource specialists and employment trainers led several stations. In one room, the students used construction paper, glue, and glitter to make holiday snowflakes and snowmen, while others selected letters to spell out messages on greeting cards. Across the way, another hands-on activity featured reindeer made of plastic bottles. “Crafts is a good way for kids to have fun and at the same time have conversations,” Thomas said. “They’re also working to follow directions, ask for help, assembling, and putting things together. We work on these skills in the classroom, and hopefully the students can generalize those skills in other settings.”

Each school group also stopped by the sensory room where they found clear plastic bins filled with various items, from cotton balls to jingle bells to gooey hair gel. “With some of our students, sensory can be a big issue dealing with the texture, feel, and smell of things,” Thomas noted.

Throughout the morning’s rotations, a deejay kept people moving to the music in the gym, and peer mentors like eighth-grader Katie Kielman helped the students play cornhole. Katie, who volunteered this term to spend one hour a day in an MSD classroom at Edythe J. Hayes Middle School, thought the social would benefit her group. “Some are more outgoing and enjoy meeting new people. Others who might not be so comfortable might open up a little more,” she said.

Thomas agreed about the potential for mingling, which could also ease the transition from middle to high school if students recognize familiar faces. “This gives them an opportunity to fellowship with individuals they might not have met otherwise,” she added.

Overall, the life skills socials aim to show students a connection between what they learn in school and what they can do in the larger community. “They make friends all over Fayette County, and they have opportunities to participate in activities that will help them as they venture out,” as Thomas said.

PTA 5K changes venues, seasons but remains a hit with familieshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/pta5k2016-12-15T15:49:44http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/pta5kFamilies pulled on sweatpants and toboggans, and athletes focused on keeping their muscles loose for this year’s PTA 5K Run/Walk, held the first weekend in December rather than the usual mid-October. But brisk temperatures and threatening skies didn’t deter the participants and volunteers gathered at Keeneland, site of the sixth annual event. “It was exciting to see the enthusiasm in the crowd even though it was a gloomy day,” said Rolanda Woolfork, second vice president and membership chair of the 16th District PTA.

The run/walk is a healthy lifestyles initiative that encourages families to stay active together. “It’s to get our community moving – to put down the cellphones and video devices – and raise their heart rates,” said race organizer Jesi Bowman, who also serves as the PTA’s corresponding secretary.

Thanks to generous corporate sponsors, the entry fees go back to the participating schools. In the past five years, local PTA and PTSA chapters received nearly $90,000 to fund Health and Wellness Nights, fitness equipment and playgrounds, STEM programs, literacy events, technology for classrooms, and more.

“It’s good to get all these families out,” said Melissa Whitmore, whose two sons warmed up Sunday with the fun run. The older boy, Matthew, an eighth-grader who runs cross-country and track at Edythe J. Hayes Middle School, easily outdistanced the pack. “I start off fast, then jog and sprint,” he said after the short race.

While Whitmore’s family has been out in force every year, this was a new experience for mom Lisa Schanding, whose fourth-grader joined a running club at Picadome Elementary. “She’s in GEMS (Girls Empowered and Motivated to Succeed), so I’m doing it with her. I’ve done other races and was excited for her to participate,” Schanding said.

Youngsters of all ages and abilities enjoyed the 1-mile Horseshoe Hustle, while older and more serious runners competed in the 5K School Stampede. “That was something fun to tie in with the Keeneland venue,” Bowman said of the new names. In previous years, the run/walk was held earlier in the fall at Coldstream Park, off Newtown Pike behind the Embassy Suites. “We moved it because we outgrew Coldstream. It’s a fantastic problem to have,” she said.

One result was more sign-ups for the 5K training, which was extended to 11 weeks. Additions this year included the illustrative motto “Run for Kids / Run for Education” and the option to register as a virtual runner/walker. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to encourage grandma and grandpa in Missouri to support the PTA 5K,” Bowman said. “They can walk or run around their neighborhood wherever they live. As a virtual runner, they’re still supporting healthy lifestyles at any distance.” 


‘Fam U’ aims to equip families to partner with schoolshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/familyuniversity2016-12-12T10:04:52http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/familyuniversityParents, guardians, and other caregivers need to know they are valued partners in their students’ journey through Fayette County Public Schools. That’s why Miranda Scully and Rose Santiago are excited about the Family University initiative, which launched this fall.

“We’ll provide a welcoming learning environment so our families can understand and navigate the education system. We also want families to know they’re supported by the whole school district and fully embrace that they are partners in student success,” said Scully, district coordinator in the Family and Community Engagement office (FACE).  

Family University, or Fam U, will provide classes, workshops, and other informational events that familiarize people not only with the schools but also with community resources. The program will also assist families as their children transition from elementary to middle to high school and on to postsecondary opportunities.

A half-day introductory session is slated for Saturday Dec. 10 at BCTC’s Newtown campus. Superintendent Manny Caulk will open by defining student success, and District Assessment Coordinator Peggy Hayes will talk about understanding student data and test scores. Three leaders from the 16th District PTA – Adrienne Thakur, Sharon Mofield-Boswell, and Kristin Sajadi – will then discuss “Building a Partnership: Identifying Next Steps for Parents.”

Fam U is free. Breakfast will be served, and activities for youngsters will be available, along with language interpreters. In addition, Scully and Santiago will seek feedback from participants for developing upcoming plenary sessions and breakouts.

The overall goal is to engage, empower, and collaborate with families, which Caulk cites as one of his core values. While Scully and Santiago, the FACE district liaison, are both new to FCPS, their backgrounds and experiences have prepared them well.

“Being Hispanic, a minority, an English language learner, and a (former) teacher and administrator, I see myself as an advocate for students and for parents. I can also help schools have systems in place to help students succeed by understanding the culture and the needs of their population,” said Santiago, whose previous work spanned numerous states and countries.

Scully, whose degrees are in social work, has focused on state-level family/community outreach in Indiana and student academic counseling in Kentucky. “Being with Fayette County schools allows me to continue to support families through education,” she said.

Both staffers are networking effectively through Fam U’s steering committee, which includes representatives from the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, the 16th District PTA and its Urban Family Engagement Network (UFEN), the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County, and the YMCA of Central Kentucky.

“FCPS is truly invested in its students, in its families, and its community partners,” Scully said. “We want this to be an opportunity where we’re all coming around the table to support student success.”

‘Beyond the Bake Sale’ affirms Caulk’s call for key partnershipshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/beyondbakesale2016-12-08T13:25:00http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/beyondbakesaleWith his latest book club selection, Superintendent Manny Caulk challenges the community to strengthen ties with Fayette County Public Schools – deeming these relationships crucial for the district’s health and students’ success.

Caulk introduced “Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships” at the Nov. 30 roundtable hosted by the 16th District PTA. “The conversation isn’t just to identify problems,” he said. “Hopefully (this book) is a tool to go back and engage your school. We want to make sure all parents’ voices are heard and all parents are at the table.”

Bake Sale cover“There’s nothing more valuable than people caring about other people’s children. Whether the parent is there to advocate or not, you have to be the agitator – the disrupter,” Caulk told the group gathered at FCPS headquarters. “Our schools will be improved from within by you coming in and making a difference.”

The superintendent led a 90-minute informal discussion with the PTA board members, chapter leaders, and other parents and supporters in which they touched on highlights in the book and talked about how to apply its strategies in Lexington.

For instance, “Beyond the Bake Sale” defines four types of schools – partnership, open-door, come-if-we-call, and fortress – and each gridded page includes a checklist that describes how each kind of school builds relationships, links to learning, addresses cultural differences, supports advocacy, and shares power. In an ideal world, with partnership schools, all parents feel welcomed and valued, and events and decision-making engage everyone. “We want to get to that desired state where it feels like grandma’s house,” Caulk said, repeating an image suggested by the 16th District president, David Kidd.

Because partnering with families is one of the superintendent’s core values, “Beyond the Bake Sale” fits well for a book club selection. Caulk plans to lead additional meetings in the community after the schools’ winter break. His method is to offer guiding questions for interactive discussion, encouraging people to share examples from their experience. Among the questions posed at the roundtable were how well does your school and PTA chapter affirm all cultures, and is your school intentional about inviting all families to participate?

“This book is directed at the schools, but from a parent’s perspective, it’s arming us. It’s an empowering tool,” said Penny Christian, the mother of a sixth-grader at Morton Middle School and three FCPS graduates.

Kidd agreed. “There are so many broad ideas, it blows your mind,” he said. “It’s not just ‘read it and throw it on the shelf.’ It’s a true work guide.”

book club logo

Upcoming discussion: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at the library's Eastside Branch, 3000 Blake James Drive, which is at the corner of Palumbo Drive and Man O’ War Boulevard


Morton eighth-graders prepare global menus in Spanishhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/spanishmenus2016-12-05T16:04:23http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/spanishmenusEdna Figueroa’s Spanish students took a gastronomic world tour with their latest class project and shared the highlights with peers and staff who stopped by the library to see their handiwork at Morton Middle School.

Teamed in small groups, the eighth-graders had researched foods in various countries and developed menus complete with photos and prices. Their laminated, ribbon-tied menus were displayed alongside thematic decorations and a typical plate with samples. For instance, the group that chose Cuba included the nation’s flag and a photo of Fidel Castro, and the students who selected Mexico offered up churros – a deep-fried pastry with chocolate dipping sauce.

“We felt like Mexico best represented authentic Spanish food,” said 13-year-old Hudson Fain, who explained popular desserts and drinks as guests paused at his team’s table. “We researched restaurants’ menus and dishes. It wasn’t just learning facts, like where the capital is.”

Figueroa had challenged her students to produce interesting menus and to speak freely in Spanish – not simply read from notecards – as they described the foods. “They worked so hard and created wonderful menus,” she said, clearly pleased with their efforts. “The most amazing thing is they’re using the language and incorporating cultural things. It opens their minds so they can visualize what happens around the world in different places.”

Figueroa, who taught elementary students for the past several years, thought this project would successfully engage her eighth-graders, and most embraced the assignment – exploring foods from Italy to India and from China to Brazil.

“It adds variety to the mix, and it’s a whole geography/Spanish twist,” said student Abby Shadwick, whose team spotlighted Chinese food.

Abby agreed the global menu project was a neat way to expand their knowledge base. “This makes our Spanish skills better as we learn about foods and vocabulary in different countries,” she said, citing adjectives like hot, tasty, and spicy. “This was also a great project to practice (speaking Spanish).”


Dixie marks 50th anniversary with old friends, fresh faceshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/dixie50th2016-12-02T14:38:51http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/dixie50thSupporters of Dixie Magnet Elementary took the golden opportunity to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary by sharing memories of its rich past and reminders of its ongoing mission to foster excellence in intellect, creativity, and character.  “The people make Dixie an extraordinary place to work, teach, learn, and play,” said first-year principal Robin Steiner.

Five of Dixie’s six principals attended the event, including Norman Osborne, who led the school for the first 10 years; his wife, Linda Keller (1976-2001); Amy McVey (2001-04); and Loraye Jones (2004-09). Tara Isaacs (2010-15) preceded Steiner.

Children played a prominent role in the Sunday afternoon lineup, from “Operation Making a Change” participants leading the Pledge of Allegiance and the glee club singing two pieces, to leadership students showcasing various facets of Dixie. Their eight celebration stations focused on the school’s early history (1966-85), intermediate years (1986-2000), and present (2001-now) as well as the evolution of its curriculum, magnet status, after-school clubs, arts integration, and team spirit. The latter group, gathered in the library, sported Dixie T-shirts from past years as they danced to popular tunes from each decade.

“They all learned a lot about the history of Dixie and the changes the school has gone through,” Steiner noted.

Fifth-grader Aasha Brown greeted guests at the early-years station, which featured old photographs and news clippings along with her researched commentary. Here and at each stop, visitors could also scan a QR code with their smartphones and listen to the students’ recorded presentations.

“I discovered all the principals turned out to be very interesting. I liked the way all their hard work paid off for Dixie now,” Aasha said. “This school has a lot of talented students and a lot of people help here, and we want to thank them,” she added.

During the assembly in the cafeteria, classmates Landon Menifee and Kennon Pavona explained that students will put together a time capsule to be opened in 2041 (25 years), and they invited the community to submit suggestions for the contents. Also, Dixie recently found a 1976 time capsule on the property, which is slated to be opened in 2076 (100 years).

Hearing Osborne talk about Dixie’s beginnings was akin to opening a time capsule of 50-year-old memories. For him, 1966 marked not only the start of a new kind of elementary school on Eastland Parkway but also the Beach Boys and the Beatles, the space race with the Soviet Union, Vietnam protests, and civil rights marches. Pogo sticks were popular, and gasoline cost 32 cents a gallon.

While much has changed, much remains the same. As Jones pointed out, Dixie has adjusted and grown with the times while holding true to its course, and its 2010 selection as a National Blue Ribbon School affirmed Dixie’s journey toward excellence.

“We wish continued success to all who enter these doors,” she told the crowd. “May you continue to shine and prepare future generations of children for greatness.”


Reflections theme poses challenge ‘What is your story?’http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/reflectionshop2016-12-01T10:49:55http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/reflectionshopFifth-grader Evelyn Hruby quickly slipped into her ruffled blue dress and laced her ballet slippers as her dad queued up the music for her performance at The Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center. “As the dance goes along, I’m writing my story,” the Stonewall Elementary student explained after twirling with a picture book in hand.

Evelyn’s choreography, which she presented several times during a half-hour span, was not part of a large-scale recital in the auditorium. Rather, it was an individual entry in the local Reflections contest, which is organized by the 16th District PTA. About 230 school winners shared their efforts during Lexington’s latest Gallery Hop; it was the fifth time The Lyric has hosted the district-level entries.

“The kids can come with their families and seem very proud to show their work,” said Julia Craven, the 16th District’s Reflections chairwoman. “It also opens it up to the community, so I’ve seen more and more people come who have no association with the public schools.”

This year’s theme – “What is your story?” – challenged students competing in six categories: dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual/3D art. Photography and art entries hung on the walls in The Lyric’s multipurpose room, while the films were shown on request as families stopped by. The literature entries were available in binders for the public to peruse.

Caroline Carty, a fourth-grader at Athens-Chilesburg Elementary, browsed the gallery with her father and paused near her photo of outgrown ballet shoes nestled in a bed of autumn leaves, aptly titled “Fallet.” “I went to this secret place in my neighborhood and saw this pile of leaves and took a picture, and I thought it looked good,” Caroline recalled.

Meanwhile, Garden Springs third-grader Nick Horsfall led his mother and older sister through the visual art area. His drawing featured a book titled “My Life” surrounded by some of his favorite things, including a soccer ball, a baseball bat, a penguin, and a slice of pizza. “I did that because books tell stories,” Nick said.

Reflections is a cultural arts program that encourages creativity in the classroom and at home. Youngsters of all grades and abilities may participate through their school’s PTA chapter. This fall, students from 30 sites throughout Fayette County Public Schools submitted about 3,000 entries. Ashland, Glendover, Rosa Parks, and Wellington elementaries covered all six categories, while Millcreek and Tates Creek elementaries boasted 100 percent participation.

Each school picked its own winners and could then submit the top entries from each age group and category for district-level competition, judged by community supporters like members of the Lexington Philharmonic and the director of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. Overall Awards, Awards of Excellence, and Awards of Merit will be given out, and the first-place entries will advance to this spring’s state competition. 

If you go

Reflections awards ceremony

  • When: Saturday Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. for elementary and 3:30 p.m. for middle and high school
  • Where: Norsworthy Auditorium, 701 E. Main St.
Crawford serves up pancakes, thanks for veteranshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/veteransday2016-11-30T14:55:50http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/veteransdayWith a simple handshake and plates of pancakes, Crawford Middle School’s staff and students thanked those who have served in the U.S. armed forces. “They’ve sacrificed so much for us – we can give a little bit back and show our appreciation in a small way,” said teacher Evin Shockey, who greeted guests at the library door.

Eighth-grader Jaylen Mitchell invited three Army veterans close to his heart: his father, grandfather, and a great uncle. “They play a big role in my life, and I look up to them for dedicating their lives to helping our country,” he explained.

Families like Jaylen’s gathered Thursday for the annual breakfast before Crawford’s Veterans Day program. Students had volunteered to decorate the tables and help set up the food, and the social studies department led the day’s efforts to salute local veterans with Crawford ties. Staffers served up piping hot pancakes to go with casseroles provided by members of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and honorees listened to patriotic music as a tribute slideshow rolled.

Bill Holleran, who served in the Army during the Vietnam era, attended along with grandsons Jack and Paul. “Some kids probably don’t even realize they have veterans in their family, and this (event) brings it all to the fore,” he said. “It’s great and allows the children to understand more about veterans.”

Later, the schoolwide assembly was punctuated by both solemn and uplifting moments. For instance, JROTC students from Bryan Station High School presented the colors, the 100th Army Band played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and teacher Sara Green read a roll call of veterans from the Crawford staff and their relatives. The school’s band, orchestra, and choir also performed, and the 100th Army Band closed with “Taps.”

The keynote speaker, Army veteran Addie Maddox, shared what military service has meant to her. She recalled how, as a senior in high school, she first felt the call during a school assembly much like Crawford’s. Since her family had no money for college, Maddox knew the military was a good option. “I turned 18, got my braces off, and signed up,” she said.

A career in the service meant first sticking it out through basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina and later deploying to Germany, Honduras, Japan, and across the United States. Maddox was also in the Army Reserves for several years and recalled her pride in wearing the uniform after 9/11, when “every American showed their true colors.”

Standing in front of the attentive Crawford crowd, she noted, “I still feel very proud to put on the uniform.” 

Channel 13's coverage

Veterans Day

Fayette County Public Schools thanks its employees and their loved ones who have served in the U.S. armed forces. 


Apiculture program keeps TLC buzzinghttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/apiculture2016-11-22T14:06:55http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/apicultureThe 4-year-old apiculture program at The Learning Center involves far more than beekeeping. For instance, students also delve into the genetics of honeybees, the chemistry of their products, botany, and business. The idea to add apiculture to the curriculum came from instructor Jeremy Pitcock, who also teaches math. “It’s just peculiar enough that I thought it would hook a lot of the kids, yet it’s firmed grounded in science,” he said. “We approach it more as an agriculture or husbandry class.”

Pitcock and Kenyon Matthews tag-team apiculture to cover the academic angle and the entrepreneur piece. “It’s practical, it’s real, and it makes a connection between the traditional style of teaching and what they’ll see in the real world. It’s a good intersection,” said Matthews, a career-based specialist.

James Hayden, a senior, has been on board from the start. “I’ve always liked caring for things, and it’s turned out to be much more than expected,” he said. In fact, James – who is leaning toward mechanical engineering as a career – is building a prototype of a hive sensor that will enable the class to monitor the colony remotely, including the temperature, humidity, vibrations (indicating the bees’ mood), and flight traffic.

The TLC colony hosts some 150,000 honeybees in wooden boxes near the property line. Students inspect the three hives at least once a week, looking for fungus, dead bees, and general traffic, and emptying beetle traps. They also take note of larvae, pollen, and stored honey on the boxes’ frames or foundations, where the bees build their combs; and they add simple syrup to supplement the bees’ food and bolster their honey production as winter approaches.

The colony typically produces 80 to 100 pounds of honey a year in two or three harvests. In turn, the students market some of the honey along with candles, lip balm, and beard wax. “A big part of it is designing a label and a logo, price points, and return on investments. We deal with all of those,” Pitcock said.

Senior Justice Anker, who wants to own a farm someday, is passionate about apiculture. “Beekeeping isn’t just something you do to make money,” he noted. “It’s really therapeutic and helps me cope with stress.” 

The class increases in complexity, from developing a comfort level with stinging insects to completing tasks for raising sustainable hives. For example, some students hone carpentry skills in making the wooden boxes while others thrive on the scientific research. Pitcock, who was a classical studies major, also covers the mythology and folklore of honeybees across cultures, poetry in Victorian society, and the religious aspects, along with bees’ role as natural pollinators.

“There are enough different aspects that we can find something that all students are engaged in,” he said. “This program gives us so many options and lends itself to so many opportunities, I can’t foresee ever getting bored.” 

The cross-disciplinary approach also illustrates the value of core content. “It reinforces to students that you never know what you might need to know. You may hate math, but it’s a skill set you need to make the bee boxes or gauge exponential growth. You also need to be able to write to describe your product,” Pitcock said.

In addition, the apiculture program transforms students as they grow more self-assured.

“A lot of times our fear is built on ignorance. But when you start to learn and you understand the why and the how, suddenly the fear is removed and it’s not a mystery or unexpected,” Pitcock said. “The students develop a confidence that they can move forward and undertake things that they don’t have experience with, and (realize) if they work hard and pay attention, they can be successful.”

Mary Todd’s principal leads marathon day of readinghttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/bookit2016-11-21T15:12:28http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/bookitNo matter the age, reading helps people expand their minds; and no matter the grade, picture books are cool – especially when the principal reads them aloud.

At Mary Todd Elementary, Principal Kari Kirchner accepted the Book It! challenge to read in every class, from first period to dismissal. She and Jennifer Bell, the school's administrative dean, took turns to cover the entire school day in 15-minute increments.

“We’re always growing our brains, and the only way to grow is to learn something new and different, and reading is a fabulous way,” Kirchner said. “Both Ms. Bell and I are huge readers, so we love any chance to promote reading. It’s the most important thing that our students learn to do, and it’s critical for everything else they learn.”

In years past, Kirchner has dressed up as a bulldog and even read on the building’s roof, so saying “yes” to the Book It! challenge was easy. Mary Todd's participation also entered the school in a prize drawing for a chance to win a free book for every student. The Book It! program has classroom goals as well, and students can earn coupons for Pizza Hut.

Monday’s door-to-door marathon marked not only the start of National Young Readers Week (Nov. 7-11) but also National Picture Book Month. Lindsey Patrick, the library media specialist at Mary Todd, selected “Bear Says Thanks” by Karma Wilson and two books by Mo Willems, “The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?” and “That is Not a Good Idea!” “The combination of text and pictures really work together to tell the narrative,” Patrick noted.

Having the principal stop by classrooms to talk up reading and share particular books was a great opportunity for the whole school. “It’s a relationship-building experience and tells the kids we value reading here and we take time to celebrate literature throughout our building,” Patrick said.

Meanwhile, the school library is featuring picture books all month with classics like “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Hear?” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Teachers often use picture books to help convey literary concepts like plot and setting. Some also turn to picture books to explain difficult topics; one example is “Visiting Day,” about a girl seeing her father in jail. “You never grow out of picture books. They’re not just for little kids learning how to read. They can hit some complex topics and tell some intense, powerful stories,” Patrick said. 

After the special visits this week, Patrick anticipates lots more checkouts of picture books. “Anytime I can get a kid excited about reading anything, I feel like I’ve done my job,” she said.

Micro farm gives Lansdowne, refugee families common groundhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/microfarm2016-11-21T15:12:20http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/microfarmLate next spring when families and students arrive at Lansdowne Elementary, they’ll see the first fruits of their vision for a micro farm that produces herbs and vegetables from around the world. “This school has a lot of people from different countries, and when (my family) first came here, I wished we had a garden,” said fifth-grader Manwa Abualsoud, who left Jordan six years ago.  

Growing varied and familiar plants for culinary, medicinal, and religious uses should make refugee families feel more at home. This relationship-building idea came through ESL teacher Emily Cripps, who also has an agriculture degree. “It’ll be a place for community as we share recipes and our rich traditions,” she said, noting that Lansdowne has students from 28 countries speaking 15 languages.

With shovel in hand, Manwa and fellow students broke ground as Lansdowne unveiled the design for its micro farm, which will be the centerpiece of a new Farm to Table program. Another element is an after-school club, which has launched with older students and will eventually expand to more grade levels. “I’m excited because we’re helping with the garden, and it’s bringing the school together,” Manwa said.

Saturday’s outdoor ceremony included several refugee families gathered with community sponsors to celebrate the project. “Most of our families live in apartments so it’s difficult for them to grow plants. We want them to understand this is a place they can come and work and take and share,” Cripps said. “This space will be a place of nourishment and a place for healing – a place to relieve stress from everyday lives by spending time together in the garden.”

Lansdowne received a $2,000 grant from Whole Foods Market’s Whole Kids Foundation and is partnering with Wilson Nurseries to customize the initial 12x20-foot plot, which faces Redding Road to the right of the building. “We love the concept of looping in the refugee families and using food as a common starting point,” said Lindsay Bruner, marketing director with Whole Foods, which also partners with Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

Cripps had put together a list of plants suggested by the diverse families, and the Lexington staff of Wilson’s came up with a layout that includes beds for above- and below-ground vegetables, an herb garden, and container gardens for herbs and spices. After starting the plants in greenhouses, Wilson’s will return next semester to prepare the soil, and Lansdowne will host a service day for students and families to install the garden. 

The design calls for planting artichokes, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and marigolds in one garden bed and cucumbers, squash, and sunflowers in another. A third bed would grow beets, carrots, garlic, ginger, lettuce, potatoes, radish, spinach, and sweet potatoes. The herb garden would offer dill, horseradish, lemongrass, oregano, parsley, and thyme; and small containers would house basil, bay, cilantro, eucalyptus, mint, and rosemary. The near side would also include rows of corn as well as plots for asparagus and tomatillos.

“It’s an eclectic mix between more regional herbs the families wanted and things native to this area. We have a nice group of crops selected,” said Jason Nesler, general manager at Wilson Nurseries. “Hopefully (the micro farm) will transcend barriers since food is something we all love.”


Side-by-side band rehearsal benefits Hayes and UK musicianshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/sidebands2016-11-16T12:57:25http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/sidebandsWhen eighth-graders mix it up with college musicians in a side-by-side band rehearsal, everyone’s a winner.   

“It’s really eye-opening for our kids in a very positive way,” said Lois Wiggins, the band director at Edythe J. Hayes Middle School. “The big takeaway is to have our kids sitting among more mature players. It’s great to have them (practice) next to older musicians as we prepare for upcoming performances.”

Her colleague George Boulden, associate director of bands and associate professor of music education at the University of Kentucky, finds that a collaborative rehearsal also benefits his students – many of whom are music majors who intend to teach.

“One of the best ways students learn is by modeling. The UK students are able to sit next to the middle or high school students and play along with them – modeling characteristic tone quality, rhythmic integrity, musical shaping and phrasing, and appropriate rehearsal etiquette,” he explained.  “The mentoring aspect is very important. The more they can interact, especially on a one-to-one basis, the better. It’s a mini laboratory for them.”

Boulden welcomes different groups to UK every year, and his long-time friendship with Wiggins paved the way for Hayes students to participate this fall. He has also invited the eighth-grade group to share a concert with the UK Symphony Band next spring at the Singletary Center for the Arts.  

Wiggins and her associate band director, April Kite, recently took the nearly 70 eighth-graders to campus for an afternoon rehearsal at Singletary. During the 90-minute session, they wove in tips on classroom management, music books, and other elements of interest to the college group. Meanwhile, the youngsters – alternating seats with UK band members – went through brief warm-up drills, played a couple of familiar songs, and sight-read some new music. “One of the pieces was for our Veterans Day performance and another for a future concert,” said clarinet player Averi Ricks.

The Hayes students definitely saw the value of practicing alongside older musicians. “They helped with our fingering and the feel of the music and the dynamics of how it should be played,” said Haiden Moore, who also plays clarinet. Trumpeter Graham Wilson agreed, adding, “We understand what it’s like to perform in a very large band and what it sounds like as a whole.”  

Boulden developed the side-by-side format several years ago. “UK students and visiting students are given the opportunity to talk to each other and share ideas as well as enjoy the process through making music together,” he said.  “We all benefit by sharing music across a wide range of abilities and ages. Hopefully, the visiting students will have learned a few tips to help them become better musicians and leave with a renewed passion for making music.”

Channel 13's coverage


Garrett Morgan votes in Wolf Pack as school mascothttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/mascotelection2016-11-10T16:03:07http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/mascotelectionThis fall’s election at Garrett Morgan Elementary was fierce but friendly as the children voted among their final three candidates: wolf, elephant, and fox. In the end, the Wolf Pack won out as mascot of the new school.

“We wanted students to be part of the selection process. This was not just about picking a mascot but about democracy,” said Principal Sarah Woodford, whose staff fosters a good-citizenship mindset.

The campaign was spearheaded by art teacher Virginia Miller, who also happens to teach social studies methods at Georgetown College. She had encouraged students to choose based on the animal’s laudable traits and characteristics. For instance, the wolf is intelligent and strong; the fox is clever and fast; and the elephant is a resourceful leader.

In art class, the youngsters studied different types of mascots, logos, and election materials, and drew elephants and donkeys as they learned about the Republican and Democratic parties. Miller ensured the children connected their local project to the nationwide presidential election, and they did not disappoint.

“We talked about democracy and voting between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and that we should vote because we have the right to,” explained fourth-grader Aujere Kenney. On the local front, Aujere was a wolf supporter because, as she noted, “Wolves take care of their pack.”

Meanwhile, second-grader Della June Hudson was squarely in another camp. “The fox is so colorful, and I just love foxes. They care about their families and don’t let predators get their babies,” she said on the second day of K-5 voting.

Students had nominated some four dozen animals, and Miller culled the list to the 10 most popular. The youngsters then brainstormed qualities they want to be known for, such as caring friend and problem-solver, and researched the candidates.

“The kids liked when the animals were family-oriented and smart,” Miller said, mentioning an example of the elephant using its trunk as a tool. “They looked at different qualities they liked, and each kid wrote down their top three. That narrowed it down.”  

As optional homework, several youngsters made colorful campaign posters to hang in the hallway near the two homemade voting booths. Students later streamed in to cast their ballots during the lunch break and left with “I voted” stickers on their shirts. Fourth- and fifth-graders also signed in at the polls, as adult voters do on Election Day.

“Kids can make a difference – they have power,” Miller said, noting that students formed strong opinions about their potential mascot. “It doesn’t matter your age. It’s all about choice. It’s basically ‘majority rules’ because we live in a democracy, but we need to remember to be a participatory citizen.”

“I wanted the students to get excited about their vote as an individual,” she added. “They’re seeing how it relates to their community and real life. They get to vote, and their vote counts.”

Students can find Homework Help at Northside libraryhttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/homeworkhelp2016-11-09T10:44:51http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/homeworkhelpYoungsters of all ages can now drop by the Northside branch of the Lexington Public Library for an after-school snack and homework assistance, thanks to program expansions and additional community support. “I feel like it’s been a successful launch. We’ve been helping 10 to 15 kids a day. A lot of those are repeats. Once a kid figures out they can get help, they keep coming back,” said Bob Callen, Northside’s interim manager.

Homework Help began five years ago at the Village branch, where the program has developed a strong following – particularly among Spanish-speaking families. With a grant from KentuckyOne Health, the library also started offering assistance this fall at Northside.

Juan Quezada Araiza, a fourth-grader at Mary Todd Elementary, sometimes has trouble with reading comprehension and unfamiliar vocabulary words, so his college-age sister suggested he connect with the Northside volunteers. “If you’re struggling with your homework, you can just go to the library for help,” as Juan has discovered in regular visits.

Keith Lane, an eighth-grader at The Learning Center, has also secured extra assistance with pre-algebra. “This is a good place to go. They help with whatever we need,” he said.

Meanwhile this fall, God’s Pantry Food Bank expanded its Kids Café program to offer snacks at both library branches. At Northside, Tuesday’s option included small breadsticks with cheese slices and marinara sauce, sunflower seeds, an apple, and a carton of plain or chocolate milk.

After eating in the library’s converted café space, students either headed off to tackle homework on their own (knowing help was nearby if needed), or they were paired with a volunteer for the afternoon.

“It’s good interaction,” said Melissa Brown, the Healthy Communities manager with KentuckyOne Health. “A lot of it is giving the children that nurturing and letting them know someone cares, and the kids have really responded.”

Many of the volunteers are University of Kentucky students, who are not that far removed from math worksheets and first-time research papers. “The one-on-one attention helps (youngsters) to focus, and they really appreciate someone wanting them to succeed,” said UK freshman Peyton Roach, who showed up with two friends for a shift.

If a child doesn’t need particular assistance, a volunteer can read aloud with him or offer art supplies. Or, if a student displays ongoing difficulties in a certain area, the Homework Help organizers will contact her school to make sure the staff is aware. Meanwhile, teachers say they have seen improved performance in the classroom — academically, behaviorally, and socially — in the students served by Homework Help.

During the program’s first six weeks, Northside has welcomed mostly younger students from Mary Todd, Russell Cave, Deep Springs, and Northern elementaries, along with some from Winburn Middle, and Bryan Station middle and high schools.

“We get a variety. I’ve seen everything from high school kids looking for help with algebra all the way down to basic reading,” Callen said, adding, “Not knowing an answer is a great teachable moment because then you can show somebody how to find the answer.”

Get involved:

Homework Help is available at the Northside and Village library branches from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday when school is in session. Volunteers can fill out an application at any location of the Lexington Public Library.

SCAPA fifth-graders enliven explorers unit with personal accountshttp://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/creativeexplorers2016-11-07T16:07:40http://www.fcps.net/news/features/2016-17/creativeexplorersSince SCAPA at Bluegrass encourages exploration of the arts, fifth-graders embrace Keith Lindsey’s challenge to add some pizzazz to the explorers unit in social studies.

“We study the guys in our textbook, and the students research and polish a creative presentation on their chosen explorer,” Lindsey explained. “They understand costuming and props, and see connections between historical characters. It taps into their creativity and brings history to life.”  

Every October, Lindsey grows a beard to set the stage with his own portrayal of Erik the Red. “I know a little Norwegian and use an accent, and dye my beard orange,” he said. “Every time, the kids ask such wonderful questions. Because they get so inspired, they work hard on their own explorers. That’s the payoff.”  

This fall’s selections spanned several centuries – from sea captain and privateer Sir Francis Drake, who circumnavigated the earth; to Mary Kingsley, whose travels and writings helped reshape Europe’s perception of African cultures; to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person to visit outer space.

Lindsey asked his students to share several elements such as:

  • Date(s) of the exploration/discovery;
  • Sponsor of the trip;
  • Motivation (e.g. riches, fame, trade routes);
  • Route taken; and
  • Impact (e.g. claimed lands for Europe, details for new maps, spread of disease among indigenous people)

“One of the criteria we covered was personal background. If they have a vignette or story to tell, then it makes it come alive,” Lindsey said. “They always blow my socks off.”  

Classmates Seth Gladding and Sarah Collins, both 11, agreed vivid storytelling is the key. 

“When writing a report, you’re just listing the facts. When you do a first-person presentation, you have to understand their life. And with a presentation, you’re more explaining and telling their story,” said Sarah, who portrayed aviator Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. “We’re summarizing and acting out their life, and you can see how it all fits together and get a better understanding.” 

Another helpful element is the costuming, such as Seth’s gray wig and denim shirt. “This felt like what he would wear, and it made me feel like this person,” said Seth, who chose Mungo Park, a Scottish explorer of West Africa. “When you’re just reading a report, it can seem boring. This way, you can see them and get an image of what they’re like.”  

Linsey’s assignment not only gives students practice in public speaking, but also exposes them to a broader variety of explorers – including women and people of color, who can get short shrift in the history books.  

“I hope it’s memorable enough to use for reference in upper grades,” he added. “Eighth-grade social studies covers this in greater depth, so they have a good foundation laid.”


Did you know?

Before moving to Lexington, Keith Lindsey worked as an actor in Los Angeles. Now he tries to inspire students with costumes, props, and interactive lessons. Lindsey was among 10 Platypus Award winners profiled in the September/October issue of Mental Floss magazine, which celebrates teachers’ innovation and creativity.