Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter: Learning math and science don’t have to be done behind a desk in a classroom with four walls.
Rather, little ones can complete their lessons in science through collecting leaves, and math skills through building a “stick” house.
That’s the idea behind a new outdoor classroom started this school year at Riverview Kindergarten and Early Learning Center in the Manitowoc School District.
The Learning Adventure Land sits behind the school and includes large tree pieces for climbing, a building area, an outdoor “kitchen,” a mud area, sorting tables, a dry riverbed, and barrels for water play. Organizers planted 16 trees around the area to eventually give it a woodsy feel, and a future prairie patch behind the classroom was seeded.
The area is available to preschoolers, kindergartners and elementary school-aged students throughout Manitowoc, as well as other community members.
The district purchased an outdoor classroom curriculum so teachers could host classes from math to art to music and reading in the outdoors if they wanted to, said early childhood coordinator Lori Brandt. A donor also provided a shed that holds tools and other items, such as magnifying glasses, boots and “mud buddy” suits to keep little ones clean in sloppy conditions.
Most teachers spend about an hour in the outdoor space with children, and the area is used just about every day that weather allows.
“The Manitowoc district has a strong belief in environmental education,” said Kelly Vorron, the Manitowoc district forest coordinator. “Teachers understand how nature can be great in education. It gets kids active and interested in something outside. There’s really a big push for it in early childhood learning.”
Associated Press: Zade Johnson was 17 when he first became homeless.
The Logan High School senior arrived home on a November 2015 night after a call from a social worker and found two police cars parked near his home, the La Crosse Tribune reported. His mom, an alcoholic, was drunk again, he recounted, and had kicked Johnson’s case worker out of the house.
When he arrived, he said, she charged at the police and Johnson. His younger brother was taken into foster care, but the police told Johnson he couldn’t stay there and had to find somewhere else to live.
“At that moment, all I could think about was: ‘How could she do this to us?'” he said.
Johnson is not alone in struggling with homelessness. Last year, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction reported 180 homeless students in the La Crosse School District, the highest number reported at the school during the 13 years the DPI has collected data, and more than a third of the total homeless student population in the region that year.
Too old for the foster program, Johnson stayed first with the family of a Logan staffer, and then with his father for a few months before finding a home with a family he was close to at church. A volunteer with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater La Crosse and a member of the U.S. Army National Guard, Johnson said the support from people around him helped keep him from falling through the cracks at school.
Staff members encouraged him to enroll in Logan’s LaCrossroads program when his grades slipped in math. The Boys and Girls Clubs were a second home for him, and the family he lives with now in Onalaska helped teach him to drive and encouraged his passion to become a professional umpire.
“They really taught me a lot,” he said of the two families that took him in. “I had to grow up so early, but they were such great role models.”
At any given time, 1 or 2 percent of the students in the district are homeless, La Crosse Superintendent Randy Nelson said. Ensuring students succeed in these situations, when their entire world may be turning upside down, is a big challenge for educators, especially as the issue gains more federal attention through the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind legislation.
The majority of students who report being homeless are in elementary school, said Regina Siegel, La Crosse’s director of pupil services and learning supports. Those number taper off in middle school and high school, but she said the stigma attached to homelessness might lead to under-reporting.
News8000.com: “Sesame Street” has taught us that music helps kids learn.
“They may think we’re just signing “Old MacDonald” or signing “Up on the House Top”, but we know we’re working on something far more than just singing those familiar, fun songs for them,” said Amy Schaack, music therapist and owner of Life in Harmony Music Therapy.
“We primarily service individuals who have development disabilities or neurologic impairment,” said Schaack.
For the first time, they’ve been hired to work with an entire classroom of students in the intellectually disabled program at Summit Elementary in La Crosse.
The therapists are teaching these kindergarten through third-grade students basic skills, for example steps for using the bathroom.
“The overall goal is to really learn and be able to follow all of our school rules, and to follow those no matter where they are… in the classroom, in the playground, in the hallway, in the bathroom,” said Resa Hawes, intellectual disabilities and autism program support teacher for the La Crosse School District. “We really want them to be able to be a part of our school environment without having to have those constant reminders of what the rules are and how to follow them.”
Jackson County Chronicle: Black River Falls High School has added a new space to help foster agriculture education.
Students this fall helped launch the fledgling “agtivity” area, which provides space for additional horticulture, conservation and animal science projects while also incorporating Native American culture.
“It’s a beautiful space,” said BRF agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Brad Markhardt. “There are more opportunities for students because of this.”
The area, located outside the high school’s greenhouse, is a project of the National FFA Foundation and donations have come from local and regional businesses. It includes raised-bed and vertical gardens, small fruits and fruit trees, native prairie plants and an animal kennel for use when students bring in animals for presentations.
Produce from the gardens will be donated to the local fruit pantry with the hope of also contributing to the district’s food service program. There are benches built in the style of late renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold and plant identification signs will be created with common, scientific and Ho-Chunk Nation names.
The project looks to incorporate Ho-Chunk and Native American cultural components, including a three-sister garden with Native American-style planting.
“It especially got highlighted to me through a conference that I had this summer … It just looked like a way that I could be a little more culturally responsive in what we’re doing out there,” Markhardt said. “That’s part of the idea – recognizing the significance of our native culture in the area.”
La Crosse Tribune: A Sparta School District art teacher has received the highest honor from the Council of Art Education for her work as the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Youth Art Month program.
Tiffany Beltz, a teacher at Maplewood and Southside Elementary schools, received the Claire Flanagan Memorial Award. Beltz led the annual art month program from 2014 to 2016 and is president-elect of the Wisconsin Art Education Association.
Awards will be presented to the recipients March 2-4 at the 2017 National Art Education Association Convention in New York. Sponsored nationally by The Council for Art Education, Youth Art Month is an annual observance, typically in March, designed to emphasize the value of art education for all youth and to encourage support for quality school art programs.