Fifth-graders hold French-style poetry reading

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Teaching poetry to fifth-graders could be a daunting task unless a teacher takes advantage of all the available resources.

That’s what Bergen Valley teacher Trish Zurlinden did when her class hosted a French-style poetry reading last Thursday at Camp Grounds coffee shop in Bergen Park.

“Students rise to the occasion in writing when they have a real and authentic audience,” Zurlinden said.

This small poetry unit turned in to an elaborate project that was a partnership between students, families, school and community, which is the cornerstone of the Bergen Valley mission statement.

“I always say, “It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child. It takes an army,’ ” Zurlinden said. In the case of this project, dozens of adults were involved in giving the children a good learning experience.

Students learned how to write poetry and composed both verses and song lyrics in keeping with the required fifth-grade curriculum. They put together the script for the poetry reading and practiced their performances.

Families got involved by making berets for the children to wear, helping in the classroom and attending the performance. Some parents even gave French lessons to the class so the children could speak and sing in French.

Other teachers, especially music teacher Mandi Ogle and librarian Angie Wulff, also got involved with staging the event. Art teacher Kristine Ellingsen had students draw self-portraits in the style of the French masters.

In addition, the district’s technology department was involved because it created a way for students to have teleconferences with a poet, who helped them learn the craft of writing poetry.

And the community was involved because several Evergreen residents volunteer their time in Zurlinden’s classroom, other community members attended the poetry reading, and Evergreen poet Murray Moulding worked one on one via teleconferencing with students to give them real-world instruction and critiques. Moulding is spending the winter months in Mexico.

Camp Grounds Coffee and Eatery in the Bergen Village shopping center allowed the use of its shop for the event.

“This is our third year of doing it,” said owner Cheryl Brown. “It’s just a huge success. We were packed (for the performance). At least 75 people were here.”

She said the fifth-grade French café is a fun community event and a realistic venue for the children, plus it brings more customers to Camp Grounds.

For Zurlinden, the question is how to turn a teacher’s vision into a reality.

“You find out how other people’s expertises fit in with the requirements, and you get them excited about the project. It’s all about kids and making sure they have the best possible learning experience.”

Wilmot students collect money for leukemia society

For three weeks in February, students at Wilmot Elementary School will collect money to donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

While the society’s Pennies for Patients program is a worthy cause for student participation, it is especially near and dear to the hearts of Wilmot’s fifth-graders.

One of their classmates, Blake Richards, lost his life to lymphoma in 2006. He was in second grade at the time, and the current fifth-graders were his peers.

So the fifth-grade student volunteers club is making signs, writing public service announcements for the school’s morning broadcast, and thinking up ways to raise more money.

Last year, Wilmot participated in Pennies for Patients and raised $1,700, said Bridget Richards, Blake’s mom, a Wilmot parent and a member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s board of directors.

The program is simple: Cardboard collection boxes are placed in each classroom. Between now and Feb. 20, students are asked to bring spare change or dig into their piggybanks to donate to an organization that helps find cures for blood cancers, Richards said.

The society has used the fund-raising campaign as a way to educate Wilmot students about cancer.

“(The children) know that they’re putting pennies in a box, but (without the education) they don’t know how it’s helping kids,” she said.

In addition, some Wilmot students will have the opportunity to correspond with children who have blood cancers. “That’s something the Wilmot kids were very excited to do,” she said.

For information or to donate, contact Wilmot at 303-982-5370.

Bergen Meadow receives outstanding reading award

Reading is a high priority for Bergen Meadow Elementary School, and the International Reading Association has recognized that fact by granting the school an exemplary reading program award.

Only one school in each state is selected for the award.

“I’m so proud of the staff,” said principal Peggy Miller. “It validates their good work. It’s important to have someone else look at them and say, ‘You do good work.’ ”

The award was given based on a self-evaluation and a site visit by the Colorado council of the organization. Ten areas that deal with reading were assessed.

Miller said the site visit team was most impressed with the school’s student study teams. A team of teachers and specialists for each grade meets every three weeks.

“We talk about kids at every grade level and discuss how they are doing to determine how they can be successful. (The site visit team was) impressed with dialogue between teachers and the follow up.”

The team also was impressed with the number of community members who were involved with reading to children in the school.

Miller is taking members of the Bergen staff to a luncheon Friday to receive the award.

Have tips about schools in Evergreen? Contact Evergreen resident Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com.