The first 20 minutes of the day at Marshdale Elementary School are sacred.
No announcements, no pulling students out of classrooms, no disturbances whatsoever.
That’s because students are involved in their classes’ morning meetings.
The meetings are a chance for students to greet each other and make some connections to the learning of the day, said principal Christie Frost.
One of the students’ favorite activities, Frost said, is to tell one another on a scale of one to 10 how they are feeling that day. That does several things. Students share what’s happening in their lives, and teachers get a head’s-up if a student is sad or had a bad morning. Teachers will know why a student may not be as engaged in learning that day, and fellow students can be more sympathetic to a student’s bad mood.
“The social-emotional piece is equally important in academics,” Frost said. “It’s important to build a classroom community so kids feel valued.” If they feel valued, they learn more.
Students also learn about solving problems among each other and the six traits in the Character Counts program. Frost said that type of learning gives everyone the same vocabulary and tools to interact with each other.
The Character Counts traits are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
“I was in the lunchroom the other day, and two first-graders were throwing food at each other. So I asked them, ‘Are you being respectful and responsible?’ Their answer was, ‘No.’ ” Then they are asked to take responsibility for the actions and accept an appropriate punishment.
Marshdale tried the meeting scenario last year, but teachers were asked to find time during the school day. Other things crowded it out, Frost said. Now that time is sacrosanct.
“Kids are pushing (for morning meeting) from their end,” Frost said. “They really feel that they have ownership of it. That’s huge.”
Wilmot students have lunch with the principal
Students at Wilmot Elementary School have the opportunity to have lunch with principal Dannae McReynolds.
McReynolds says it’s her favorite part of her job. On Mondays, one to two students from each classroom selected by their teachers have the opportunity to have lunch in the conference room with McReynolds.
“They don’t have to do it,” she said, “but most of them come.”
She asks them to answer three questions: who is in their family, their favorite thing to do at home and their favorite thing to learn at school. The answers lead to discussions, and relationships are formed between the principal and students.
After lunch, students get a pencil, pencil sharpener and a certificate.
Lately, students have been taking part of their time to write cards to kids at Children’s Hospital. They write a positive note on the cards, which are delivered to sick children.
“I always have one goal that I want to do with the students,” McReynolds said, “to teach that heart part of the child, to give back to our community and to care more for others. That’s what we need to be doing.”
McReynolds started the lunches when she became principal at Wilmot three years ago. At first, students were skeptical about spending time with the principal, but now most students elect to join McReynolds for lunch.
“They love it,” she said. “I don’t know if they like my pencils or the wonderful conversation.”
RMAE middle school students learn community involvement
Middle-schoolers at Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen are spending part of their school week performing community service.
Students are broken into groups, and they do everything from collecting recyclables in classrooms to working with younger children to beautifying the school grounds.
The rotations “create a better sense of service within the school,” according to middle school English teacher Rachel Smith.
The sixth-graders who are spearheading the recycling efforts make sure each classroom has two bins – one for paper, the other for other recyclable materials, Smith said.
Each week, they visit each classroom to pick up the materials, then begin the arduous task of separating the items into plastic, aluminum and other categories.
Parent volunteers then pick up the recyclables and take them to the Waste Management recycling station behind King Soopers.
This assignment has been a learning experience for the sixth-graders and also a teaching experience for them too, Smith said. When the younger students were putting trash into the recycling containers, the sixth-graders wrote skits and songs about recycling to present to the younger ones.
Another group of students helps out in the classrooms for younger students. They help with things like reading, math facts and other small-group projects. These students act as aides for the teachers.
Still another group has worked to keep the school grounds free of trash and has planted flower bulbs that will bloom in the spring.
Smith said parents donated soil and taught students about the proper way to plant bulbs. It was an excellent opportunity for the adults to interact with the students, she said.
Retirement party at Marshdale
Marhsdale Elementary School will have a retirement reception for Kathleen Grass, the school’s attendance secretary for the past 16 years.
The reception will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the school.
“It’s going to be a huge hole (when she’s gone),” said principal Christie Frost. “Not only does she know the nuances of her job, but she knows all the families and all of the kids. She’s really going to be missed.”
Her replacement will be Toni Armstrong, who has a son in first grade at Marshdale. She’s worked in other capacities at the school. Frost said the staff is happy to have her stepping into the position.
Have tips about schools in Evergreen? Contact Evergreen resident Deb Hurley Brobst at email@example.com.