New program connects students to learning

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Evergreen Middle School is offering classes for students that aren’t the typical language arts, math and science.

Called Connections, the classes dovetail with existing curriculum but are meant to foster student interest in other topics. Classes include crime scene investigation, the geography of Australia, video game creation, newspaper, field ecology and a look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s work.

In addition, students who need extra help in English and math can get tutoring.

“Connections allows us to give double doses of reading, writing and math for the students who need it,” said vice principal Cheryl Hensley, “and it also allows us to teach some enrichment classes for other students.”

The idea for Connections came out of a discussion by teachers and school administrators about the effective use of time for a class called Advise. The time is used to discuss common issues for middle-school students and is necessary, Hensley said.

Some grades also use Advise time for such things as community service projects, while other grades use the time for study hall.

“We want to make sure we’re making the most out of the time we have students in school,” Hensley said.

Students will go to Advise classes during the last period of the day on Wednesdays and to Connections classes the rest of the week. In a 12-week trimester, students have two weeks of regular Advise classes, two four-week Connections classes directly connected to the curriculum, and the final two weeks are for something fun for students.

Classes in the final two weeks include scrapbooking, rock climbing, mountain biking and other fun activities.

“We think this will be a win-win situation for everyone in the building,” Hensley said.

EHS learning lab gives students extra instruction

A teachers lounge at Evergreen High School has been painted with bright colors, equipped with desks, computers and comfortable furniture, and turned into a learning lab for students.

The lab is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day to help students with their schoolwork. It is staffed by teachers with expertise in math and English, plus teachers from other disciplines, and school counselors join in at other times of the day.

“The learning lab is for students of all ability levels,” said principal Matt Walsh. “The lab is there to help kids who are having problems with homework, but it can also be used for enrichment, too.”

The goal is to help students be successful, he said, but it also has another function: It allows students to meet with a wide range of teachers.

“If every kid feels (he/she) can go to one adult in the building, then we have done our job,” Walsh said.

Amy Graham, the school’s instructional coach, is spearheading the effort and spends much of her day in the learning lab. She has a master’s degree in English, so she is available to help students with their English homework.

She said some students actually came into the lab on the first day of school. She surmises they like the quiet atmosphere and the availability of help, which makes the lab different from the library.

There’s been a steady stream of math students since the beginning of the year, and she’s hoping that the room will be packed every day with students wanting extra help.

“We really want (students) to use it,” Graham said. “We don’t want students to be afraid to come in if their teacher isn’t here. Another teacher may be able to explain a concept in a way that the student will understand.”

She said students have dropped in to see what the room is like and have promised they will be back.

“Knowing a teacher is available to help them is good,” she said.

Watermelons teach Bergen kindergarteners valuable lessons

Kindergarteners at Bergen Meadow Elementary School said goodbye to summer recently through a unit on watermelon.

The students in the four kindergarten classes learned watermelon facts, counted watermelon seeds, read books about watermelons, made watermelon necklaces, and weighed and measured watermelons.

“We started with putting a watermelon in a box,” said kindergarten teacher Christine Vinarcsik, “and we told them Citrullus vulgaris was in it. We gave them some facts about the item in the box and then asked them to guess what was in it.”

Some guessed a baby dinosaur, a kitten, a bunny or a giant frog.

“Then we opened the box,” she said. “I think they were kind of let down that it was just a watermelon.”

Watermelons permeated every part of the kindergarteners’ day and their school curriculum. They learned about the plant cycle and how watermelons grow, and they learned about words starting with the letter W. They wrote and drew pictures about what they did during the summer.

The culmination of the unit was, as you can imagine, slicing up the watermelon and eating it.

EMS remodel dedication

Just a reminder that the dedication of the Evergreen Middle School construction project will be from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, at the school. The community is invited to attend.

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