Friday, May 12, 2017

News and Notes 3.24

Red & White at the Maize & Blue
Spring sports are great - when the sun shines and the temperature rises above 50 degrees that is.  This season has seen it's share of foul weather, but our Trojans are making the best of it.  We have a competitive Track and Field team at both the middle and high school level.  Our Lacrosse team is also competitive, despite being bumped up to Division 1 this year.  Golf is pushing the other teams in the area and is currently in 2nd place in our conference (Tri-County Conference).  

This past Monday our baseball and softball teams played games, as usual.  However, the venue hosting the games was unique.  Both teams were invited to play at the University of Michigan fields.  This was a great opportunity for our athletes to get some exposure at one of the nation's premiere sports complexes.  It was especially nice because both teams have seen success this season.  Softball's Alaina DiDio is coming off a no-hitter at Sand Creek and is leading our young team to a bright future.  Our baseball team is 10-4 and would love a post season run like they had in 2015.  So, getting a chance to display their collective talents at UM Softball's Alumni Field and UM Baseball's Fisher Stadium the words of WLHS Varisty Softball Coach, Patti Kobeck, "Pretty awesome!"  (Coach Kobeck did mention the experience would have been better if was at MSU.)

Our athletic department recognizes that sports play a significant role in the lives of many of our students.  Taking advantage of our proximity to these venues is important as it broadens the experiences of our students and gives them a chance to do things they may never do a again, or, as our district's vision statement professes, " individuals the inspiration to dream..."  WLHS student-athletes enjoyed the opportunity so much, we are trying to make it an annual event.  
Head to the album on Facebook HERE to enjoy pictures from the event.
What a great day to be a Trojan.

Representative Donna Lasinski Visits WLHS
This past Monday we had the pleasure of welcoming Michigan Representative Donna Lasinski at the high school. Ms. Ward’s first ever Advanced Placement Government class and Ms. Henry’s last Advanced Placement Government class met together to hear from Rep. Lasinski about her experiences in state public service.

Mrs. Lasinski began her work in government out of a deep interest in her own kids’ education. After serving on the Ann Arbor Public Schools School Board, Lasinski gained valuable experience and bipartisan support that led her to win a seat for her first term in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Since the AP Government class focuses more on the federal level of government, Rep. Lasinski's knowledge was a nice new perspective. She discussed how taxes are collected and spent, crunching some numbers regarding how Michigan public schools are now funded under the current state budget.

In response to student questions, Lasinski discussed her two main goals for education. First, to gain $1,200 more per student. Lasinski explained how, according to an evaluation of the state public education system, the Michigan state government is spending $1,200 less per student than is needed to adequately educate our kids. In fact, special education and "at-risk" students are in need of 30% more funding on top of that.
The Michigan Education Finance Study, conducted by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates of Colorado found that 90% of Michigan school districts are not adequately funded to be "notably successful."
Secondly, Lasinski expressed her desire for more consistency in state mandated testing. "Pick one and stick with it," she said. At the mention of the recent switch from the mandatory ACT to the SAT, students across the room nodded their heads in agreement, as they are the ones who have experienced that change firsthand.

We appreciate Rep. Lasinski coming to speak with our students, taking the time to connect with her future constituents.  
Project Based Learning Little Free Library
You might hear a term used a lot, particularly in our elementary grades, called Project Based Learning or PBL. Essentially PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. . Students do this by identifying a local or global real-world problem researching that issue, developing a solution using evidence to support their claim and then presenting and executing a solution through multimedia, and 21st-century tools.
When you think of a project, you might think about those old state reports many of us remember doing. You know, finding a profile of a state in the almanac, writing all those facts on the poster board highlighting imports, exports, population, terrain, etc. PBL projects are nothing like that.
To give you a perfect example of how a PBL project evolves, we look to last year's WLES 2nd graders.
While studying communities in social studies, they learned about their own community and those around them. This was taking place during the start of the Flint water crisis, which resonated with the students. Through their research on the subject, they learned how being read to can help curb a lot of the negative effects lead poisoning has on younger children. This lead to the students running a book drive for the children of Flint in partnership with United Way. They donated 2,016 books.
The discussion then became localized to their own community. Knowing through their research how important reading in early childhood is, students considered what their own community does to help encourage reading and how they could contribute.
The students began making posters promoting reading to young children, put out book collection boxes and brainstormed ways to take it even further.
Their answer? Bringing a library closer to where a lot of the students live. Becoming familiar with the Little Free Library project and identifying that their Elementary school was surrounded by neighborhoods, they determined the school was a perfect location.
The students coordinated a letter writing campaign, with help from Ms. Bakker,  mailing a letter soliciting donations for their project to local businesses. They received donations from 11 local businesses, and before they knew it their project was fully funded.
With a plan in hand, they commissioned a student's grandfather, Robert Alexander, to build their library. Using a little creative freedom, he built a beautiful structure. WLES teacher Ms. Roy-Borland then used her artistic skills, donating her time to transform the raw wood into what is pictured below--Little Free Library #52379.
The little library was installed a little over a week ago. The now third grade class are deemed the caretakers of the library. In conjunction with their teachers, they have planned a ribbon cutting ceremony for next Friday, 2:30 p.m. Members of the community, our school board and the businesses who donated have been invited to join. Attendees are in store for lots of fun surprises, as I hear both Ms. Schneider and Ms. Baitinger are putting their baking skills to the test for some fun book-themed desserts  to make the ceremony extra special.
We can use our "teacher speak" to communicate the approaches we take to providing your students with exceptional, personalized education all day long (well at least until your eyes glaze over.) But being able to share a specific example of Project Based Learning like this fully demonstrates the innovation, team building, problem solving and empowerment that is happening in our classrooms every day.
Congratulations to the staff involved and the successful completion of their project, start to finish. And thanks to Mr. Alexander and Ms. Roy-Borland for lending their artistic skills to the project. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for pictures of the ceremony next Friday. 
Thanks also to the business who donated:
Polly's Market
Diversified Docks
AlDente Pasta
Best Western
Little Friends
Van's Archery
National Staffing and Home Care
Val's Service
SLM Trailers LLC

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