Community Education News

Rec’s and Reviews: “How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids”

  • ced_blog_BucketBookWe recommend: “How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids” by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, with illustrations by Maurie J. Manning
  • This book is for: kids in preschool through fourth grade
  • Summary: When Felix wakes up one morning, he finds an invisible bucket floating overhead. A rotten morning threatens his mood — and his bucket — drop by drop. Can Felix discover how to refill his bucket before it’s completely empty?

“How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids” is a kid-friendly retelling of Tom Rath’s book of the same title for grown-ups. It’s based on the idea that everyone has an invisible bucket of water that follows them around and represents their emotional energy. Every positive interaction adds to the bucket, while negative experiences dip from the bucket.

ced_blog_BucketBook-pageIn this version, main character Felix learns about buckets from his grandfather. The next day, he can see everyone’s buckets, but he has a rough morning, and his bucket empties as he goes. The afternoon takes a turn for the better, and his bucket fills up again. He later adds to his little sister’s bucket by inviting her to play with him, becoming a true bucket-filler.

Using a story to spread the concept of bucket-fillers is a great way to remind kids to build people up. Manning’s artwork highlights the story perfectly, especially the kids’ colorful and unique outfits. (Keep an eye out for Felix’s sister’s tutu, and his Laser Ant backpack.) The writing may be a little simple for older readers, especially on some of the montage pages, but the lesson is a good one for readers of all ages.

Source How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids

Instructor Tips: Amy Schafer — Tips for Buying a New Home

ced_blog_AmySchaferLicensed since 2001, Amy Schafer is the vice president of sales for the Betsy Sarcone real estate team and a WDMCS Community Education LEARNwest instructor. She has an extensive history in not only selling homes but also exceeding expectations and providing stellar customer service. Amy joined the Sarcone team in 2015 to further her passion for helping buyers find their dream home. Amy is a native of southeast Iowa and holds a degree in interior design from Iowa State University.


Amy Schafer’s Five Home Buying Tips and Secrets

  1. Get pre-approved! Having your financing in order will save time, make you look like a rockstar buyer, and make the home buying process much more enjoyable.
  1. Set your criteria. Create a needs and wants list so you have direction on what you would like to purchase. The list can change, but it helps to start with a vision.
  1. Hire a professional realtor. An agent becomes the gatekeeper of your strategy, motivation, and finances. Pick one to guide you through the process.
  1. Don’t rely on the Internet. The assessor’s website and sites like Zillow and Trulia (just to name a few) can be filled with inaccurate information. Rely on your realtor to verify information and availability.
  1. Write an offer! When you find a house you like that also fits your needs, write an offer. Homes are selling fast and can be gone in moments. If you do choose to wait, make sure you are comfortable with possibly missing out on that home. The homes at the best price and in the best condition sell fast in any market.

Happy home hunting! To learn more of Amy Schafer’s home buying tips, register for her LEARNwest class, Top Home Buying Tips and Secrets.

Class Information and Registration

Monthly Motivation: Make a Friend Day

ced_blog_MakeaFriendFeb. 11 is National Make a Friend Day. Friends are such an important part of our lives. They support us and make us laugh and lend a helping hand when we need it. Celebrate National Make a Friend Day by sharing these quotes about friendship on social media using #NationalMakeaFriendDay, and of course, by making a new friend.


“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” — William Shakespeare

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” — Helen Keller

“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” — Henry Ford

“A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.” — Maya Angelou

CE Today: February 3 — Jacques-Yves Cousteau Publishes “The Silent World”


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French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau published one of his most famous works, “The Silent World,” on Feb. 3, 1953. The book detailed his early underwater explorations, made possible through his own invention: the Aqua-Lung, or the first scuba.

Cousteau served in the French navy and wanted to develop a self-contained underwater breathing device, so divers did not have to be tethered to the surface. He designed the Aqua-Lung with help from engineer Emile Gagnan, then developed underwater cameras and photography. He used his new inventions to explore shipwrecks for the navy, and explored ancient wrecks and sea life as a hobby.

He published a memoir, “The Silent World,” in 1953, and began work on a film version with director Louis Malle. It was released to global acclaim three years later, winning Best Documentary at the Academy Awards and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film revealed the underwater world to the public for the first time.

Cousteau went on to earn many awards and accolades, develop several additions and improvements to scuba, and become a passionate environmentalist. He died June 25, 1997, at the age of 87, but his message has been preserved in his many books and films, and by the Cousteau Society and Equipe Cousteau.

Sources: “The Captain” “Cousteau publishes The Silent World”

CE Highlight: Heart Connection Collection

ced_blog_heart-connectionWDMCS staff, families, and students are invited again this year to participate in the Heart Connection to help restock the Booster Pak personal care pantries.

The most needed items are regular-sized shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, body wash, lotion, toothpaste, and ​lip balm. Please bring your items to school the week of February 22-25 and place in the Heart Connection ​donation ​box. ​Items will be collected and then distributed to WDMCS students through the Booster Pak Program.

Thank you for your support for this very worthy cause!​ ​​The Heart Connection is coordinated by WDMCS Community Education’s Service Learning Program.

Tweeting? Tag us using #heartconnection16 and/or #IheartWDMCS.

Instructor Tips: Diane Browne — D.I.Y Repurposing and Restoring

ced_blog_tips-jan2016The January instructor tips come from LEARNwest instructor Diane Browne, who will be teaching the “Rescue, Restore, and Redecorate Your Furnishings” class. Browne grew up in a family of antique lovers, auctioneers, appraisers, and furniture restorers. She now works in the paint department at Johnston Ace Hardware and enjoys helping people pick out colors to enhance their homes and teaching chalk painting and furniture restoring classes. She is always on the lookout for a garage sale or curbside find just waiting
to be repurposed!

Six Repurposing Tips for the D.I.Y. Enthusiast

  1. Use your imagination! If you have a piece of furniture that is outdated, scratched, or does not fit in, try to visualize what it could become or what you could use it for in another area of your home.
  2. Go to consignment or antique stores for inspiration. They are a great place to find repurposing ideas. Then use those ideas to create new pieces out of your own furniture.
  3. Always look for curbside items. Keep an eye out when you are driving down the street — you might see something unique you can repurpose for your home.
  4. Go to garage/estate sales with an open mind. Something that you never would have pictured in your home might just jump out at you as perfect for repurposing.
  5. Always make sure that the pieces you want to work with have good “bones.”  As long as the basic structure of the piece is sturdy, the sky is the limit as to what it can become.
  6. Think of all the possibilities, not just the first one. An old headboard does not have to be repurposed as a headboard; it can be turned into a unique bench.

Once you start the process of repurposing things, you will never see “junk” again! Every piece is full of possibilities. Check out Diane Browne’s upcoming class to start seeing those possibilities for yourself.

Check Out Session 1
Check Out Session 2

Mythbusting Monday: National Thesaurus Day

Education in dictionary.Jan. 18 is National Thesaurus Day, and to
celebrate the day, we decided to bust some myths about words. English is a flexible and ever-changing language, but it’s always a good idea to brush up on your language skills.

We chose three words from Harvard cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker’s latest book, “The Sense of Style,” which addresses several misunderstood words.

This is an easy one to mix up, due to another word: uninterested.

  • What people think it means: bored or indifferent (synonyms for uninterested)
  • What it actually means: impartial or unbiased

How to use it: “The dispute should be resolved by a disinterested judge.”

People often miss some letters in the middle of this word and think it’s “homogenous.”

  • How people often say it: huh-MAHjenus
  • How it should be said: homo-genius

Homogenous actually isn’t a word at all, but a “corruption of homogenized.”

  • How to use homogeneous correctly: “The population was not homogeneous; it was a melting pot.”


  • What people think it is: a synonym for simple
  • What it really is: basically, a slam

Simplistic truly means naively or overly simple, so if someone’s answer or explanation is simplistic, it means they may not have a full understanding of the topic.

Urban Legend
Who or what counts as an urban legend? Pinker’s definitions make it clear: urban legends are stories, not legendary people.

  • What people think it means: someone who is legendary in a city
  • What it actually means: an intriguing and widely circulated but false story

Word myths, busted. To wrap up this Mythbusting Monday, we’ll leave you with this quote:
A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the word you first thought of.
— Burt Bacharach

Brighter Beginnings Registration Open

ced_brighter_beginnings_thumbnailAll families can now register for Brighter Beginnings, the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) Community Education program that aims to make the world brighter for parents and children by providing fun early childhood family learning. The upcoming session of Brighter Beginnings will take place from Feb. 2–May 6.

Brighter Beginnings classes invite parents and children to attend together. Weekly classes are divided into time for parent/child education activities and parent time. During parent time, parents discuss various topics with professional educators and other parents. Quality child care is provided during this time, and children will enjoy socialization and activities.

The registration process was updated this year, to allow WDMCS Community Education to serve as many families as possible. Registration is open to in-district and out-of-district families, with registration limited to one class time per family per session. Separate registrations cards are necessary for each session. Families can contact Brighter Beginnings Program Coordinator Sonja LeSher at 515-633-5009 to receive a card or download a card from the Community Education website (

To register, families should complete a registration card and return the card, along with $75 if out-of-district, to WDMCS Community Education, Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines, IA 50265-5556.

For more information, visit the Brighter Beginnings webpage at or contact WDMCS Community Education at 515-633-5001.


Rec’s and Reviews: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”


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Everyone is talking about a certain movie this season, and that is “Star Wars: The  Force Awakens.” The seventh episode in the Star Wars universe, “The Force Awakens” is the long-awaited sequel to the three original films. Directed by J.J. Abrams of “LOST” and “Star Trek” fame, the film stays true to the original films not only in theme, but in content. With canonically low levels of graphic violence, language, and sexual content, this is an adventure the whole family can enjoy.

We will skip a major summary to avoid spoilers. Instead, we’ll say that, like the other Star Wars films, this one explores the conflict between good and bad. There are evil characters and group who do evil things, but there are also good characters who do what’s right “because it’s the right thing to do.” New characters mix with original characters, and many of the same themes are revisited and acknowledged.

One of the most lauded positive messages in this film is the cast diversity. The original films have been criticized for being too racially 1-D. This film is definitely a massive step in the right direction, with the main characters including a young woman and people of color.

The film also emphasizes that people can decide to do the right thing and make good choices, no matter what they have been taught. Themes of teamwork, courage, loyalty, and friendship also abound. Like the other “Star Wars” films, the plot centers on the balance between good and evil, with good being presented as the right (or “light”) way to go.

Because of the good vs. evil theme, there are acts of evil in the film. The characters are at war, and battles, lightsaber duels, and explosions are prevalent. Even with all the action, blood and gore are relatively absent, as are language and sexual content.

“The Force Awakens” is a “Star Wars” film. If you have seen the other films, it is likely you know what you are getting yourself into. Families can watch one of the previous films at home to see how kids handle it, but like its predecessors, this is likely a film the entire family can enjoy.

On Common Sense Media, parents and kids agree that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is suitable for ages 10 and older. The film is rated PG-13. For more detailed reviews, visit:

Rec’s and Reviews: Talking to Kids About Tragedy

hands-circleDue to recent tragedies, advice on talking to children about terror and sadness has been in high demand. Parents and guardians may find it difficult to comprehend the situations themselves, much less talk about it with their kids. The discussion is important, though, especially for older kids who will start to see things on social media and in the news. Even younger children may wander into the room when the news is on or overhear things and have questions.

With that in mind, we have compiled seven tips from several articles and resources that may help you navigate these difficult conversations.

1. Keep age in mind.
Many articles we came across split their tips into sections by age. A discussion with an elementary student will be notably different from one with a high school student; young children may need to express themselves through play or art instead of talking. In the end, you know your child and what they are ready for best.

2. Ask questions.
Many experts suggest asking your children what they already know, if anything. With younger children, this can help you determine if you need to have the conversation at all. For older children, it provides an opportunity for them to ask questions back and express their feelings.

3. Create a safe space.
The best way to make them feel safe during these situations is to support them — take their feelings and fears seriously instead of dismissing them. That said, it never hurts to remind kids you love them and give them an extra hug.

4. Monitor media consumption.
Another part of creating a safe space can be monitoring what your kids are seeing. You may not be able to completely shut down the media machine for older kids, but it is okay to keep young ones away from the disturbing images often on the news. Make sure to redirect them calmly. Panicking and other dramatic reactions can create more anxiety and more of an impression.

5. Be honest and accurate.
Children often know if you are not telling the full truth, even if it is to protect them. This can send the message that they should be afraid. To reassure them, be direct, but again — keep age in mind. Elementary-aged kids may not need to know every detail, while older students can use help sorting through the information they are finding.

6. Correct misconceptions.
Keep your kids grounded in reality. Do not exaggerate or blow things out of proportion, and don’t let them do it either. It can also be a teachable moment. If they are beginning to conflate terrorists with larger groups, have a calm talk about prejudice and diversity.

7. Lead by example.
Focus on hope and peace. Remind them that most of the people in the world are good. Share your feelings with them as well. Remind them to “look for the helpers,” in the words of Mr. Rogers. If you want, help them take action by donating or volunteering their time. Let your kids know it is okay to feel upset, but also empower them to make the world better.


discussion1Articles on this topic have become common in recent weeks, as more tragedies are brought into the public eye, but these tips can apply to any sad or scary event in your child’s life. Here are the resources we referenced for the tips above:


TIME: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Attacks in Paris
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Talking to Children About Terrorism and War
The Washington Post: When terror strikes, here’s what you should tell children
The Huffington Post UK: How To Talk To Children About Terrorism
FOX News: Paris Terror Attacks: Talking to children about terrorism
911 Memorial: Talking to Your Children About 9/11
Savvy Psychologist (Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D.) from How to Talk to Kids About Terrorism and Violence


Here are some other articles that might be valuable, but are more personal or based on the authors’ experiences and opinions:

  • The New York Times: How to Talk to Children About Terrorism (opinion)
    • This op-ed was written by Pamela Druckerman, author of “Bringing up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.” She and her family live six minutes away from Le Bataclan, a major site in the Paris terror attacks. It also includes a video featuring “Le Petit Quotidien,” a French children’s newspaper that “refuses to sugarcoat the horror of the Paris attacks.”
  • The Daily Beast: How to Talk to Your Kids About ISIS (essay)
    • An older article, closer to the date of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, this piece covers the author’s personal experience, but includes strong examples of options, from what the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. does with her children to explaining terror to kids with Batman’s help.
  • The Telegraph: Paris attacks: How to explain the horror to children (column)
    • This column includes advice from Gemma Allen, a senior bereavement counsellor from Britain’s leading charity for bereaved children, who writes about her personal experience discussing the attacks with her children.
  • The Guardian: How to talk to your children about the Paris attacks (opinion)
    • This opinion piece is filled with do’s and don’ts for talking about terror with children. It features examples from the BBC, French newspapers, and the “Daily Beast” article above.