District News

Petersen Receives Distinguished Service Award

Wade Petersen, who teaches English and has taught French at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School, was awarded the Iowa World Language Association’s Distinguished Service Award of 2012. The award honors Petersen’s outstanding teaching of French, advocacy of world language teaching, as well as his dedication and service to the Iowa World Language Association, the state-wide organization for world language teachers K-16.

“This is a great honor for Wade and we are very proud of the work he has done here at Valley Southwoods and for the world language education across Iowa,” said Mitch Kuhnert, VSW principal. “He has always been a teacher-leader at our building and in our state. This recognition is well-deserved.”

Petersen received this honor at the annual IWLA conference during a luncheon ceremony Oct. 12. The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor given to a world language teacher, professional or advocate by the organization.

Petersen served on the IWLA executive board where he instituted a quarterly email communication with all teachers of world languages across the state. This change gave the Iowa World Language Association a greater reach and strengthened its support of teachers state-wide. Petersen is a cherished colleague, language advocate, best-selling international author, innovator and leader in world language teaching.

Crestview’s Nidey Named ITEC K-12 Educator of the Year

Crestview Elementary third grade teacher Adam Nidey was named the Iowa Technology and Education Connection’s K-12 Educator of the Year at its annual conference Oct. 14-16. The K-12 Educator of the Year Award recognizes an innovative classroom teacher who uses technology to improve instruction and student achievement.

”I am fortunate to be in a technology-rich district,” said Nidey. “Our tech department is top notch and consistently works to remove hurdles for teachers that are trying to grow professionally and do what is best for the learning of all of its students. Teaching in a building that has over 100 iPads has also allowed me to be challenged in the area of technology.”

ITEC promotes the use of technology in education by demonstrating to its members, other educators and the public, developments in educational technology and how its appropriate use supports teaching and learning. The group annually seeks nominations for excellence in four categories: educator, administrator and local and state technology leadership.

“Adam’s enthusiasm for student’s learning is evident on a daily basis,” said Brian Abeling, WDMCS technology director. “It’s common to see his classroom Skyping with other students or adults who live in far off corners of the world. His classroom is extremely diverse and his constantly using online tools to encourage his students reach out to connect with other cultures.”

Nidey’s leadership and impact goes far beyond his own classroom. He has served as a panelist at the Iowa Education Summit, focusing on technologies impact on K-12 education and has been a regional presenter on iPad usage in the classroom. At this year’s ITEC conference, Nidey is leading two sessions, “Getting BIG results from just a few iPads” and another session is being run by his third grade students, featuring their favorite apps for learning.

Belin-Blank Awards Four WDMCS Students; Valley Ranks in Top 10 of Iowa AP Index

Sam Throm with his teacher from Westridge Elementary, Nancy Foley, at the Belin-Blank Awards.

Valley Southwoods freshman Sam Throm, Westridge Elementary fifth grader Brogan Kirkpatrick, Indian Hills eighth grader Brian Gu and Valley High School junior Lucy Gee were among the 490 students from Iowa and throughout the nation who were recently invited to be honored at The University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center’s Recognition Ceremony Oct. 7. Additionally, recognized students were given the opportunity to honor a teacher they credited for having a profound influence on their lives. Throm selected Westridge teacher Nancy Foley, Kirkpatrick selected Dan Gehlbach and Gu selected Indian Hills teacher David Newendorp.Also honored at this year’s ceremony were the Iowa schools that were ranked among the Top 25 of the Iowa AP Index. The index rating was calculated by dividing the number of AP exams taken by the number of students in the school’s graduating class. Valley High School, ranked ninth, was among the Top 10 of the Iowa AP Index for the fourth consecutive year.     (more…)

Life in the WDMCS 10/8

Fairmeadows Elementary
Fairmeadows Elementary had eight students participate in the district’s annual Spanish Quiz Bowl at the Learning Resource Center. This quiz bowl is for students who speak Spanish at home, giving them a chance to celebrate their culture by playing authentic and academic games in Spanish.  They competed against teams from other schools around the district. The Fairmeadows teams were fourth graders Juan Jurado, Jonathan Rojas, Benjamin Díaz and James Beaty; and fifth graders Jimmy Alba, Neidy Penate-Estrada, Lily Garcia and Stephen Cruz.

 Hillside Elementary
Sixth graders at Hillside Elementary are working on pop profile self-portraits inspired by the artist Peter Max. The background of the drawings are filled with graphic lettering, symbols and patterns which represent each artist’s interests and personality. Students are mixing translucent watercolors for unique colors and areas of emphasis within original compositions. Pam Ballard has emailed the artist and will send photos of completed projects. The class is delighted to be working with a student teacher, Sarah Hutchinson, from Drake University. She is a practicing artist herself in the area of painting and printmaking. Hutchinson is introducing fourth grade classes to a narrative based perspective unit. The second grade classes have been printing colorful abstract compositions based upon the work of Wassily Kandinsky. Meanwhile, Hutchinson and the first grade classes have been creating patterned self-portraits inspired by the artist Gustav Klimt.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Jordan Creek fourth graders have been harvesting corn and soybean crops. Last spring, the fourth graders, with the help of Cindy Hall from the Farm Bureau, planted six rows of soybeans and six rows of field corn.  This project coordinates with their study of agriculture in Iowa and the Midwest.  All the fourth graders and their teachers picked and shelled the field corn and soybeans.  The fourth graders also learned what products are made from corn and soybeans and how Iowa agriculture impacts the nation.

Phenix Elementary
The Phenix Family Fun Picnic was held September 30 at Legion Park.  The Optimist Club of Western Des Moines sponsored this special event, providing families with dinner of hotdogs and hamburgers.  The students also played golf games, football and played on the playground equipment.  Parents enjoyed visiting with other families and getting to know each other.  At the end of the event, each child was given a bag of activities that they could use at home (kites, jump rope, etc.).

Valley Southwoods
Dan Savage, a former student at Valley Southwoods and current sophomore at Valley, arranged to do his Eagle Scout Service Project at VSW under the sponsorship of Assistant Principal Barb Goetschel.  After many weeks of proposals, presentations, approvals, fundraising and labor recruiting, implementation for the landscape project took place September 29.  Dan led a team of students and adults to complete weed removal; removing dead fronds from day lilies and trimming back for winter; tilling the mulch and redistributing excess to areas that were sparse; planting five burning bushes, four dwarf blue junipers, four sedums and six flowering perennials; installed wood edging to two planter plots so that mulch would not blow into courtyard; added a birdhouse to corner planter; added fresh cedar mulch; and clean up and removal of lawn waste (to be composted). The project was a big success and a great improvement to the courtyard.  Many thanks go out to all of those who contributed to this project and to all the volunteers for their hard work on Saturday.

The administration and staff at Valley Southwoods is going to start a campaign to go Pro, meaning taking steps to be pro-active against bullying and harassment. The school day will start with daily announcements that focus on the words compassion, empathy, courage, humility, tolerance, forgiveness, love and gratitude. Student groups will be organized during the school year in hopes to continue to increase awareness and provide opportunities for families to engage in conversations around this tough topic.

Valley High School
Valley High School students will have the opportunity to cast a ballot for President of the United States during Valley’s mock election Oct. 11-12. All students are welcome and encouraged to vote. Also, there will be five poll questions that will gauge the student’s opinions on national, state and school wide topics. This is a mock election giving students the opportunity to learn about the voting process and have their voices recognized.

The Valley Band Boosters are selling Kum and Go coupon books to raise funds for the upcoming Band trip to Chicago. Books are $10 each and have more than $60 worth of coupons good at Kum and Go for FREE drinks and discounts on gas and other goodies.  If you are interested in purchasing some, please contact Patty or Jim Napier at pjnapier345@gmail.com.

Walnut Creek
Walnut Creek Campus participated in the Healthiest State Walk, where students and staff got together during the day to promote healthy lifestyles.  Several times during the day groups walked a just over a kilometer each time.  A great time was had by all because of the wonderful weather and company during the walk.

The annual Leading with Horses program between Walnut Creek Campus and Hillside Elementary began October 3 at Jester Park Equestrian Center.   This is the first of four weeks in the program.  This week students learned how to care for a horse by learning how to brush them and then proceeded to leading their horses through and around the arena.  Some of the students have not ever been around a barn or horses so this was a great opportunity to try something new and exciting, while developing leadership and mentoring skills.

Clive Elementary
Clive Elementary fourth graders took a field trip to Blazing Star Prairie in Jester Park. The day was broken into seven different stations led by Polk County Conservationists that taught the students about different aspects of the prairie. One station was learning about what life was like growing up on the prairie from hunting for food to traveling in a Conestoga wagon. At this station, students got to see some of the tools that the pioneers used such as a rug beater and a metal pot scraper. At another station, the students got to see how the Native Americans made use of nearly every part of the buffalo from the bones, muscle and tendons, to the fur and even the bladder! They also enjoyed sitting inside a tipi and learning how it was built as well as other Native customs such as how the men sat on one side of the tipi and the women on the other. At this station, they also learned that the women of the family typically set up the tipi while the men were hunting for food and that walking across the center of the tipi was viewed as extremely disrespectful. The students also went on a prairie hike where they got to see some of the native prairie plants that are essential to help the prairie continue to thrive and learned that conservationists purposely set fires in the prairie to kill off invasive plants. The native plants are able to survive due to their lengthy root systems. The fourth graders went on an insect hunt through the prairie and learned about the animals that live (or once lived) in Iowa prairies, wetlands and woodlands. Finally, the students played a new game about prairie animals hunting for their prey. It was a very educational trip as the students came back to school with all kinds of new facts about the prairie. Students reported that their favorite part of the day was running through the prairie in search of insects, snakes and animal tracks. They enjoyed the time to freely explore the wildlife area. They were surprised to learn that Native Americans used the bladder from a buffalo as a drinking container and were also surprised that there is only 1/10 of one percent of original prairie land remaining in Iowa.

Clive Elementary had16 students participate in the district’s annual Spanish Quiz Bowl at the Learning Resource Center. This quiz bowl is for students who speak Spanish at home, giving them a chance to celebrate their culture by playing authentic and academic games in Spanish.  They competed against teams from other schools around the district.  The Clive teams were fourth graders Justin Yanqui, Melvin Calvillo, Juan Cardenas, Jonathan Giles, Jaime Herrera, Edilson Chavez, Ricardo Moreno, Kelsi Rodriguez and Christian Juarez; and fifth graders Lindsey De Leon, Miguel Gallegos, Juan Rodriguez, Jose Castellanos, Mariel Castillo, Anna Lopez and Danny Mendez.

Crossroads Park Elementary
Native Spanish speakers at Crossroads Park participated in the district’s annual Native Speaker Quiz Bowl held at the Learning Resource Center Sept. 28. Fourth and fifth graders from throughout the district gathered to engage in Spanish speaking activities and conversations.  The students representing Crossroads Park were fourth graders Juan Diaz and Abraham Hernandez and fifth graders Anabel Aguilar, Emanuel Garcia, Alexis Arriaga, Brindy Arredondo and Axel Chavez.

Life in the WDMCS 10/1

Clive Elementary
Analyzing data…fun?  It is in one fifth grade classroom at Clive Elementary! Students used the Grab-It Gauge from the Everyday Mathematics curriculum and collected data on their reaction times.  Before starting the activity, they predicted which hand would have a quicker reaction time.  Then they experimented and recorded results in their journals. The class learned how to analyze data using median, mode and mean. They also found the class average reaction time for their left and right hands and concluded that this is a quick group of kids!  Fifth grade looks forward to using statistical landmarks again to help make sense of data in the world around us.

Crossroads Park Elementary
One of the units fourth graders at Crossroads Park Elementary study is the Midwest region of the United States.  As an enhancement of that unit, students went on a field trip to Jester Park for a day of Native American and pioneer experiences.  The event is called Life on the Prairie and is sponsored by Polk County Conservation.  During the field trip, students learned what life was like on the prairie years ago when tall grass covered 85 percent of Iowa’s landscape.  Through various games and hands-on experiences, fourth graders also learned about Iowa’s natural history and the Native American cultures who once lived here.

Fairmeadows Elementary
Staff and students at Fairmeadows are focusing on being people of good character.  The staff at Fairmeadows chose students they felt were showing the pillars of character in all parts of the school day.  These students showed the staff they are responsible, respectful, trustworthy, fair, caring and good citizens. Students received a special certificate, pencil and have their picture taken for display. Students included in the October lunch are Bryan Williams, Sylvi Ross, Colin Madigan, Lauren Sander, Lily Johnson, Katherine Alberico, Sydney Denker, Anthony Rivas, Haley Auen, Preston Kipnusu, Paige Mattes, Olivia Wall, Coco Kooker, Chance Boettger, Addyson Kastli, Pierson Lee, Irene Diaz, Elvis Subasic, Zach Smith, Abigail Whitson, Emma bork, Lejla Stilic, Holly Mattes, Albion Rufati, Hannah Bleskacek, Emily Bright, Chris Tu, Kameron Doughman, Elaine Greer, Luke Carroll, Hallie Madigan, Eli White, Claire Wiarda, Noah Altemeier, Ivan Bechman, Joslin Bawek, Regan Day, Ayden Johnson, Tanner Dunn, Lauren Munoz, Brock Veatch, Sidney Mays, Leila Alajbegovic and Caden Ingram.

 Hillside Elementary
Fourth grade students at Hillside Elementary have begun their first Artful Learning unit. They began their week with a tour of the Des Moines Art Center and Sculpture Park. Students read about Grant Wood throughout the week to gain an appreciation for him. They spent one afternoon celebrating Grant Wood’s contributions in their Midwest study.  After seeing a Power Point on Grant’s American Gothic, the children created parodies of The American Gothic with magazine pictures. Later that afternoon, they were led through a see, hear, feel activity about Grant Wood’s creation of his landscapes, particularly Stone City, the masterwork for our unit. The classes were mixed and there was joy on the faces of students and teachers.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Fifth graders at Jordan Creek Elementary have had a busy year! In social studies the class has been studying about maps, globes and the five themes of geography –location, place, human-environment interaction, movement and regions. The students had the opportunity to create a map and locate a variety of geographical features on other maps. Next, they will begin studying early exploration, in which students will learn about the reasons for exploration and the difficulties faced by early explorers. The class is studying the Iowa Woodlands unit in science, which focuses on the forest eco-system and how it plays an important role in our everyday lives. Students just finished completing a leaf identification project and are looking at seeds and how they reproduce new plants. They will move into how habitats and how organisms fall on the food chain. Math class has the students estimating reaction times and looking at probability. The current chapter emphasizes estimation and computation strategies.  Students are also reviewing strategies to determine answers to number stories.In their first unit, students were learning about factors, prime numbers, and prime factorization. In reading, students are practicing using reading strategies to improve their comprehension and fluency.  They have been introduced to the Iowa Children’s Choice books in the media center by their media specialist, Kristy Skoglund. In writing class, students are exploring different types of genre through the reading/writing connection.  They are currently working on selecting a piece that they can take through the writing process and are also continuing to work on building a writing community in the classroom.  The students have been able to learn about their classmates through conversations and also by sharing their writing with one another.  The classes are very excited to publish their pieces to share with their classmates.

Phenix Elementary
Thanks to WDMCS administrators and Linda Walker’s third grade class, the 2012 United Way of Central Iowa Day of Action was an enormous success at Phenix Elementary. Volunteers worked one-on-one with third graders using the read, learn, succeed literacy kit based on the book “Good Enough to Eat” by Lizzy Rockwell. Each kit contained a book, healthy choices plate and journal.  Students were able to practice their literacy skills and display their knowledge about nutrition and health.

Western Hills Elementary
Fourth graders from Western Hills Elementary traveled to Red Feather Prairie in Polk City as a final activity in their prairie unit.  Students used magnifying classes to find a variety of insects in the butterfly garden.  They also completed a scavenger hunt in the prairie maze by locating 12 different prairie grasses and flowers.  The fourth graders enjoyed seeing firsthand all they had been learning about!

Indian Hills Junior High
Indian Hills Junior High will be hosting its second annual bike donation day on Oct. 18 from 7:45 a.m.- 3 p.m. People can clean out their garage of unwanted bikes and bike parts for a great cause and receive a tax deduction. If you have questions, please contact Wesley Hall at 633-4762.

Stilwell Junior High
Students at Stilwell Junior High have been observing the metamorphosis cycle of the monarch butterfly. Eleven butterflies have been released in the school courtyard since early September, with four chrysalises remaining. Special thanks to Diane Harrigan for donating the monarch eggs and caterpillars to Luann Link’s seventh grade classes.

The HyperStream Technology Club, a new student club at Stilwell Junior High, introduced its 45 new members to their ambassadors from IBM and Farm Bureau and then participated in a team building/engineering activity called The Marshmallow Challenge. Each team was given the task of building the tallest, free-standing structure with the marshmallow on top using only one marshmallow, one yard of tape, one yard of string, 20 sticks of spaghetti and in only18 minutes. The reward for the winning team was to pick the activity for the next meeting.  The students also brain-stormed possible long-term projects for the club that would benefit either their school or community through the use of technology.  The club will meet every two weeks on Wednesdays.

Valley Southwoods
Peer Partner PE had its first field trip of the season, going horseback riding at Jester Park.  The class pairs special needs students with their general education classmates to experience new and exciting adventures as well as learning and participating in general fitness activities.  The students are selected through an interview process and work closely with our PE teachers to help create a great environment for all involved.

Homecoming was a great success at Valley Southwoods, with many students and staff participating in the wide variety of activities.  Some of the highlights during the week were the costumes for dress up days, staff and students in the homecoming parade and then the big dance on Saturday night at Hy-Vee Hall.

A reminder to parents and students that the Valley Southwoods parent-teacher conferences will be held on Wednesday (October 3) from 3-7 p.m. and Thursday (October 4) from 3:45-7:45 p.m. Dates and times are also listed in the district calendar and online at www.cimlcentral.org under WDM Valley and then under School Events-VSW in the View Schedules box.  Our conferences will be held in the main gym at VSW with all teachers in the same location.   We hope you can make it!

Valley High School
The Valley High School Cross Country team competed at one of the premier cross country competitions in the Midwest. One moment made a parent, Jesus Soto, proud of the boys from Valley.  After most of the competitors had long completed the varsity race, the last runner from another high school was finishing.  All of the other teams had moved out of the finish area to their respective camps, but as is customary at all races, the Valley runners (varisty, JV and freshmen/sophomore) formed a chute to congratulate all the competitors from the race.  They stayed until the last runner completed the race. “I just thought I would share this moment that I was lucky enough to capture with a photo,” said Soto. “There is some great character being taught here…great job by our coaches.”

Walnut Creek
Students at Walnut Creek participated in their first Service Learning day September 12.  Students volunteered at various locations around the city including Drake Head Start where they assembled literacy packets and the Trails at River Place in Des Moines where they helped beautify a section of the trail by removing 560 pounds of trash, three bikes and a shopping cart.  Students who stayed at school were also able to serve by making cards and assembling homeless kits for the Central Iowa Shelter and making fleece baby blankets for the House of Mercy.

Bowling Strikes an Interest with Caroline

Thanks to her teacher, Caroline Overstreet has found a newfound love of bowling and her mother is looking foward to taking Caroline and her sister, Lily, to the lanes this winter.

Special education teacher Jennifer Kopp finds much joy in seeing the progress her students at Westridge Elementary make in the classroom and out in the community. A recent bowling outing made her especially proud, seeing one of her fourth grade students with Autism enjoy a sport she previously found challenging to participating in.

Caroline Overstreet has been a student at Westridge since kindergarten. Kopp often takes her students on field trips into the community for them to practice the social skills they have been learning in class, but these field trips have been difficult for Caroline in the past.

“Caroline fares better in the community when she has a chance to become familiar with her environment,” explained her mom, Kristin Littlejohn. “The bowling outings have enabled her to expand her horizons and get comfortable with a new place that would typically be overwhelming to her.” (more…)

Valley High School Graduate Receives State AP Scholar Award

Scott Johnson, a 2012 graduate of Valley High School, has earned the College Board’s 2012 Iowa State Advanced Placement (AP) Scholar Award in recognition of his exceptional achievement on AP Exams taken in May. Johnson is currently a freshman at Harvard University.

The designation of State AP Scholar is granted to the one male and one female student in each U.S. state and the District of Columbia with scores of 3 or higher on the greatest number of AP exams, and then the highest average score (at least 3.5) on all AP exams taken.

Valley High School offers more than 20 Advanced Placement courses. AP provides students with the opportunity to earn college credit or advanced. Each exam is developed by a committee of college and university faculty and AP teachers. More than 3,800 colleges and universities annually receive AP scores.

Life in the WDMCS 10/8/12

Life in the WDMCS is a new weekly feature that will highlight what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Fairmeadows Elementary
Fairmeadows Elementary had eight students participate in the district’s annual Spanish Quiz Bowl at the Learning Resource Center. This quiz bowl is for students who speak Spanish at home, giving them a chance to celebrate their culture by playing authentic and academic games in Spanish.  They competed against teams from other schools around the district. The Fairmeadows teams were fourth graders Juan Jurado, Jonathan Rojas, Benjamin Díaz and James Beaty; and fifth graders Jimmy Alba, Neidy Penate-Estrada, Lily Garcia and Stephen Cruz.

 Hillside Elementary
Sixth graders at Hillside Elementary are working on pop profile self-portraits inspired by the artist Peter Max. The background of the drawings are filled with graphic lettering, symbols and patterns which represent each artist’s interests and personality. Students are mixing translucent watercolors for unique colors and areas of emphasis within original compositions. Pam Ballard has emailed the artist and will send photos of completed projects. The class is delighted to be working with a student teacher, Sarah Hutchinson, from Drake University. She is a practicing artist herself in the area of painting and printmaking. Hutchinson is introducing fourth grade classes to a narrative based perspective unit. The second grade classes have been printing colorful abstract compositions based upon the work of Wassily Kandinsky. Meanwhile, Hutchinson and the first grade classes have been creating patterned self-portraits inspired by the artist Gustav Klimt. (more…)

Metamorphosis at Stilwell Junior High

Students at Stilwell Junior High have been observing the metamorphosis cycle of the monarch butterfly. Eleven butterflies have been released in the school courtyard since early September, with four chrysalises remaining. Special thanks to Diane Harrigan for donating the monarch eggs and caterpillars to Luann Link’s seventh grade classes.

Life in the WDMCS 10/1/12

Life in the WDMCS is a new weekly feature that will highlight what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Elementary
Analyzing data…fun?  It is in one fifth grade classroom at Clive Elementary! Students used the Grab-It Gauge from the Everyday Mathematics curriculum and collected data on their reaction times.  Before starting the activity, they predicted which hand would have a quicker reaction time.  Then they experimented and recorded results in their journals. The class learned how to analyze data using median, mode and mean. They also found the class average reaction time for their left and right hands and concluded that this is a quick group of kids!  Fifth grade looks forward to using statistical landmarks again to help make sense of data in the world around us.

Crossroads Park Elementary
One of the units fourth graders at Crossroads Park Elementary study is the Midwest region of the United States.  As an enhancement of that unit, students went on a field trip to Jester Park for a day of Native American and pioneer experiences.  The event is called Life on the Prairie and is sponsored by Polk County Conservation.  During the field trip, students learned what life was like on the prairie years ago when tall grass covered 85 percent of Iowa’s landscape.  Through various games and hands-on experiences, fourth graders also learned about Iowa’s natural history and the Native American cultures who once lived here. (more…)