District News

Kindergarten Roundup 2015-16

For students who will be five years old on or before September 15, 2015.

Life in the WDMCS 3/30/15

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights 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

Clive Elementary students wrapped up the Jump Rope for Heart program, which partners with the American Heart Association to fight heart disease, the leading cause of death in Iowa and Polk County. In addition to learning about heart health and activities in Physical Education class, the students raised a record $8,175.

Students from Cari Rothfus’ class raised the most money as a class, coming up with $909,25. All donations fund Iowa programs focused on research, prevention, and nutrition. Clive Elementary will also be receiving new Phys. Ed. equipment to continue to bring heart-healthy education to students.

Crestview Elementary

Crestview Elementary students Nina Dorr, Lili McKinney, and Cael Elmore all participated in the Metro Honor Band at St. Francis of Assisi School on Jan. 14, 2015. Students also participated in the Solo and Ensemble Festival. Jacie Davenport, Oscar De Avila, Nina Dorr, Cael Elmore, Zoe Givant, Alexandra Hernandez Ponce, Eleanor Horak, Lil McKinney, Drew Peterson, Natalie Ulrich, and Tayana Williams all received the highest rating possible. Other participants were Roopa Chawla, Sara Feiz, Henry Funk, Chloe Grandberg, Vironika Khanna, Thomas King, Gavin Mitchell, Christian Redemann, Karina Sanchez, and Shipra Tayal.

The 2015 challenge to read the full Iowa Children’s Choice collection is drawing to a close as Iowa students vote for their favorite books and get ready for next year’s books. Crestview students who completed the challenge reported their progress to teachers. Fourth-grade students Raegan Coobs and Georgia Mitchell and sixth-grader Lili McKinney finished reading this year’s ICCA collection during Spring Break. Coobs liked “Ninth Ward” by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Mitchell’s favorite book was “Pie” by Sarah Weeks, and McKinney’s enjoyed “The Ghost of Graylock” by Dan Poblocki.

Artworks by Crestview Elementary students are currently decorating the school hallways. Students chose a poem they wrote or found during a poetry unit and created an illustration for the poem using materials like watercolors, pencils, and pastels. They then combined the poems and illustrations using the Word Foto graphic design application. Students discussed the results, comparing traditional art methods with the technology-influenced art.

Crossroads Elementary

Crossroads Park Elementary students completed their Biztown unit on Feb. 27. Students spent the day simulating a city, working jobs and owning businesses. To prepare, they practiced budgeting and writing checks, and completed an interview with a volunteer. Ava Neppl was elected Biztown mayor, and Logan Keller was elected as the District Attorney.

“Biztown was one of my favorite sixth-grade experiences,” Neppl said. “It taught us responsibility and how hard our parents work every day.” Many other students commented that they felt they understood their parents’ daily lives better after the experience.

Jordan Creek Elementary

Second-grade students at Jordan Creek Elementary have been studying Native American culture in social studies. They learned that different cultures were largely dictated by region and environment. To better understand that mindset, students created rock habitats using only found materials and natural resources like boxes, twigs, leaves, and scrap craft materials.

Q&A: Bird Named Outstanding Business Educator in Iowa

Valley High School business teacher and instructional coach Sarah Bird has been named Outstanding Business Educator in Iowa for 2014. Bird has been a business teacher at Valley High School since 2008 and has served as department chair. She was chosen for the award based on her influence, contributions to business education in Iowa, and affecting her students in an outstanding way.

Bird recently sat down with West Des Moines Community Schools School Community Relations department to talk about her award, what led her to teaching, and technology in the classroom.

Q&A: Sarah Bird

Q: How did you get your start in education?

A: I graduated from Northwest Missouri State with an accounting degree and went into public accounting. I worked for an accounting firm and traveled a ton. I didn’t care for the travel, and there weren’t a lot of women mentors, so I got an inkling to change career fields. I found a program at the University of Nebraska Omaha that would accept me if a school district hired me on to work part-time. I was hired at Belleview East High School in Nebraska, worked there part-time, and did my student teaching there.

Q: What different business classes have you taught?

A: Here at Valley, I have taught introduction to business, entrepreneurship and small business management, marketing and sales, and the work development course, digital communication tools, and the personal computer classes, both one and two

Sarah Bird 4

Q: How has new technology changed the way you teach business?

A: My first teaching assignment was a class called business keyboarding. It was meant to prepare students to be secretaries, and we don’t do much of that anymore. I said, ‘This curriculum needs to be revamped,’ and one of the classes we created was called digital communication tools. That class is to introduce students to web 2.0 tools and show them how you can use those tools to be efficient and productive in school or the workplace, and how they can connect online in a professional learning environment.

Q: Why do you integrate technology in the classroom?
A: My master’s (degree) is in secondary education with an emphasis in instructional technology, so I’ve always had a passion for trying to integrate technology as much as I can. Technology engages students, and I love technology, so it’s been fun to be able to teach that within the business curriculum.

One of the things that’s been fun about the digital communication tools class is the flat classroom project. It’s a global collaboration project designed by a teacher in Georgia and a teacher in Australia. Students…do a collaborative research project and a video (with students from around the world), but a portion of their video has to be outsourced. Latching onto projects like those really helps prepare students for our changing world and what’s to come, so the more experiences we can give students like that, the better.

Sarah Bird_3

Q: You recently took students to Valley West Mall. Can you tell us about that field trip?

A: I took students to Valley West Mall during our distribution unit in marketing and sales. We talk a lot about retailing and wholesaling, and one of the aspects of retailing is the displays that they have to draw customers in. Students looked at the different window displays and evaluated them, picking on up what they liked or didn’t like. Then they came back to Valley and designed a window display, either for a real business – some of them have even chosen their employer – or a fictional business.

Q: How did you react to being named the Iowa Business Teacher of the Year?

A: These awards are always nice, but I think it’s really recognition for Valley High School. I work with some outstanding professionals. That’s what’s been so exciting about being an instructional coach is, I always thought I did, but now, being in other peoples’ classrooms, (I see that) I work with some really, really good teachers. It’s the people around me who fire me up…and give me confidence to try new things. Things like this are recognition for our whole school because, if I didn’t work with the kind of support and guidance I have from administrators and teachers, I wouldn’t be able to do the kinds of things that can impact students.

Summer of Learning Registration is Open

Are you ready for a change of seasons? It’s time to look ahead to summer and all it has to offer! In addition to enjoying the warmer weather, you can plan some fun, enriching, and affordable learning opportunities for your children.

Life in the WDMCS 03/23/15

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

Crestview Elementary

Fifth-grade student Ellen Stetson and sixth-grade student Vironika Khanna finished reading all of the 2014-15 Iowa Children’s Choice Award books. Stetson’s favorite ICCA book was “Hiss-s-s-s!” by Eric A. Kimmel, and Vironika liked “The Ghost of Graylock” by Dan Poblocki. Both students are avid readers, and Vironika is now reading “The List” by Siobhan Vivian. Ellen has moved on to “The 13th Reality” series by James Dashner. Crestview Elementary and other schools throughout the WDMCS and Iowa will vote for their favorite ICCA book during the week of March 23. They will also be voting on their favorite Goldfinch Award book (for K-3 readers) and Iowa Teen Award book.

Crossroads Park Elementary

The Crossroads Park Elementary Cool CREWs (Crossroads Respects Everyone Welcome) groups tied more than 50 fleece blankets for young patients at Blank Children’s Hospital. Laura Nailor, Crossroads Park ESL teacher, helped organize the activity, which was led by the Crossroads Park student council. All students were encouraged to donate materials for the project.

Jordan Creek Elementary

Jordan Creek’s sixth-grade band students performed at the solo festival at Hillside Elementary in February. All nineteen Jordan Creek students received the highest 1+ rating. Abby Ehrle, Lauren Graff, Kaci Kopf and Aditi Tripathy perfomed on flute; Abby Feldman played oboe; Makayla Houston and Michele Zhang completed on clarinet; Veda Amalakar and Zachary Smith played percussion; Braden Edwards, Joshua Nichol, Bryan Stewart and Sophie Vratsinas performed on alto saxophone; Marshall White and Jeremy Rye played trumpet; Sam Harper played trombone; and Neal Marlett competed on euphonium.

Abby Feldman, Sam Harper and Jeremy Rye were also selected to participate in the Sixth-Grade Metro Honor Band at St. Francis of Assisi School on Feb. 10. About one hundred sixth-grade students from more than twelve metro schools were selected to rehearse together for the day before presenting an evening concert.

The sixth-grade band students will combine with Western Hills Elementary and Hillside Elementary band students to create the Southside Band for their last concert of the year on April 14. All sixth-grade band students also auditioned for the All-District Sixth-Grade Honor Band, which will begin rehearsals at the end of April.

The Jordan Creek Elementary fifth-grade band students presented a holiday “YouTube” concert for their December performance. Parents and all other fifth-grade Jordan Creek students attended the concert. The group is now preparing for a concert in May with the Western Hills fifth-grade band. Each student is working to complete “Band All-Stars” studies by the May concert.

Read Across America Week also took place March 2-6, and Jordan Creek celebrated with different themes each day. Many students dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2 for Twin Day and got to pose with the Cat in the Hat.

Kitchen Science for Spring Break

written by Annie Orsini

Boom! Splat! Splash! Ewww! A parent does not want to hear those sounds in their kitchen, unless there is a science experiment happening. There is so much science that can be done in your kitchen and backyard. Teacher leader Annie Orsini wanted to share a few of her family’s favorite science explorations with WDMCS for Spring Break. These activities are simple to set up, but jam-packed with learning.


Dissolving Peeps, from Lemon Lime Adventures

The setup for the dissolving peeps experiment. Photo from Lemon Lime Adventures.

The setup for the dissolving peeps experiment. Photo from Lemon Lime Adventures.

See what happens when you try to dissolve marshmallow Peeps in different liquids. Don’t tell your kids, but there is no way to dissolve a Peep. Select a few liquids to try, like water, soda, vinegar, laundry detergent, coffee, or milk. Make predictions about what will happen. You could observe the changes for twenty minutes or check back periodically throughout the day. Ask your child what they notice. Even though the Peeps won’t dissolve, your child may be able to draw some interesting conclusions. In our house, it sparked an interesting discussion about brushing your teeth!

Egg Drop Challenge, from Buggy and Buddy

An egg drop invention with a parachute to cushion the fall. Photo from Buggy and Buddy.

Challenge your child to create a structure that
will protect a raw egg from cracking. Use any materials
you want — yogurt containers, plastic bags, pipe
cleaners, sponges, and LEGO® bricks are all great ones to try!
Then test out the contraption by dropping the egg off
the front porch or deck or out a window with adult
supervision. Redesign based on what happens.
Encourage your child to keep trying. This is what
scientists and engineers do!



Oobleck Cornstarch Science, from Steve Spangler Science

Some fresh-made oobleck, dyed bright green.

Some fresh-made oobleck, dyed bright green. Photo from Steve Spangler Science.

Make oobleck. You just need water, cornstarch, and a large mixing bowl, plus a place to make a mess. Mix one cup of cornstarch with up to half a cup of water, adding the water slowly until it reaches the consistency of syrup. Add food coloring, if you wish.  Encourage your child to get their hands messy and play around with it. Observe what happens if you move slowly or try to hold the oobleck still and if you try to roll it up. Substances like oobleck do not have the standard properties of either solids or liquids; they are referred to as “non-Newtonian fluids.” Discuss whether oobleck is more like a solid or a liquid.



Keep in mind that scientists ask questions, make observations, carry out investigations, design solutions, and test their thinking. When exploring science with your child, you don’t need to be an expert. Listen and ask questions about your child’s thinking and model curiosity by wondering aloud. For example, on a walk, you might wonder about why it is cooler in the shade or why there are so many earthworms above ground. For more tips on sparking your child’s interest in science, check out this PBS website. Happy exploring!

Reminder: Last Day of School June 3, 2015

School was not in session Jan. 7 due to severe cold and low wind-chill values. The last day of school is now set for Wednesday, June 3, which will follow the early-out schedule.

Life in the WDMCS 03/09/15

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights 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

Third-grade art students at Clive Elementary are studying architecture and design in their weekly art classes with teacher Alecia Eggers. They then used their new knowledge to create projects like painted skylines and craft stick structures. “I’m making a blueprint for my own house,” third-grader Roland Clouse said. “It’s kind of hard, but I’m learning a lot about blueprints.”

Clive Elementary second-graders are studying movement in the popular balance and motion unit. Students are observing objects as they balance, spin, and roll, and comparing the movements. Families are also being encouraged to explore the concepts at home with their students using household objects and toys.

Crossroads Park Elementary

Crossroads Park Elementary students dressed as their favorite book and movie characters for spirit week. The school was visited by pirates, Harry Potter, Olivia the Pig, and Pete the Cat, among others.

Crestview Elementary

Music teacher Ruth Dorr is teaching Crestview Elementary students to use movement to learn about music. Playing games and dancing help them to internalize the music skills they are learning in class, and give them a great opportunity to expend energy indoors during the winter months. First-graders are using puppets to improvise singing conversations, playing circle games, and learning rhythmic dances. Older students are playing games that involve advanced rhythms, extended scales, and improvisation.

The Crestview Elementary Tiger Choir attended the Valley High School Sweetheart Show on Feb. 12. The fifth- and sixth-grade students got to see performances from the Ignition and Choralation Valley show choirs, as well as performances by soloists, small groups, and other vocal ensembles. The students were excited to see older siblings and Crestview alums on stage. They used their inspiration to fuel a rehearsal for their own show, “Jazz in the Spring,” which was presented to parents and friends on March 3.

Students from Kirsten Garland’s class and Adam Nidey’s class at Crestview Elementary participated in the “Read to Me” program. Students visited the residents at the Deerfield and Walnut Ridge retirement communities and read their favorite picture books to residents. They also talked to them about the residents’ school experiences, learning from and connecting with people from a different generation.

Jordan Creek Elementary

Jordan Creek Elementary fourth-graders celebrated the history of Mardi Gras in the southeastern U.S. Students learned about the cultural background and traditions of the Mardi Gras festival and celebrated by decorating masks and sampling the traditional King’s Cake.

Jordan Creek Elementary first-grader Lucas Lettington, second-grader Joshua Myers, and third-graders Sonja Henderson, and Anna Eastin were all recently honored as Kids of Character at the all-school Character Counts caring assembly. The students all received a Principal’s Award and got to invite a friend to a “lunch bunch” with Principal Graham Jones and Assistant Principal Brian Vaughan.

The Jordan Creek String Quartet performed at the Central Iowa VA Hospital on Wednesday, March 4. The quartet’s members are fourth-grader Claire Gu (violin), sixth-grader Dorothy Junginger (viola), fifth-grader Nick Meyer (cello), and WDMCS orchestra teacher Matt Meyer (violin).

Valley High School

Valley High School students in Carol Engelmann’s advanced speech class performed readers theater-style speaking for classes at Fairmeadows, Crossroads, and Clive elementary schools this spring. The stories taught students about being nice, making new friends, and dealing with bullying.


Family Reading Tips for Read Across America Day

March 2 is Read Across America Day in honor of beloved author Dr. Seuss’ birthday. March 4 is World Read Aloud Day. Even if you celebrate reading with your child every day, both days offer special opportunities to highlight the importance of reading. Here are some family reading tips, submitted by Julie DeMicco, Professional Development/Curriculum Facilitator for literacy and social studies with the West Des Moines Community Schools.

A collection of books that will to go to Pre-kindergarten families during conferences next week as a part of ongoing efforts to put books in the hands of children and their families at Crestview.

A collection of books that will to go to Pre-kindergarten families during conferences next week as a part of ongoing efforts to put books in the hands of children and their families at Crestview.

  • Create Lots of Opportunities to Read to and With Your Child!
    • Take your child to the library. Help him/her to get his/her own library card.
    • Bring along a book any time your child has to wait somewhere—doctor or dentist appointments, in the car, etc.
    • Read a recipe and cook something together.
    • Help your child to pick books that are the right reading level. Your child’s teacher can help with this.
    • Read bedtime stories! Make it special. Don’t work on reading at this time. Just enjoy each other and the books.
    • Read your child’s favorite books over and over. If your child likes books by a certain author, help him or her to find another.
Westridge Elementary held a school-wide Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) time today to honor Read Across America Day.

Westridge Elementary held a school-wide Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) time today to honor Read Across America Day.

  • Help Your Child Become a Happy, Confident Reader and Writer!
    • Create a comfortable reading space in your home.
    • Put books everywhere.
    • Create a toolbox or other space with drawing and writing materials for your child.
    • Let your child read and help write your grocery list.
    • Help your child write thank you cards.
    • Let your child see you reading.
    • Choose books that match your child’s likes and interests.
    • Tell family stories. Children love to hear stories about when their parents were little.
    • Be patient when your child is working on unknown words.
Several of our "Cat in the Hat" friends from Miss Amanda's preschool classroom at Jordan Creek Elementary.

Several of our “Cat in the Hat” friends from Miss Amanda’s preschool classroom at Jordan Creek Elementary.

  • Play with Letters, Words, and Sounds
    • Say silly songs, poems, rhymes, and tongue twisters together.
    • Read rhyming books.
    • Play sound games together, like Sound Detective. “Can you guess the word? m-o-p.”
    • Play flash card games with the new words your child is learning to read and write. This can help children automatically recognize and read words.
    • Use time spent in the car for word play.
Two students sharing a book during Westridge Elementary School's school-wide reading time.

Two students sharing a book during Westridge Elementary School’s school-wide reading time.

  • Check for Understanding
    • Ask questions before reading: “What do you think the book will be about?”
    • Ask questions while reading: “Where is the cat going?”
    • Make connections to your lives and to other books: “This book reminds me of that trip we took to Grandma’s house.” “This book reminds me of the other book about the bear that we read.”
    • Visualize the story: “Can you picture all the colors?”
    • Reflect on the book: “Did you like the book?”
  • Make reading the most attractive choice. Put books, magazines, and other reading materials everywhere. Limit screen time!
  • Make time for reading and writing activities EVERY DAY!


For more tips and strategies visit:

Life in the WDMCS 03/02/15

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


Jordan Creek Elementary’s third-graders and Clive Elementary’s third through fifth grade English language learners both took field trips to the Civic Center to see “Sofrito! A Latin Funk Experience” on Thursday, Feb. 19. “Sofrito!” combines storytelling, classic mambo, and new funk to tell stories and share music from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Bronx. The students got to experience Latin culture and imagery from “master storyteller” David Gonzalez and the Latin Legends Band. They enjoyed hearing the stories, dancing to the music, and practicing their Spanish.

Clive Elementary

Third grader students in Ms. Shell’s room are working in small groups to explore magnets and electricity during science. Students will learn what words like “repel” and “attract” mean as they use magnets to test mystery objects. The class will also complete experiments to test magnet strength, make a motor run using a circuit board, and create electromagnets. The students are enjoying being scientists and working in teams.

Clive Elementary sixth-graders successfully completed their Junior Achievement BizTown unit. Students learned about the economy through hands-on activities that required their participation in a simulated community for five weeks. They learned about financial literacy, community and economy, word readiness, job applications and interviews, and business management. The unit’s culminating activity was a day-long trip to Junior Achievement’s simulated city, BizTown. Students acted as business leaders and employees offering public and private goods and services. This valuable experience was made even more special this year, as the Valley High School boys basketball team assisted the students during the event.

Clive students celebrated their improved reading stamina at the end of the month. Clive students have been reading at home and at school each day, working to increase the amount of time they read. Reading teachers have talked to students and parents about the future academic benefits students can gain from reading every day. Students record their daily reading minutes on a special calendar and celebrate their success at the end of each month with refreshments and Swap It!, a popular reading card game.

Crestview Elementary

Second grade students at Crestview Elementary have been learning about the seven continents and five oceans. They have learned about landforms found on each continent and completed research projects on animals of their choice, which they presented to their classmates.

Jordan Creek Elementary

Jordan Creek Elementary’s Circle of Friends program had a strong turnout at the January Val Lanes bowling event. They also held a Lunch Bunch at school and had a gathering at the Urbandale Pool in February. Their March events will include visits to Pump It Up for third and fourth grade students and Sky Zone for fifth and sixth grade students.

First-graders at Jordan Creek have been singing snow songs, Valentine songs, and presidential songs. They also learned to move to music about exercising, penguins, and Groundhog Day. Students were also introduced to solfege through the Music Street stories. They will listen to “Peter and the Wolf” in March, and learn about and sing African songs.

The second grade music students have been ice skating in the music room while singing the ice skating song, using paper plate skates as indoor skates. They enjoyed singing a Valentine song to their classroom teachers, played non-pitched percussion instruments, and reviewed different types of music notes. They will next learn about the rondo form.

The third grade musicians experienced a lesson about program music, part of the West Des Moines Community Schools music curriculum. They listened to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and learned the different characters’ themes, such as the bassoon melody for the brooms. They got to act out the parts after becoming more familiar with the piece.

Westridge Elementary

Kindergarten students at Westridge Elementary enjoyed playing outside in the snow each day. They kept busy making snow angels and snowmen and building forts and castles. They have worked together and synergized well to enjoy the winter but are ready for the snow to melt and bring spring.

Valley High School

The International Journal of Case Reports and Images (IJCRI) accepted Valley student Ojas Pradhan’s manuscript, “Treatment of renal fibromuscular dysplasia in an adolescent male: A case report” for publication. IJCRI “is an international, peer reviewed, monthly, open access, online journal, publishing high-quality, peer reviewed articles in all areas of basic medical sciences and clinical specialties.” The journal’s goal is publishing new information and providing a platform for sharing unique cases to increase scientific understanding.