District News

Life in the WDMCS 5/26/15

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.

District          

West Des Moines Community Schools sixth-grade students took part in the district’s annual Dick Bittner Sixth-Grade Memorial Track Meet on Tuesday, May 19. The meet is the culmination of the physical education unit and sponsored by the WDMCS physical education staff. Events included the 10-, 200- and 800-meter races, the 4×200 relay, the sprint medley, the 4×70 shuttle run and the 4×100 relay. Ribbons were awarded for the top three places in each individual running heat and relay event and in each flight of field events.

The West Des Moines Community School District proudly announces that 713 students graduated from the district this year. Valley High School graduated 648 seniors, plus six Certificates of Attendance (foreign exchange students). The Valley Class of 2015 earned many awards, including the following:

  • 159 students earned Silver Cord Awards
  • 82 students took five or more AP exams
  • 63 students became AP Scholars
  • 44 students joined the National Honor Society
  • 21 students were part of Student Government
  • 15 students earned the Presidential Volunteer Award
  • 11 students will graduate with honors
  • 11 students were National Merit Finalists

Walnut Creek Campus will graduate a total of 59 students this year; 49 participated in commencement on Thursday, May 21. Thirty-three students graduated with a traditional diploma, 14 graduated with a core diploma, one received a diploma from Des Moines Area Community College, and one received a HiSET high school diploma equivalency.

Clive Elementary

Clive Elementary first-graders visited Jester Park as part of their “Pebble, Sand and Silt” unit in science on Monday, May 1. Students talked with a Polk County Conservationist about the three types of rocks and how they are formed, then enjoyed a nature scavenger hunt. They searched for and located things like spiders, bird nests and animal tracks. The highlight of the trip was the shoreline hike along the Des Moines River, as they got to identify the rocks they found with their new knowledge.

Clive Elementary sixth-grader Jordan Thomas won first place in the girl’s discus event at the Dick Bittner Sixth-Grade Memorial Track Meet. Her throw reached 63-8 (63 feet 8 inches). She credited her success to a lot of practice in physical education class and doing stretches at home.

“I felt very proud when they called my name,” she said.

Jordan Creek Elementary

Fourth-grade students from Jordan Creek Elementary enjoyed a bike ride on the Neil Smith Bike Trail on May 15. Students spent the day biking from Birdland Marina to the Cottonwood Recreation Area at Saylorville Lake. The bike ride was used to teach students about fitness, bike safety, healthy habits and Iowa bike trails. The student cyclists watched for Iowa wildlife, like beavers, squirrels, geese and deer; they saw one snake when it crossed the trail in front of them. Parents also participated in the bike ride. Special thanks to Forrest Ridgway, Bike World owner, for helping to make the ride a success.

Valley High School

Seventy-six students were inducted into the Tiger Chapter of the National Honor Society this year. The inductees are:

Class of 2015 Inductees: Jake Rodgers and Sophia Seltz

Class of 2016 Inductees: Keara Anonson, Emma Avdic, Abbey Bierma, Andrew Bohn, Thomas Bonus, Joseph Brennan, Alex Bruinekool, Victoria Cassady, Jacquelyne Chu, Molly Cline, Emma Cox, Brett Donahe, Pete Economos, Dawson Edwards, Ethan Eiler, Haley Gion, Zachary Graves, Melissa Grinvalds, Eric Henning, Grant Hillenbrand, Matthew Hrdlicka, Alexander Johnson, Carly Johnson, Lanee Jung, Robert Knudsen, Alexa Kort, Colin Lane, Paige Marshall, Quinn Nolin, Nicole Nucaro, Jason Nye, Jack Ohringer, John Rafferty, Katherine J. Rauch, Rhea Reddy, Jessa Rhea, Alexia Sanchez-Garcia, Annie Schacht, Turner Scott, Sydney Sheffield, Carl Skoog, Claudia Stewart, Sarah Thompson, Samuel Throm, Maren Tuttle, Trevor Tyma, Ramya Vemulapalli, Chad Wang, Elizabeth Watson, Jake Wheeler and Benjamin Wiese

Class of 2017 Inductees: Rachel Anfinson, Hanna Bush, Emily Carroll, Cayden Codel, Emma Degen, Anne Marie Derouin, Austin Fest, Timothy J. Foley, Arjun Ganga, Trent Gilbert, Emma Madden, John Mahoney, Abby McCullough, Evan McKinney, Caitlin Mills, Gabriel Mintzer, Guowei Qi, Lizbeth Salinas-Reyes, Rachel Snodgrass, Emily Steimel, Jessica Studer, Sarah Turri and Nathan Yencer

The students were inducted on May 20, 2015, at Valley High School’s 2015 Honors Evening.

To be inducted into the Tiger Chapter of the National Honor Society (NHS), students must maintain a minimum 3.5 grade point average, but no student is inducted based solely on academics. The NHS strives to recognize outstanding high school students who have demonstrated excellence in academics, leadership, service or citizenship and character. NHS membership is one of the highest honors that can be awarded to high school students.

 

Life in the WDMCS 5/18/15

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.

District

West Des Moines Community Schools sixth-grade students are preparing for the Dick Bittner Sixth-Grade Memorial Track Meet, to take place Tuesday, May 19, at the Valley High School track. They are practicing for individual running and relay events, the long jump, discus, shot put and javelin field events. Twenty-seven sixth-grade classes will compete against each other at the annual meet.

Valley Southwoods

Forty-eight Valley Southwoods Freshman High School students were recognized at the Tigers of the Month Breakfast on Friday, May 15. Six students are recognized as Tigers of the Month each month, then all the students are recognized at the breakfast ceremony, attended by their parents. Students are selected by administrators after being nominated by teachers. The award is given to students who demonstrate a good attitude, compassion, empathy, courage, loyalty, tolerance, self-control, respect and gratitude. Tim Miller, Valley High School principal, was a guest speaker at the ceremony.

All the 2015 Valley Southwoods Freshman High School Tigers of the Month. Photo credit: VSW principal Mitch Kuhnert.

All the 2015 Valley Southwoods Freshman High School Tigers of the Month. Photo credit: VSW principal Mitch Kuhnert.

WDMCS Graduation and Commencement

Graduation-Hat

The West Des Moines Community School District proudly announces that 713 students will graduate from the district this year. Valley High School will graduate 648 seniors, plus 6 Certificates of Attendance (foreign exchange students). The Valley Class of 2015 earned many awards, including the following:

  • 159 students earned Silver Cord Awards
  • 82 students took five or more AP exams
  • 63 students became AP Scholars
  • 44 students joined the National Honor Society
  • 21 students were part of Student Government
  • 15 students earned the Presidential Volunteer Award
  • 11 students will graduate with honors
  • 11 students were National Merit Finalists

Walnut Creek Campus will graduate 59 students; 49 are participating in commencement. Thirty-three students will graduate with a traditional diploma, 14 will graduate with a core diploma, one will receive a diploma from Des Moines Area Community College, and one will receive a HiSET high school diploma equivalency.

Walnut Creek Campus Commencement
Thursday, May 21, at 7 p.m.
Valley Performing Arts Center (3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines)

Valley High School Commencement
Sunday, May 24, at 1 p.m.
Drake Knapp Center (2601 Forest Ave., Des Moines)
This event also has a free live stream available online.

Murphy Earns Iowa World Language Association Award

West Des Moines Community Schools Spanish teacher Amy Murphy was named the Outstanding Elementary Educator of the Year by the Iowa World Language Association (IWLA). The award is given to the teacher who demonstrates the most exemplary work in the classroom and provides outstanding service to the profession in the state of Iowa. Murphy was chosen for the award based on her teaching, professional growth, and leadership experiences.

Murphy starts her class by assigning stations.

Murphy starts her class by checking student work.

Murphy teaches grades 1-6 at Fairmeadows and Western Hills elementary schools, going into classrooms twice each week. She has been teaching with the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) for eight years and has also taught at Clive and Crossroads elementaries. She is the World Languages department chair for the WDMCS, and is a member of the district’s Foreign Language in Elementary Schools (FLES) team.

Murphy teaches her classes almost entirely in Spanish. She aims to align the Spanish curriculum with what students are learning in their main classroom curriculum as well, to provide context for the Spanish lessons. The 30-minute lessons focus on language skills, but also on Spanish culture.

Two students play a matching game that enforces Spanish skills.

Two students play a matching game that enforces Spanish skills.

“I love the fast pace and being able to go into all the classrooms,” Murphy said. “I really enjoy teaching the culture to them because I feel like that’s really opening their eyes and teaching them new things.”

Murphy is also an advocate of technology in the classroom. As a FLES team member, Murphy helped to lead a study group on implementing iPads in the classroom. Each teacher has five to six iPads to use in the classroom, and Murphy uses hers as one of four centers students rotate through.

“I try to keep up with the latest technology,” she said. “I’m in the classroom for such a short time, so I try to grab their attention with something.”

One student practices vocabulary on the iPad.

One student practices vocabulary on the iPad.

Students use apps and games that help to enforce Spanish skills like vocabulary and comprehension. A current student favorite is iFunFace, which they use to practice describing themselves in Spanish. Murphy said the app is also a good way to demonstrate classroom learning to parents, as students can send pictures to their families.

Murphy started her own Spanish journey with a different language: French. She got a basic introduction to French in first grade, then took an exploratory Spanish course in sixth grade. She continued to takeSpanish  in high school and college. As a teacher, Murphy’s involvement in the district and statewide FLES led Tammy Dann, a fellow WDMCS Spanish teacher and mentor to Murphy, to nominate her for the IWLA award.

Murphy points out a potential solution to some students at the computers.

Murphy points out a potential solution to some students at the computers.

“(Amy) has an excellent understanding of the best strategies to use to teach early language learners,” Dann said in her nomination letter. “She works hard to stay in the target language and uses a variety of tools and strategies to do this. Amy is patient and kind, creating an environment in her classroom where every child can feel safe and be successful.”

Murphy was honored and surprised by the award, and sees it as motivation to continue working with her students and searching out new and better teaching strategies. She also appreciates the growing importance of knowing more than one language in the current job market and global economy.

“I’m always excited for my job because so few districts have this opportunity for their kids,” she said.  “It’s exciting to give them a step up.”

Life in the WDMCS 5/11/15

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

Fourth grade students at Clive Elementary are working to find lines of symmetry and use geometrical vocabulary in math.  Students had the opportunity to play games using mirrors to manipulate objects, find lines of reflection, and record their observations.  Partner and small group work helps build students’ understanding of how to work together towards a common goal and they enjoy learning from one another in the process.

Crestview Elementary

Crestview orchestra students performed in the Fifth-Grade Orchestra Festival on Tuesday, May 5. They performed a new piece, “Time Machine,” which was commissioned for the concert from composer Richard Meyer. Meyer was also a guest conductor at the festival. Sixth-grade orchestra students also had their spring concert on May 5, playing pieces including “La Rejouissance,” “Sahara Crossing,” and a medley of pieces from “The Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack.

Jordan Creek Elementary

The second grade students at Jordan Creek Elementary are studying plants during their science this month.  They became familiar with the structure and functions of flowering plants and learned how to find the root, stem, leaf, bud, flower and the seed of a plant.  They enjoyed comparing the changes that take place over time with different kinds of plants.  The students developed a curiosity and interest in plants as living things during this fun science unit.

Fifth- and sixth-grade students at Jordan Creek Elementary competed in a Science Fair on May 8. The students who chose to participate developed and tested hypotheses in two categories: invention or investigation. They then presented their project and findings to a panel of teachers and at a science fair open to the public. Fifth-grader Carson Copple won the “Top of Category” award in invention for the robot he designed, and fifth-grader J.D. Ramsey won the “Top of Category” award for his investigation into how different substances affect teeth. Copple took first place in the fair overall. Other projects were as varied as a Rube-Goldberg machine, investigating hydraulics, and testing stain removers or different strategies in basketball.

Valley High School

The Valley High School Design Studio class presented its end-of-year fashion show on May 6 in the Valley Performing Arts Center. The 11 students designed lines that were modeled by their fellow students. The design students also modeled designs they had upcycled from formal gowns donated by a local retailer. Each design studio student was featured in a video before their line discussing the inspiration behind their collection and what they learned from the experience.

 

High School – Summer School Classes

Walnut Creek Campus is proud to offer summer school classes for the West Des Moines Community School district. To assist with course completion, we provide quality teachers, individualized attention, smaller class sizes, and flexible pacing within our school calendar.

Life in the WDMCS 5/4/15

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.

District

The WDMCS Sixth-Grade All-District Orchestra completed its annual tour on Tuesday, April 28. The group played concerts at four different schools. The orchestra is made up of sixth-grade string students from all the elementary schools in the district and rehearses Wednesday mornings before school.

Crestview Elementary

Seven Crestview Elementary sixth-grade students earned seats in the 2015 WDMCS Sixth-Grade Honor Orchestra. This is the highest honor sixth-grade students can achieve in the elementary orchestra program. The Crestview Honor Orchestra members were violinists Shivani Annapureddy, Oscar DeAvilla and Kassandra Vite; violists Dasha Gaydayenko and Keyah VanZee; and cellists Noah Mack and Eliza Sheffield.

Adriana Cao, Madeline DoBesh and Kaylyn Le, all Crestview Elementary fifth-graders, read all 15 of the 2014-15 Iowa Teen Book titles. The students decided to complete the lists as a challenge after finishing the 23 Iowa Children’s Choice book list. The students agreed that “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs and “The Raft” by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen were their favorite Iowa Teen Book choices.

Fairmeadows Elementary

Fairmeadows Elementary hosted a Cultural Arts Day on Friday, May 1. Students rotated between classroom work and stations led by cultural ambassadors. The program was coordinated by CultureALL, a Des Moines non-profit that provides interactive experiences that help Iowans learn about other cultures. The stations at Fairmeadows included Irish folk dancing, the art of henna, Japanese fish printing, Jordanian sand art and West African drumming.

Stilwell Junior High

Stilwell Junior High students and staff participated in Go the Distance Day on Friday, May 1. The day was part of the Live Healthy Iowa Kids program, part of the Iowa Sports Foundation. Stilwell students and staff started their Go the Distance Day by rotating between six stations: dynamic stretching, Insanity, line dancing, power yoga, tae kwon do, and 10-second circuits. Each station was led by a different staff member.

Valley High School

Valley High School’s Performing Arts Department presented the classic “The Wizard of Oz” as its spring musical May 1-3. The musical, directed by Stacy Hansen, was the first Valley High School musical to be performed in the new Performing Arts Center. Valley High School and Valley Southwoods Freshman High School students and staff made up the cast, crew and musicians. Fourth-grade students from the majority of the district elementary schools were also cast as munchkins. More information and the full list of cast and crew members can be found here: http://www.wdmcs.org/news/valley-high-schools-the-wizard-of-oz-features-students-from-across-the-district/.

Top Tips for Summer Planning

Keeping summertime educational is an important part of preventing summer learning loss, or summer slide. Students who do not continue to learn during the summer often return to school a full year behind where they were at the end of the school year in June.

Keeping summer fun is also important. For many families, summer is a time for the whole family to be together, to travel and take on activities it is not possible to participate in during the school year.

The key to planning a summer that is fun and educational is balancing the two. Learning during the summer does not have to follow the same format as learning in the classroom. Here are some tips for parents on planning their own summer of learning:

  • Start planning early.
    • It is never too early to start planning for summer learning. Keep track of what your child is learning in class, so you know which skills you will want to review. If you can, talk to your child’s teacher for next year about what you can do to keep them up to speed during the summer. Register for classes early, so your student will be able to attend the programs they need or are interested in..
  • Keep learning fun.
    • Summer is an ideal time to mix up the format of learning for students. Try different experiments — especially ones that rely on good weather — to boost science skills; let kids help in the kitchen or at the store to keep math skills from getting rusty. Word games for the family can keep vocabulary skills high for the next year. Tailor activities around each students’ interests to get their attention.
  • Make time for reading.
    • One of the more significant areas of summer learning loss is reading. Make time to read each day to keep reading stamina up for the school year. Fun ways to keep kids interested in books during the summer are enrolling in library programs, or starting a family program.
  • Utilize family travel.
    • Many families travel during the summer, so tie your trips into learning. Learn about the places you visit, talk about geography and wildlife in the area, do travel-themed exercises, and have students write about their experiences.

(Sources: rand.org, U.S. Dept. of Ed. blog)