District News

Life in the WDMCS 12/15/2015

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
Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds kicked off Iowa’s Computer Science Education Week with a press conference held at Jordan Creek Elementary on Dec. 7. The conference was just one element of the district’s Hour of Code participation this year. Many WDMCS schools held Hour of Code events, and the district hosted an Hour of Code event at the Learning Resource Center on Dec. 10. Students and their families completed the one-hour coding tutorials provided on code.org. Information about furthering students’ learning and study of computer science was available from district curriculum directors.

Additional photos available on the district website and the district Flickr.

Crestview School of Inquiry
Fifth-grade learners at Crestview School of Inquiry competed to build the tallest free-standing tower using only spaghetti noodles, string, and tape. They also used a rubber band contraption to stack cups in a pyramid. These team-building activities help the learners to develop collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills, key components of the New Tech Network model. Learners reflected on the strategies used, teamwork, and the idea of failure after each activity.

Hillside Elementary
The Hillside Elementary School Girls Club prepared breakfast casseroles for the Salvation Army’s Feeding Program. They worked with volunteers to make 12 casseroles.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Jordan Creek Elementary dedicated Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 7-13, to the Hour of Code this year. Students of all grade levels took part in the Hour of Code by completing hour-long tutorials from code.org that teach the fundamentals of computer coding.

WDMCS Does Hour of Code

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Students with Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds kicked off Iowa’s Computer Science Education Week with a press conference held at Jordan Creek Elementary on Dec. 7.

Branstad officially proclaimed Dec. 7–13 Computer Science Education Week in Iowa at the conference. He was invited by Jordan Creek teacher Aaron Witt, whose students spoke at the conference and were able to meet Branstad and Reynolds.

The conference was just one element of the district’s Hour of Code participation this year. Many WDMCS schools held Hour of Code events, and the district hosted an Hour of Code event at the Learning Resource Center on Dec. 10. Students and their families completed the one-hour coding tutorials provided on code.org. Information about furthering students’ learning and study of computer science was available from district curriculum directors.

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Students and families code together at the district Hour of Code event.

The Hour of Code is organized by Code.org, “a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science….” Participants complete the provided tutorials during Computer Science Education Week. The tutorials are family-friendly and entertaining, featuring characters from Disney’s “Frozen,” “Star Wars,” and more.

Previous coding knowledge or experience is not needed, as the tutorials help students explore and learn coding fundamentals. The tutorials are available in 40 languages for participants across the globe. Bill Gates, Malala Yousafzai, President Barack Obama, and many other individuals and companies are Hour of Code supporters and participants.

Participation in the Hour of Code and Computer Science Education Week is part of continuous district efforts to increase students’ technology skills. The ability to succeed increasingly hinges on the understanding of technology.

Find out more at code.org, and by following #HourofCode on social media.

Life in the WDMCS 12/07/2015

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 Learning Academy
Third-grade learners at Clive Learning Academy have created a Clive Museum to preserve and maintain the school’s history. They have applied for jobs, worked on writing letters for donations, and created a questionnaire to send to former Clive staff members and students. They are still working on a school timeline, designing a website, and adding photographs with descriptions to the museum.

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The Clive Learning Academy school history museum.

Family Fun with “The Hour of Code”

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Join the WDMCS for “The Hour of Code,” a free, fun, family-friendly learning activity for students of all ages starting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines.

We live in a world surrounded by technology. We know that whatever field your children choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed will increasingly hinge on understanding how technology works.

Spend an hour with your children exploring and learning the fundamentals of computer coding with easy and entertaining self-guided tutorials featuring Disney’s “Frozen,” “Ice Age,” and more. No previous computer coding knowledge or experience is needed to enjoy this activity. Tutorials are available in 40 languages. Bring your own device or check out one provided by the district for this event. Free Wi-Fi available.

Along with the self-guided tutorials, information will be available about how your child can further his or her learning and study of computer science. Once students see what they create right before their eyes, they’re empowered to keep going.

Join us for #HourOfCode!

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Life in the WDMCS 11/30/2015

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

All sixth-grade students in the West Des Moines Community Schools came together to compete in the Sixth Annual Steve France Volleyball Tournament. Boys’ and girls’ teams filled the Valley High School Field House. Teams competed in rotation and encouraged each other on with banners, signs, and positive cheers.

Hillside Elementary

Hillside Elementary sixth-graders got to work with two teaching artists from the Pilobolus dance collective. The dancers worked with the students to teach them how to “harness the creative potential of groups” and to promote trust and respect in their relationships. Students got to try several dance techniques and perform them for their classmates.

Fourth-grade students at Hillside Elementary created animal puppets and used them to perform the annual Iktomi plays, which center on a Lakota trickster spirit. Hillside third-graders, families, and district staff were all invited to view the plays performed by each class on Nov. 24.

Weather Closings Reminder

Winter is in the air, with the forecast predicting snow tomorrow and a winter storm watch in effect for parts of Iowa Friday. Student safety is our top priority, and we want to remind district families about our weather closings procedure, including how decisions are made and how to stay informed.

In preparation for the winter months, please visit our Weather Closings page. Please stay safe and warm as we head into the week of Thanksgiving Break!

Life in the WDMCS 11/23/2015

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 School of Inquiry
Crestview School of Inquiry learners took a field trip to watch the Iowa Wild. The special game was part of the “Wild About Education” Day and attracted more than 8,000 students from central Iowa. The Crestview learners got to enjoy a professional hockey game and see demonstrations from the Science Center of Iowa and Character Counts.

Hillside Elementary

Kindergarten students and teachers made 36 pies on Nov. 23, in preparation for the 12th Annual Hillside Kindergarten Pie Feast. Community volunteers helped three classes of kindergartners make 36 pies to serve to their families tomorrow during the Pie Feast. Kindergarten students will also perform a short program for their families at the feast.

WDMCS Implements Project Lead The Way K–12

Three students in Gretchen Fackler's fourth-grade class at Hillside discuss plans for their glider.

Three students in Gretchen Fackler’s third-grade class at Hillside discuss plans for their glider.

The West Des Moines Community Schools district is one of the first in the state to implement Project Lead The Way (PLTW) elements throughout the district. The PLTW non-profit is the nation’s leading provider of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. Use of PLTW programs is being facilitated by Shane Scott, director of curriculum, and Annie Orsini, Professional Development/ Curriculum Facilitator for K-6 Mathematics and Science.

“My experience was that we might gather data or do a ‘cookbook’ lab,” said Scott, a former science teacher. “Today, it’s more about, ‘Now that you know these scientific principles, let’s use them in a way that improves the human experience.’”

Enter Project Lead The Way. Some of the organization’s innovative programs were first used at Valley High School in 2010. Valley Southwoods began using PLTW elements in 2013, and the junior high schools followed in 2014. The district is now implementing two new PLTW units in every K–5 science class, with the help of four grants from the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and two from the Bemis Company Foundation.

“Our students were already experiencing a lot of hands-on activities,” Orsini said. “With this, we’re just going deeper.”

The Project Lead The Way Engineering Design Process: Ask, Explore, Model, Evaluate, Explain.

The Project Lead The Way Engineering Design Process.

In the new units, students will use the PLTW engineering design process: ask, explore, model, evaluate, and explain. Instead of going one-way, the process allows students to improve their designs after testing, like adults collaborating on a real-world design.

“What is unique with this model of programming is there are multiple solutions,” Scott said. “Students test the solutions they’ve designed, and get to go back and make adjustments.”

Third-grade students at Hillside Elementary recently studied the “Science of Flight.” After building a knowledge base about force and Newton’s Laws of Motion, they were tasked with delivering supplies to a remote area hit by a natural disaster. Small groups collaborated to construct gilders to carry the supplies, represented by binder clips.

Hillside fourth-grade teacher Gretchen Fackler guides a reflective discussion about the gliders after the launches.

Hillside third-grade teacher Gretchen Fackler guides a reflective discussion about the gliders after the launches.

The goal was for the glider to go 10 feet forward when launched, with two clips attached. All groups were asked what they could do to improve their glider after launching. If the glider did not go 10 feet, their adjustments focused on meeting that goal. If it completed the journey, they worked on redesigning their gliders to carry more disaster-relief supplies.

Groups explained the ideas behind their designs after testing. They backed up their decisions with knowledge of force, motion, lift and drag, and the balance of weight. Hillside teacher Gretchen Fackler highlighted the fact that the two most successful gliders had dissimilar designs. Students also completed logs of their progress and different designs they tried. This reflection is a cornerstone of PLTW programming.

Fourth-grade students at Fairmeadows Elementary have questions about their VEX Robotics Design System kits.

Students in Amber Kuehler’s fourth-grade class have questions about their VEX Robotics Design System kits.

“Students have to argue from evidence,” Scott said. “They have to be persuasive. It is very interdisciplinary with the use of reading, writing, and mathematics.”

PLTW uses the evaluate and explain design process steps to reinforces the universal constructs: critical thinking, complex communication, creativity, collaboration, flexibility and adaptability, and productivity and accountability. These skills are not tied to a specific subject area, but considered “essential for 21st century success” by Iowa CORE and many employers.

Future employers may also be pleased to hear that PLTW includes robotics units. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts computer and mathematical occupations will grow by 18 percent between 2012 and 2022, compared to an average growth of 10.8 percent. With PLTW, students will begin studying robotics and simple machines using VEX Robotics Design System kits in third and fourth grades. Fifth-grade students explore true robotics, using an app and computer to program a hazardous waste removal robot.

One student group compares the parts they have to what they are seeing in the instructions on their iPad.

One student group compares the VEX kit parts they have to what they are seeing in the instructions on their iPad.

“The robot exposes students to that programming: telling a piece of technology what to do and how to perform a task,” Orsini said.

Gliders and robots may be more fun than microscope slides and workbooks, but PLTW programs are also rich with relevant science knowledge and skills. What sets Project Lead The Way apart from other programming is that it makes gaining that knowledge more authentic and engaging for students.

Tiger Cubs Preschool Registration

Tiger Cubs Preschool registration for the 2016-17 school year will open at 8 a.m. on Nov. 9, 2015.

2016-17 Calendar Set: August 24 Start Date

The School Board approved the 2016-17 school year calendar at its Nov. 9 meeting, setting Wednesday, Aug. 24 as the first day of school.