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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Creative Experiences Enhance Learning

Ninja turtles, LEGO’s and Hot Wheels were the toys of choice for my sons when they were small.  They built buildings, castles, airplanes and mixed the toys for amazing adventures!  This week I had an opportunity to spend time with Deleena, a four-year-old girl who has an incredible imagination and played with a set of large fairy themed building blocks.  Creatively, all of the building blocks became different types of food that filled the “order” she took from us at her “restaurant.”  During the time I spent with Deleena I laughed and learned how to drink magic milk shake tea from a cup, which was really part of the pastel colored building block set.  Of course, it was important to keep only my pinkie finger up at just the right angle, say “Cheers,” and drink somewhat loudly followed by a chorus of “m-m-m.”

As I left Deleena, she hugged me good-bye and told me to come back to the restaurant “tomorrow.”  The experience left me thankful for the Columbia School District teachers who incorporate the natural imagination and creativity of our children and expand it as they provide learning experiences in the classroom.  From the time our children are born they begin creating scenarios with items and situations in their surroundings.  Beginning with our wonderful preschool teachers right up through our senior high school teachers they work to connect real-life experiences through project based learning, hands-on activities and assignments created to extend their understanding of historical, as well as today’s society. 

Just walking around the Columbia School District so many examples of great learning activities come to mind.  Our high school art program allows students to use their imagination and skill to create amazing pieces of artistic expression.  The Columbia Central musical last weekend took basic abilities of our students and showcased them on the stage.  The Columbia Middle School video news curriculum has encouraged students to break out of their shell and experience producing a student news program.  At Columbia Elementary School teachers continually use their creativity combined with the imagination of their students to make learning come alive. 

As we continue to expand our students’ learning opportunities we are working to include courses and experiences which will encourage students like Deleena to benefit by gaining knowledge and reaching new heights in understanding of the world around them.  If you are interested in learning more about the great programs at Columbia School District please email me at pam.campbell@myeagles.org or call me at 517.592.6641.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Artistry of Education


Earlier this week I was driving to a meeting and the further I drove, the brighter the sky became.  As I proceeded down the winding road I was in awe as the ever brightening sky turned into a rainbow of colors.  Formerly puffy gray clouds suddenly became vivid pink and blue puffs that looked like cotton candy and right in the center of the horizon a powerful pinkish orange cylinder of light cut through the blue gray sky.  The unfolding artistry of color was so amazing that I had to take a picture!  At the next crossroad I pulled off and snapped a photo.  After driving another sixty seconds or so, the scene was even more striking, so I turned off and snapped a few more pictures.   
 
As I continued towards the meeting I wondered what would happen next and then, up popped the sun and the sky was blazing with color!  I was so thankful that I had the privilege of seeing this amazing display of color and thought how sad it would have been if I had waited another ten minutes to leave for my meeting and had missed this bit of artistry.   

In much the same way as I could have missed this display had I been late, we often have students who are running late and miss the beginning of the day and some of the great instruction from their teachers.  The students who arrive on time have additional bonding and learning opportunities that enhance and enlighten their lives.  In addition, there is another group of students who in my analogy would be people who we may consider to have taken a wrong turn or a detour.  These students include children who are frequently absent and therefore have big “potholes” in their road to an education.  While students who are absent have opportunities to make up their homework, they often miss out on the enhancements that make their education come alive and be even more enjoyable, much like the pleasure I felt watching the artistry unfold across the sky.  

Columbia Schools encourages our students to take the right road and get to school on time every day.  We provide extra support in the form of afterschool programs at Columbia Middle and Elementary Schools and special tutoring time at Columbia Central High School.  Many community volunteers give time to assist our elementary students through our Buddy Reading program.  Our students who struggle during their high school years have the opportunity gain a fresh perspective and catch up on their credits through our Options High School program.

If you are interested in learning more about how Columbia School District can help you and your child as you travel on the road to successful learning please email me at pam.campbell@myeagles.org or call 517-592-6641.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Ice Box

Recently I was watching a program about antiques. The individuals on the program discovered antique ice boxes which had been stored for years in an old barn out in the country. The program brought back memories of stories my grandfather told me. He talked about the fact that until 1936 his small town had no electricity so they had an ice box to keep their food cool. In order to keep their ice box stocked with ice, they also had an ice shed with big front doors filled with sawdust for insulation. When the shed needed to be refilled with ice, my grandfather and some of his colleagues would go out to the local reservoir during the winter and saw out ice squares. The men then transported the ice back to the ice shed and packed it in tightly alternating ice and sawdust, layer upon layer. My grandfather said that when they needed ice for the ice box he would go to the shed and cut and chip the ice block until it was the perfect size to fit into the ice box.

Thinking about the amount of effort my grandfather went through to keep food cold in his ice box, it occurred to me that not only has refrigeration changed, so has education. Our students in Columbia Schools have opportunities that children in the past could have never dreamed about. Education now includes learning activities on computers and new ways of attacking math problems. Early elementary children are learning how to play a guitar in music class and high school students participate in project based learning to solve engineering problems.

One of the things that has changed in education is that our institutions are valued based upon test scores. Recently, we received test scores for our high school students who took the PLAN test. Our students scored very well and earned some of the top scores in the state and were well above the national average. Our teachers work diligently to decipher test scores and to compare the elements on tests to their curriculum. Just this week our District School Improvement Team met and discussed the importance of using data and feedback from our test results to help improve the learning activities we offer to our students.

 So the next time you reach into your refrigerator to get an ice cube or a cold glass of milk, think about not only how much our refrigeration systems have changed, but how much education has changed and how much more our children are learning each day under the guidance of our wonderful teaching staff!

If you are interested in learning more about Columbia Schools, please email me at Pamela.campbell@myeagles.org or call me at 5175926641.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Changing Value Of A Tooth

Apparently yesterday was National Tooth Fairy Day.  I found it interesting that the radio station I was listening to spent a great deal of time talking about the Tooth Fairy.  They indicated that the average amount children receive for a tooth is $2.42 and that the first tooth a child looses has an average value of $3.50.  The radio hosts took input from callers and found that some of the parents gave their children $20 per tooth!  When I was a child I only received a dime and sometimes it took days for the Tooth Fairy to make an appearance!  One older lady said she needed money and wondered how she could get the Tooth Fairy to drop by her house, since she had lost some of her teeth. 

All of the talk about the Tooth Fairy eventually turned to reiterate what researchers had apparently said about the increase in money that children were receiving from the Tooth Fairy.  The radio personalities said that the average increase of the value of a tooth by ten or twenty cents over the past year meant that our economy was improving.  It was about then that I wondered why I was listening to this discussion, but since I found it mildly amusing, I continued listening. 

It eventually occurred to me that sometimes we view our child’s education through the same lens we view the Tooth Fairy discussion.  My impression of the Tooth Fairy still had children receiving the dime I got from my parents.  Many times we think that our children are learning the same things we were taught when we were their age.  However, if you ask an early elementary teacher who has been teaching for a while they will tell you that our students are markedly more advanced than they were even ten years ago. 

Our kindergartners learn to read!  When I went to kindergarten my teacher was happy if we could all tie our shoes and say our alphabet.  Not only do our kindergartners read, but they have an opportunity to learn basic math facts and use strategies that we learned in Pre-Algebra.  The students in kindergarten even have the opportunity to use computers and many of them seem to know more than most adults do. 

As our students continue to increase their ability to learn new and exciting things under the direction of nurturing and caring teachers, we as parents have the opportunity to support their learning activities.  Our schools hold science fairs, math nights and reading activities.  Next time you are wondering what you can do to reinforce your child’s learning, check out the online school newsletters.  There are plenty of activities offered in partnership for parents and grandparents as we work to provide a great education for your child.  If you have questions regarding this article, please email me at pam.campbell@myeagles.org or give me a call at 5175926641.