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Monday, October 27, 2014

Amazing Learning Opportunities!

On the first day of preschool this year, one of our new four-year-olds told his teacher that, “This is the best day of my whole life!”  Education can be magical, and for this young man, school opened an incredible learning portal.  As students grow and mature they can still feel excited about learning opportunities. Last Saturday some students from U of M came and worked with twenty of our middle and high school students opening up the world of exploration and development of space.  This group, called Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), is a worldwide student run organization whose mission is to enable progress in space exploration.  The occasion gave our students an opportunity to have a very amazing day of learning.

On Saturday some of our students presented information from their forensic science course to the Jackson County School Boards Association.  Similarly to the exuberance of the four-year-old, the students were excited to present the things they have been learning.  In cooperation with the Columbia Fire Department, the students had set up crime scenes and then challenged their peers to figure out the solution.  The students presented the scenarios and the solutions, and these educational leaders were also excited about forensic science.  This class gives students an opportunity to use the basic biology, anatomy and chemistry foundational elements in a practical hands-on real-world setting.  Columbia School District is dedicated to provide our students with a solid foundation for a bright future.

At Columbia Middle School we have students who are excited about learning the fundamentals of engineering.  They are learning while they are using hands-on activities and investigation techniques to complete projects and solve assigned tasks.  Some of the engineering students are also part of the two robotics teams at Columbia Middle School.  The students not only learn about engineering, they also use collaborative team based strategies to learn about robotics and how to program a robot.

These are just a few of Columbia School District’s courses that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  Our students have an opportunity to learn STEM through inquiry and project based educational activities.  These activities are helping all of our students to be enthusiastic about learning, just like our new preschool four-year-old student.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District and our STEM activities, please call me or email me at

Monday, October 20, 2014

Building Your Child's Critical Thinking Skills

Each week when I receive the newspaper there are advertisements for appliances from Sears, Lowes, Home Depot, ABC and other stores.  They advertise many models of refrigerators; there are side-by-side with or without ice in the door, French Door refrigerators with one or two drawers and regular basic no-frills one door refrigerators.  This week I looked at a low cost refrigerator that was advertised for $367, while another more expensive model was on sale at $2898.  Although all of the refrigerators keep our food cold, some have more options than others.  As you shop for a refrigerator, you would actively collect data and choices for your comparison.   As you compare and contrast the prices and options for the refrigerators, you would use the skill of critical thinking. 

In each classroom in the Columbia School District, students use critical thinking in their daily assignments.  Critical thinking is an important skill that will help our students be successful in all of their school subjects.  Let me offer some examples for you to work with your child on his or her critical thinking skills.

The first example is: Finding similarities in our daily lives.  Take a look around a room and find two things that do not seem to have anything in common.  You may say a lamp and couch.  Challenge your child to use his critical thinking skills to find a minimum of one thing that is similar in the lamp and the couch.  She may tell you that they both sit on the floor or that the lamp shade has a pattern with material and so does the couch.  You may repeat this in other rooms in your house or in outdoor settings.

A second try at increasing your child’s proficiency of their critical thinking skills is to play games.  You may choose word games to play in the car.  You may mix and match comparing and contrasting words like; river is to ocean like plant is to what?  You might choose games that your child can look ahead to predict the outcome like checkers or chess.  You may ask them, if you move there, then I might move here and where would you move next?

Finally, you may help your child and his or her friends make up a story or rewrite one they already know.  To write a new story together, have one of them begin something like, “I was walking in the woods one day and”, then the next person takes over, and each person puts in a sentence as they write their new story.  You may tell them what the last sentence should be, or let them write in a freestyle way.  Not only will they end up with an intriguing story, they will have fun!  When using their critical thinking skills to rewrite a story, you could choose a traditional children’s story like “Little Red Riding Hood” or one of my favorite, “Horton Hears A Who.” You could have them think about writing their story from the wolf’s point of view in “Little Red Riding Hood” or describe what happens to Horton or the Who in the next chapter.

Just like we use critical thinking in our daily lives to make large purchases like a refrigerator, our children use critical thinking skills to make decisions and complete their school work.  Your encouragement of their ability to think critically and assist them as they practice these skills, will help to make them more successful students.

If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District or our programs, please email me at or call me at 5175926641.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Celebrating Homecoming at Columbia!

It is that time of year again: Homecoming!  Homecoming is a special time of year where our alumni families gather with current students to cheer Columbia on to Victory over their foe!  It is enjoyable to see friends and family and watch the students take part in the week’s activities, ride in the parade and compete in sports.

The Columbia School District celebrates Homecoming at all levels. The Student Councils at all of our schools independently work with their advisors to specify what they will wear on which day.  This gives the students an opportunity to take on a leadership role at their school.  For the youngest students at Columbia Elementary School they began the week by dressing up in gear from their favorite sports team, and culminated the week with our favorite colors: Blue & Gold Day! 

Columbia Middle School students celebrate Homecoming in a somewhat more flashy way beginning with Clash Day, where students wear clothes that are mismatched and then ending with Blue & Gold Day.  This year Columbia Middle School they have added a new day: Scrabble Day.  During the day they will collaborate with each other to create academic specific words or phrases as classes.  The students may spell out robotics in their engineering classroom, exponent in math class or genetics in biology.

Sometimes our students assign a deeper meaning to their daily choices: In support of our troops abroad, the Columbia Central High School student wore red, white and blue for Monday’s America Day and in support of finding a cure for Breast Cancer, Tuesday at CCHS was a Pink Out, where everyone wore pink.

Many of the activities during Homecoming Week focus on bonding our students and staff members together.  There are competitions between classes at CCHS and sometimes the teachers play the students in basketball or volleyball.  Both Columbia Middle and Columbia Central will end their week with a pep assembly celebrating their athletic teams.

The day culminates with a Homecoming Parade featuring floats and our Columbia Central High School representatives.  This year’s Homecoming Court is made up of: Freshmen  Mackenzee Whipple and Jeff Perry; Sophomores Hailey Dickens and Hunter Martin; Juniors Courtney Hill and Noah Raby and Seniors Garrett Hotchkiss,  Austin Witt, Noah Stump,  Ariel Miller, Jackie Ali and Jordan Diefenthaler.


Be sure a join in the Homecoming Festivities with our Columbia Central High School teams!  The Homecoming Parade begins at 5 pm and the Football Game begins at 7 pm.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District and our programs, call me at 5175926641 or email me at

Monday, October 6, 2014

Creating a Strong Successful Learning Environment

Over the past decade, educational researchers have reviewed practices in various school districts to determine what programs have yielded the most positive results.  One of the practices that has produced increases in test scores and successful acquisition of learning is differentiation.  Differentiation is not just a trendy idea or a slick word, it includes many positive aspects of wonderful learning environments including respecting each other, developing a learning community, encouraging student success, creating various opportunities for learning, and involving everyone in the teaching and learning community.   When speaking about the importance of a positive culture when using differentiation, University of Virginia Professor Cindy A. Strickland commented that “Kids have to feel that they can take a risk, they can fail and it’s going to be okay, that growth will be rewarded and is expected.” 

In the Columbia School District our teachers use differentiation methods to help all of their students learn. Faced with the daunting task of meeting the learning needs of each student our teachers strive to make their classrooms safe and welcoming.  We focus on using educational best practices to enhance teaching and learning. One of the aspects of differentiation that teachers at Columbia embrace is to ask themselves: “Will what is happening in my classroom support student success?”  Teachers at Columbia use various differentiation strategies including academic games, practice, and inventive techniques to yield a higher level of effectiveness in their classroom. 

Our teachers provide the basis for student learning and for establishing an environment that uses differentiation to adapt various activities to the different levels of student readiness.  Although educators have known about the need for differentiation for years, many districts have not embraced this powerful learning strategy. However, Columbia District teachers have firmly grasped the fact that children enter the classroom with various levels of readiness and that we must use strategies and techniques to help all students succeed.

As Columbia School District teachers and staff members continue to improve our effectiveness, we are working adapt lessons and use differentiation to give our students the best opportunity for success.  If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District and our programs, email me at or call 517-592-6641.