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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Columbia's Music Program Plays the Right Note!

As we listen to music it affects each one of us differently.  The band leader hears the music up close with a trained ear.  The clarinet player hears the whole band, but hears those closest to him clearer.  The percussion players hear the music, but may actually feel the beat to a greater degree that those around them.  While some say the audience members have the ultimate experience enjoying the music.

This past week the Columbia Central Jr – Sr band concert was held in the auditorium.  The band members were all students who put in an amazing amount of effort learning and perfecting each piece of music.  Not only do they play in the band, many of the musicians also take Advanced Placement courses, which focus on college level curriculum for high school students.  These students must not only put a great deal of time and effort into their music, but complete hours of homework and research to be successful in the Advanced Placement course.

Other students who play in the band compete in athletics.  Combining music and athletics is challenging even for the best of students.  These student musicians must put in hours and hours afterschool practicing their sport, go home do their homework, then practice their music.  These students are incredibly dedicated to giving their best in music, academics and athletics. 

Students who are band members who enjoy athletics and academics value the benefits of music, along with many in the community.  Columbia School District values music education for our students.  Leading up to band in the high school, even elementary students have the opportunity to enjoy music class.  Students in kindergarten through sixth grade participate in general music, which includes vocal and instrumental music.  Our sixth grade students may choose to enjoy beginning band.  Once students enter seventh grade, there is junior high band and choir.  Our senior high school students may play in the band and enjoy choir class.  In addition, marching band includes after school practices and many students sing in our musicals.

The strong music program at Columbia has lasting benefits for our students including making memories, and new friends.  Not only is it rewarding to have a great music program, studies have shown that music reduces stress, increases happiness and improves health.  If you are interested in coming and enjoying our music performances, stay tuned to the Columbia School District calendar on our home page at  If you have questions about your child attending Columbia and participating in music or other programs, email me at or call 5175926641.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

During spring break my husband and I visited some friends who live in the south.  During our visit, I was picking up sticks in their backyard, and saw a chameleon darting up the side of their house and under the siding. Watching him quickly leave the green grass and scurry up the tan siding, I was amazed at how rapidly he began to change his color based upon his surroundings. 

This type of teachable moment scenario may be used as a basis for a science lesson at Columbia School District for students in grades kindergarten through 12th.  How does a teacher know what to teach in science?  It has always seemed logical for high school teachers, because students select biology, anatomy, physics or chemistry, but what tips the scales for teachers in kindergarten through eighth grade? 

Columbia School District has always had a science curriculum, but now we have additional updated input from the State.  Last November the State of Michigan released the new science standards for our children.  One of the goals of the new document was to promote the ideology that science, technology, and engineering saturate nearly every facet of our lives.  In addition, the new standards underscore the fact that science, technology, and engineering are integral to defining and solving many current and future global concerns and challenges.

The new science standards give our teachers the parameters with which to lay out the curriculum for each grade level and help them get our students prepared for State Assessments, such as the MSTEP (that was initially given in the spring of 2015). Now in its second year, the MSTEP assesses English language arts and mathematics for children in grades three through eight, science in grades four and seven, and social studies in grades five and eight.  From this list, it almost looks like we only need to teach science in fourth and seventh grade, however each grade is provided with State of Michigan science standards.  In fourth grade, children are assessed on the standards and information they learned in not only grade four, but in kindergarten through third grade. 

In order to assist our teachers with the huge impact of giving our students the base of understanding for science, technology, and engineering, the standards are organized around seven concepts*: (1) Patterns, (2) Cause and Effect, (3) Scale, Proportion, and Quantity, (4) Systems and
System Models, (5) Energy and Matter in Systems, (6) Structure and Function, and (7) Stability and Change of Systems.  These concepts provide a cross disciplinary framework for our students and their teachers.  Within the framework there are eight different practices that are to be used when investigating a concept.  The practices that our teachers are using are*: (a) Asking questions and defining problems, (b) Developing and using models, (c) Planning and carrying out investigations, (d) Analyzing and interpreting data, (e) Using mathematics and computational thinking, (f) Constructing explanations and designing solutions, (g) Engaging in argument from evidence, and (h) Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.  Combined, the concepts and practices give our students a powerful ability to build a knowledge base from which to become life-long learners in the area of science, technology, and engineering.

If you are interested in learning more about Columbia School District and our focus on science, technology, and engineering, email me at or call 5175926641.


(*) The information regarding the State of Michigan K-12 Science Standards is taken from

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Columbia STEM Investigations!

Columbia School District students experience STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) on a daily basis.  At Columbia Central High School Mrs. VanWagnen's Forensic Science class uses scientific techniques to build their analytical skills.  During one session they focused on the physics of blood stain and spatter analysis to learn how to solve a crime. They learned that the bloodstain pattern depends on both the force used to propel the blood and the type of surface the spatter lands upon.

Columbia Central High School teacher Mr. Dickens gave his Advanced Placement Biology class the opportunity to experience the fascinating world of DNA investigation. Upon arrival at Camp McGregor for their DNA experiment, they put on their safety goggles and lab coats and became acquainted with the high-tech equipment.  The real-world technique the students used was DNA fingerprinting, which is sometimes called DNA profiling.   The science is often used on television crime dramas and by police detectives to identify a perpetrator by their DNA.  

In the Upper Elementary students are taking advantage of the new science classroom to increase their proficiency in STEM areas.  Recently, Mrs. Adams used a hands-on lesson about force and motion.  The students learned how things moved using spinning tops.  They evaluated the force and motion by measuring distance, time, and speed.  In all of the elementary STEM classes, students collect data and reflect on their experiments and assessments in qualitative and quantitative terms. The curriculum also has students illustrate and graph their results.

At Columbia Central Junior High School, science teacher Mrs. Libeau has been teaching her students about electricity and energy. The investigation into energy uses research into the effects of light energy, solar energy, and water energy. The students use the hands on experiments and investigations, combined with reflection to gain an improved understanding of the world around them.

As the science in the world around us gets more and more complex, our students must get a firm foundation in STEM.  Columbia School District has a focus on giving our students a base of understanding in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  If you are interested in registering your child at Columbia, please email me at or call 5175926641.