Blog

Wolf Ridge Experience

Hello Nerstrand Families,

 It has certainly been a wild ride with all of the snow days over the last three weeks.  I have never seen anything quite like it!  Many people are wondering about possible snow make up days, and Nerstrand School will plan on following Faribault Schools lead on this.  I will let you know as soon as we have that information.  

Today in the building we are feeling the love of Valentine's Day.  Many children bring Valentines before the 14th and passing them out is as exciting as getting them-maybe more so!  This is one of those big days in the year of an elementary school where children are so pleased to be with friends and staff members showing their appreciation and caring for each other.  It is wonderful to see!

I was able to attend the Wolf Ridge 5th grade trip this year for the first time.  I wanted to share some of my observations about the benefits of the trip, the experiences students had, and this fits in well with the caring we see around Valentine's Day.  

It was a challenging week because of the cold.  I won't sugar coat it; the cold was brutal!   However, our students were so positive and had a real "can do" attitude the entire week!  All of the adults kept a close eye on children to make sure they were dressing appropriately, but the children were really responsible about their own dressing/preparation for the outdoors.  And believe me, we were outdoors~everyday.  Wolf Ridge did more preparation with the kids indoors then they would typically do, but we always followed our schedule.  The one exception was Morgan's group during the ropes course.  We had to come in early because it was so very cold.  This was cut short for the adults that were stationed on the towers.  Morgan, Kurt Klett and Robert Waddell were at stations for 2 hours or more while I brought small groups of children back and forth from a warm building to the coarse.  Thank you to these three adults who put up with extreme cold to try to make sure every child that wanted to do the course got through.  Unfortunately not every child was able to do that course that day because of the cold.  However, that was the only event that got cut short during the week.

All of the activities were led by certified naturalists at Wolf Ridge and we were able to study/explore the following:  ice fishing (yes, we did it!  One group caught and released 12 fish), snowshoeing (I made an average of 20,000 steps on my fitbit every day!), animal tracking (we saw a deer and a lot of tracks), geocaching (my group ditched me because I couldn't get through the waist deep snow!), bird study (chickadees landing on everyone's hands and heads!), climbing the rock wall (I couldn't ), Ropes course (I could), team games (children had to work together to achieve their goal), winter survival (we all survived and a few groups built their own fire), making block prints, making paper, an assembly on birds of prey (compared a chicken named Mallorie with an owl and red tailed hawk), an assembly on moose (wow they are big and are in competition with deer for survival), met a porcupine named Thistle, had to learn to share a dorm room with many other people, helped serve food to others during KP duty, had fun on the bus and stopping at Toby's, and experienced a week of learning and exercise that few people ever get to do!

Those are the things I can tell you that we did that were obvious, but there were many intangible experiences that happened that I observed and made me proud of our children and our school.  No I didn't climb the wall, but many others did and that surprised some of them.  However, everyone supported each other's achievements; whatever they ended up being.   To see children shine in a new and different setting it what this trip is about, as much as the science and environmental learning.  Children that may not see themselves as very physically skilled were put in situations where they could see their abilities in a new light.  Overcoming fear and challenging yourself is an important component to this week, and measuring your success by your own standards and not someone else's'.  The other thing I observed that was so great, was how everyone cheered each other on and worked as a team.  In the ropes course every child had a partner on the ground that was supporting them and helping them move to the next stage.  I know that one part of the ropes course terrified me, but my ropes course buddy, Kaylie, got me through it.  Without her help and the encouragement from Jenny Siegert, Dana Jans and Sherri Langfeldt I would have turned around on the swinging bridge and never made it through.  Those moments are the ones I cherish when we see each other in our best light and believe in each other unconditionally.  

This trip would not be possible without the commitment from our two Woodlands teachers, Andrew Lubinski and Morgan Welborn.  It is an intense week for them, and yet they kept an eye on children always, and kept morale up the few times kids were feeling low.  It also wouldn't be possible without our parent chaperones, who were fantastic.  Thank you so much to Sherri Langfeldt (kept taking pictures of all the kids during the week), Jenny Siegert (also huge picture taker and overcame her fear on the ropes course), Dana Jans (did the ropes course backwards!), Robert Waddell (fire maker and lift of spirit!), Kurt Klett (overseeing all the kids, and doing everything to make their experience a great one!).  Our school is so grateful to these parents for their help and commitment to this trip.  

We'll be sending information to families of our upcoming 5th grade class about next year's trip.  We will be looking for parent volunteers for that one too!  Thank you to all of our families for your support of our school!  

Best,

Maggie

Our First Eagles' Nest of the Year

The first Eagles Nest of the year is always a milestone and gives families a peak into activities within classrooms.  This month will also include our first set of Report Cards.  Although classrooms are busy throughout the building, the music room is especially active, as Matthew prepares the students for this year's first musical program on December 14th.  It will be an Americana theme with old songs from the past that I remember from my childhood.  It is sure to be a wonderful evening on December 14th.  We will also be having our Migration Day on 11/15. Monarchs and storks will migrate to their winter homes courtesy of the 1st graders (monarchs) and the Woodlands students (storks). We also have a new addition to the Peace Garden: artic terns. Out Savannah students will be in charge of “migrating” these terns each year. The tern have been designed by Nerstrand students, and built by the Peace Garden Students. The Peace Garden keeps evolving and changing, and is a central focus of our school. We are so grateful for Larry Richie bringing the idea of the Peace Garden to Nerstrand.

 Enjoy the first issue of the Eagles Nest.  Thank you to all of our families for your continued support of our school!Best,

Maggie

 

First Eagles' Nest of the Year

The first Eagles Nest of the year is always a milestone and gives families a peak into activities within classrooms.  This month will also include our first set of Report Cards.  Although classrooms are busy throughout the building, the music room is especially active, as Matthew prepares the students for this year's first musical program on December 14th.  It will be an Americana theme with old songs from the past that I remember from my childhood.  It is sure to be a wonderful evening on December 14th.  We will also be having our Migration Day on 11/15. Monarchs and storks will migrate to their winter homes courtesy of the 1st graders (monarchs) and the Woodlands students (storks). We also have a new addition to the Peace Garden: artic terns. Out Savannah students will be in charge of “migrating” these terns each year. The tern have been designed by Nerstrand students, and built by the Peace Garden Students. The Peace Garden keeps evolving and changing, and is a central focus of our school. We are so grateful for Larry Richie bringing the idea of the Peace Garden to Nerstrand.

Enjoy the first issue of the Eagles Nest.  Thank you to all of our families for your continued support of our school!Best,

Maggie

 

A Day in the Big Woods

On Friday our school spent the day in the Big Woods State Park for our 26th Discovery Day.  This traditional day of outdoor learning is one of the highlights of the entire year.  Each year we have a theme, this year was migration, and use it as the springboard for each of the 4 activities the students are involved in during the day.  It is also a day in which we group children in K-5 "families" so that they learn together according to their intellectual development level.  It was a bit of a chilly start, but by the afternoon the sun was out in the park, and the beginning colors of autumn were all around us.  It's a wonderful sight to see 149 students in the woods for the entire day!

Another tradition that is rolled into this day, is our annual walk to the park.  On Discovery Day grades 1-5 do the walk, but then on the last day of school the kinders join us, and walk the entire way.  This 2 mile walk, twice a year, is one of the ways that we mark our time together.  That last day walk completes a circle of time that we have spent together and is a symbol of the journey we have taken together as a school community.  At a time where more and more students spend time indoors looking at screens, we hold on tightly to traditions that involve physical activity in the outdoors for our students.  The physical activity doesn't end with the walk to the park, at the park 3 of the rotations also involve movement.  One rotation is to walk to the falls and back, another was the obstacle course and the third physical station was the Migration Headache game.  Matthew Keseley and Paula Shroyer led the walk to the falls 4 times on Friday as well as walking to the park with students.  They had gotten in just under 20,000 steps by the end of the day!  I am always surprised by how energetic our students are the entire day, even with all the movement.  Teachers assume that students get a good nights sleep after Discovery Day!

This year, we had around 45 parents/grandparents/guardians come and volunteer with Discovery Day.  It was a wonderful outpouring of support for this tradition.  It is a day that couldn't happen without many volunteers, and it was a great success.  Thank you to all of the volunteers.  
 
We will have many more exciting opportunities to learn this year

End of Year Coming Quickly

Dear Families,

 

We have begun the wind down to the school year.  End of year events began with the 5th grade Dare Graduation and the Community Celebration.  Next week is the All District 5th grade Field Day and Fly Up Day at school.  The final Eagle's Nest is being put together and once again, I am surprised by how quickly the year has gone. 

It has been an exciting year, with our new chromebooks that we were finally able to purchase.  All the teachers have been using them in their classrooms.  It's so much easier having access to them in classrooms and not having to go down to the computer lab every time students need to use a computer.  Teachers are excited by the different ways they can use this technology in their classrooms.  In the Woodlands classes during their Science Fair unit the chromebooks were being used frequently.  The two Prairie classes have a set of 6 for each of their rooms and are able to integrate them into their curriculum as well.

Last night was the new Kindergarten parent meeting.  Many new parents will be joining our school, which is exciting, along with seeing parents of current students.  The 6 years of elementary school are a profound time of life for children, and it is remarkable how quickly those 6 years can pass.  I was still teaching in the Woodlands the year the current 5th graders started school.  I remember having some of them in my Homeroom as kinders, and nothing marks time like the growth of children.  To remember them as kinders and then to see them about to leave elementary school is always startling.  We hope they continue to learn and thrive in their new setting.  

We also say goodbye to some families that have been a part of our school for many, many years.  I had one parent of multiple children that have attended Nerstrand say that she felt that she and her husband should be ringing the bell as well as their 5th grader.  Saying farewell to their family's time at Nerstrand is a big moment for them.  We send good wishes with all of our families that are changing settings too.

As we finally see the end of this very long winter and welcome spring and then summer, I hope that all of our families can enjoy the summer.  Thank you for your support of our school.  Again, we wish all the best to our departing 5th graders and look forward to returning students in the fall.

Best,

Maggie

 

A New Year Begins

Dear Families,

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  There will be approximately 9 hours and 47 minutes of daylight today.  Within a few days we will start adding more hours of daylight, making our way up to the longest day of the year in June.  It's the time of year that we  take stock and look back over where we've been and what goals we have in the future.

The last couple of years, our school has had a strong focus on bringing more technology to our Little School in the Big Woods.  Since getting our fiber line we formed a Technology Committee to prioritize our needs and make decisions about what we would like to bring to Nerstrand.  Our first project will be installing a projector and new screen in the gym in the next couple of months.  This will give Carmen a chance to use more technology in her PE program.  I'm excited to see what additions she will bring to her classes!  Carmen already has a very strong curriculum but I'm sure the new technology will enhance her programming.  The Tech Committee is also going to move forward on purchasing Chromebooks.  We are looking at having up to 30 chromebooks to rotate through classrooms, and also a certain amount assigned to each grade level.  Teachers are excited about using these devices for research projects in their rooms.  We can also use them for standardized testing, which allows us to test in classrooms instead of trying to rotate everyone into the computer lab.  Those are the main objectives for this year, but we will be making long term goals this year as well.

We also have a Math Committee this year.  It has been quite a few years since we updated our math curriculum and so the committee has been reviewing different curriculum and will make a decision at the end of this school year.  

Finally, a long term goal of mine is to see our school connect with The Big Woods State Park more frequently.  Our biggest obstacle has been transportation to the park, but we are exploring different options.  It's exciting for us to think of different ways we can use the park with our students.  

Yesterday, we wore ugly/beautiful holiday sweaters to school and took pictures in front of the beautiful backdrop created by Lori Amy for our Winter Program.  I am grateful everyday for the wonderfully dedicated staff that we have at Nerstrand.  I know all of the adults at our school care deeply for the children that attend Nerstrand and work so hard to teach children everyday.    

We hope all of our families enjoy the winter break and are able to spend time with family and friends.  Thank you for all your support to our school!

Sincerely,

Maggie

 

 

 

What's The Purpose of School

We completed our first set of conferences at Nerstrand.  This is an important point, where teachers, families and students sit down and reflect on the start of the year.  A couple of years ago we changed these beginning conferences and moved them to October.  This has been a good change for us.  Our focus during this first set of conferences was about how students have transitioned to a new year.  Yes, we include information about their first assessments of the school year, but more importantly, what are teachers seeing in their classrooms?  How are children adjusting?  What are their relationships with peers?  What early strengths and struggles are teachers seeing in their students?  

It's so easy for all of us to get so caught up in assessments, that we can forget about the importance of school in the social and emotional life of children.  Students will be surprised when I ask them, " Why do we go to school?"  They always say to learn.  I ask them , "What do you learn at school?"  Invariably they tell me that they are here to learn to read and understand math.  They are surprised when I say that just as important as their academics is their learning about relationships.  Recess is as meaningful as their time in small and large groups listening and learning in their classrooms.  
 
At Nerstrand School, we have children working together throughout their day.  With so  many technological distractions in our lives, these connections with other people, everyday, are even more necessary.  Classmates are an essential part of our learning.  I see students everyday learning how to negotiate, and compromise.  Showing empathy and encouragement to others.  There's so much emphasis on bullying and parents are fearful of how other children treat their children, but we forget how important contact with other children everyday is in learning to grow up to be a happy and balanced adult that is able to have healthy relationships.  Sometimes exchanges with peers can be messy, not all learning is easy, but it isn't something to be avoided.  It's important work that children are doing all the time. These interactions help them learn how to make friends, keep friends, work with people that are different from themselves and have experiences with others that will bring color and texture to their lives.  This also includes student's interactions with the adults in the building as well.  
 
At Nerstrand, we have always emphasized the importance of the whole child at our school.  Sometimes all the emphasis on testing and accountability can distract us from this part of our mission.  Conferences are an excellent time for all of us to remember that the students we teach are learning and growing in so many ways, and not all of that learning can be measured.  If we all think back on our time in elementary school, I don't think anyone would remember their favorite test.  We all remember the connections we had that resulted in wonderful learning.  Here's to holding onto the joy of learning in all areas of our lives!
 
Best,
Maggie

What's The Purpose of School

We completed our first set of conferences at Nerstrand.  This is an important point, where teachers, families and students sit down and reflect on the start of the year.  A couple of years ago we changed these beginning conferences and moved them to October.  This has been a good change for us.  Our focus during this first set of conferences was about how students have transitioned to a new year.  Yes, we include information about their first assessments of the school year, but more importantly, what are teachers seeing in their classrooms?  How are children adjusting?  What are their relationships with peers?  What early strengths and struggles are teachers seeing in their students?  
 
It's so easy for all of us to get so caught up in assessments, that we can forget about the importance of school in the social and emotional life of children.  Students will be surprised when I ask them, " Why do we go to school?"  They always say to learn.  I ask them , "What do you learn at school?"  Invariably they tell me that they are here to learn to read and understand math.  They are surprised when I say that just as important as their academics is their learning about relationships.  Recess is as meaningful as their time in small and large groups listening and learning in their classrooms.  
 
At Nerstrand School, we have children working together throughout their day.  With so  many technological distractions in our lives, these connections with other people, everyday, is even more necessary.  Classmates are an essential part of our learning.  I see students everyday learning how to negotiate, and compromise.  Showing empathy and encouragement to others.  There's so much emphasis on bullying and parents are fearful of how other children treat their children, but we forget how important contact with other children everyday is in learning to grow up to be a happy and balanced adult that is able to have healthy relationships.  Sometimes exchanges with peers can be messy, not all learning is easy, but it isn't something to be avoided.  It's important work that children are doing all the time. These interactions help them learn how to make friends, keep friends, work with people that are different from themselves and have experiences with others that will bring color and texture to their lives.  This also includes student's interactions with the adults in the building as well.  
 
At Nerstrand, we have always emphasized the importance of the whole child at our school.  Sometimes all the emphasis on testing and accountability can distract us from this part of our mission.  Conferences are an excellent time for all of us to remember that the students we teach are learning and growing in so many ways, and not all of that learning can be measured.  If we all think back on our time in elementary school, I don't think anyone would remember their favorite test.  We all remember the connections we had that resulted in wonderful learning.  Here's the holding onto the joy of learning in all areas of our lives!
 
Best,
Maggie

Our First Week of School

Dear Families,

 I hope the beginning of the school year has gone smoothly at your home.  As a parent I know how stressful it can be to get everyone back to school!

Our first week here at school went very well and it feels like we are settling into the routines.  During these first weeks and days, our focus is on getting to know each other again after the long summer break.   We also set about getting to know our new children, parents and staff.  I always struggle a bit getting to know all the new names of students and parents.   There are hundreds of names of children and parents that I've needed to learn now that I've been doing this for 28 years, and that's before I became a Director and all 150 students are in "my class".  

Still, we know that name memorization and recollection is worth all the effort.   Being able to greet each other by name as we move around our building is an essential component of our commitment to know all the children.   Authentically greeting  each other by name is a key building block in the formation of the many trusting relationships that are needed for learning to happen. So how do we set about learning the names of 150 children?   This process is embedded in the social curriculum that takes place in the first weeks of school.  During these first few weeks, in classroom Morning Meetings, teachers are focusing on building community within their classroom.  Knowing each other's name is an essential component in that community building.  Every morning during their meetings each child is greeted by name, using many different greetings that they learn throughout the year.  All of our teachers, and many paras, have been trainied in using Responsive Classroom (RC).  Morning Meeting is an essential component in RC. Building a strong community of respect, kindness and perseverance is an important  part of everyone's classroom and when that is established we see those same attributes through the entire building.   Over the coming weeks, children will learn the names of their friends in other classes in the school as the children are intentionally mixed together during games and play.

At our All School Meeting on September 12th, sped para Nicki Schaefer will present her Spotlight, using this year's Spotlight poster.  She will be modelling for all of our students, what is expected on the day that they present their Spotlight to their own Homerooms.  Next week in Homeroom classrooms teachers will model how to do a spotlight presentation.  The last week of September is when students will begin giving their Spotlights.  Teachers begin with Woodlands students that have the most experience doing their presentations.  All of this modeling is well thought out, so that all of our students feel comfortable when their turn comes up.  Our Spotlight program has been running for over 25 years, giving students opportunities to speak in public and to build connections in their Homerooms and throughout our school. It is a wonderful tradition, that every Tuesday in our Homerooms, one student is in the Spotlight and is able to share facts about themselves.  When students leave Nerstrand they are given a DVD will all of the Spotlights they have done over the years.  I know from personal experience (both my daughters went to Nerstrand) that this is a cherished keepsake of their time here.  

Names matter, they help us to build our community.    So, that work will continue and I will add learning the names of new parents to the list.    Please forgive me if I struggle with names.  I will get there eventually!

Best,

Maggie

The End of the School Year

This picture was drawn by 5th grader Riley

Dear Families,

The final Eagle's Nest is going out, last Monday I had my last Spotlight Luncheon and we scheduled our final activities at our last staff meeting.  It's definitely the end of the school year!  

In my mind the school year always felt like my students and I were boarding a large ship for a 9-month voyage.  Everyone in the classroom was a part of the crew and although I was Captain, all my students had an impact in where our ship would take us.  Everyone was essential and had an impact on the voyage.  As Director I still see the school year as a voyage, but with a much bigger crew.  

This year's voyage took the Savannah to the Island of Animals, with visits from the Como Zoo and to both of our metro zoos.  They loved travelling on the zoo bus!  They also traveled through their Flat Stanleys and the Iditarod Dog Race.  They made beautiful art and they became strong readers, writers, mathematicians and scientists this year.  

The Prairie spent time learning about color science with Linda Bonde.   They spent time with Larry: making corn shocks, examining the dugout canoe, planting bulbs, migrating butterflies and especially loved the tipi experience.  At River Bend Nature Center, they got to experience three different seasons, and the kids still talk about things they learned and did.  Kinders spent a lot of time learning how to make letters, then make words, then write words, then read words!! Wow, lots of growing! It was fun to make 'zoo suitcases': Students learned about 11 different animals, then saw them for real at the Minnesota Zoo. The Prairie learned to 'be kind, be safe, and be helpful' each and every day in their classrooms. 

https://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/RnNZfQn2o2xpggJQqefCOervMbPIci5mujDPJnvl43kv6Rtxjyh5gHN_JKVzeU-aaGz3pePFgxfoAAtZJZNx8mveVTc-11j98EfuAJVcumUenA=s0-d-e1-ft#https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gifThe Woodlands 5th graders journeyed to Wolf Ridge and learned about team work and environmental science.  They built rockets and blasted them off in the field.  They spent time learning about the properties of water and chemistry and spent a lot of time learning to get along with others.  They wrote their own song about a former teacher whose resilience and positive spirit has helped her through some of life's greatest challenges.  

The year in PE started with much time spent outside on the track and field area getting ready for and running the mile (grades 1-5) and half-mile (kinders) as well as learning some new skills and improving on emerging skills. All classes once again enjoyed a week of the popular "highway" game where they rode scooters safely around a large obstacle course in the gym.  In the spring everyone participated in a Jump Rope for Heart event.  All classes raised funds to help those with heart disease as well as increase their awareness of heart health.  Our school raised an amazing $4712 this year and everyone had fun jumping rope for the week.  

This year in Music was the first year of Drumline.  There was a lot of excitement in the Woodlands about Drumline.  Savannah students started learning to play the ukulele and did Recorder Karate.  Prairie students got to use boom wackers and practice singing for two big concerts.  

Everyone got to go on two big field trips, deliver beautiful May Day flowers that are still in the front of houses around Nerstrand and so many other things that would take too long to name.  It's been an eventful year that seemed to fly by with much learning, laughing and growing.  

I wish your family a safe and happy summer.  I wish the best to all of our graduating fifth graders, and look forward to seeing returning families in the fall.  Thank you for all your support of our school and your students.

Happy Summer Everyone!

Best,

Maggie

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