Blog

October Blog

Dear Families,

We are well and truly into this school year now, and students seem more settled into their routines.  Hopefully your family has made the transition back to school smoothly.

Our Discovery Day went particularly well this year.  The weather was beautiful, students were engaged, we had great volunteers, and the activities were fun and interesting.  The theme this year was studying Native Americans. We will continue this study and during the first week of December, we will be putting up our tepee and learning more about the Dakota Indians, and how they lived in the past.  Recently there has been more discussion about how schools study Native Americans, and that children see them as people from the past and don't realize that they are alive and living their lives as modern people today. Although we will explore the Dakota past while the tepee is up, in classrooms we will also discuss how they are modern people, and not just relegated to the past.  We will look at their contributions to society and famous Indians of today, such as Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, the first Indian woman to hold a statewide office in Minnesota. Dakota Indian culture is rich in tradition, and we want to make sure our students realize there are still Indians living and contributing to our country. We will also be having a Native American speaker come to Nerstrand to talk and work with students.  I am excited about our updating this curriculum for our students.

I also wanted to give a shout out to our amazing PE teacher, Carmen Bonde.  Carmen has been updating her PE curriculum using the SPARK program. The focus of SPARK is the development of healthy lifestyles, motor skills, movement knowledge, and social & personal skills.

It is expected that SPARK Physical Education/Physical Activity students will:

  • Enjoy and seek out physical activity.

  • Develop and maintain acceptable levels of physical fitness.

  • Develop a variety of basic movement and manipulative skills so they will experience success and feel comfortable during present and future physical activity pursuits.

  • Develop the ability to get along with others in movement environments (e.g., share space and equipment, employ the “golden rule” of competition: be a good sport and demonstrate cooperative behavior).

I am always impressed with how much focus Carmen puts into good sportsmanship and problem solving during her PE classes.  She truly believes in children’s ability to work together, when given the tools, and the time. Cooperation is a large part of what she is teaching, as well as physical fitness.  There are just a lot of good things going on in Carmen’s PE classes everyday.  

Hopefully your family is able to enjoy this beautiful time of year.  Thank you 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

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