Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What’s Right In Education?

Marshall Middle School

Mrs. Hanna-Downey and Marshall Middle School Human Relations Club encouraged everyone to take part in the “Stand Against Racism” movement. Marshall students signed petitions declaring their stance.
This is a movement administered by the YWCA with the goal of bringing people from all walks of life across the country to raise awareness that racism still exists.

Marshall Music Department Tours Adams and Kennedy Elementary Schools
On April 28, Students from Marshall Middle School Orchestra, Band, and Choirs performed at Adams and Kennedy Elementary School. They performed songs from the movie “Grease” and several Jazz selections.   

Adams Elementary School
On April 24, Adams Elementary School hosted a “Bridge Around the World” event.  Exhibits from other countries were displayed for everyone to view. Attendees also had the opportunity to sample food from other countries.  Special guest were the Even Start Dancers from the School District of Beloit. Thank you Adams Elementary School for being part of the Bridges Global Community.

School District of Janesville Educational Fair

On Saturday, April 26, the School District of Janesville held an Educational Fair during the annual Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast.  Each school had a display table with information highlighting the best their school has to offer.  This was an opportunity for the entire community to see what exciting things are happening in our district. This also allowed community members to ask questions and dialogue with staff.  Several community members expressed what a great time they had learning about the many positive things happening in the School District of Janesville.

Craig High School

Five members of the Craig FFA completed Supervised Ag Experience Proficiency applications at the state level.   Applications were reviewed and ranked among the other FFA members from Wisconsin.   ALL Craig applications were awarded a GOLD level and Justin Runde earned a first place award for his application in Nursery Operations.   On June 10th at the State FFA Convention, the Craig FFA members will receive their awards.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Technology Award

The following article was published by the National School Board Association Media Department.

School District of Janesville Receives National Technology Award

Janesville, April 17, 2014:  The School District of Janesville was awarded the National Technology Award.

The School District of Janesville announces receipt of a national Technology Award from the National School Board Association (NSBA), who partnered with the Center for Digital Education to present the award.  Dr. Smiley, Chief Information Officer, attended the national conference held in New Orleans, to receive the award on behalf of the District. 

This award is given in recognition for visionary operation, focusing on how the District uses technology to facilitate its work and how it communicates and presents Board of Education information to the public, while positively impacting teaching and learning through the support of professional development.

Awards were given in three categories:  Large, Mid-Sized, and Small (Based on Student Population).  The 
School District of Janesville placed 2nd in the nation in the mid-sized school category. 

“Schools and school districts are embracing technology and it is really exciting not only to see the innovative ways they implement technology, but how they are using technology effectively to teach and advance education,” said Alan Cox, Senior Vice President for the Center for Digital Education. 

“These education leaders serve as an inspiration to other school districts nationwide for their creative efforts to provide an outstanding education for today’s students. Congratulations to this year’s winners!”

“Technology innovations enable local school boards to connect with their communities and support students and teachers in ways that were unimaginable even a decade ago,” said NSBA’s Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.  “The 2014 Digital School Districts Survey offers powerful examples of technology’s role in the transformation of public education.” 
The State of Wisconsin’s local School Board Association has been notified of the award, in hopes they will promote Janesville’s receipt of the award as a model for others to emulate.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Excited About Learning

Learning About Ocean Animals from a Marine Biologist Virtually
Posted to Facebook on 4-21-14

Kindergarten classes at Roosevelt and Jefferson Elementary schools learned about the amazing animals in the ocean from marine biologist, Abbie Hines. Ms. Hines resides in the United Kingdom but does most of her work in the Seychelles, islands located in the Indian Ocean. She is also a marine educator, diver, conservationist, founder of WiseOceans (, and a project leader for Save our Seas Foundation ( running a school's marine education project in Seychelles.

The lesson is called "Let's See Who Lives in the Sea" and is a visual look at the variety of creatures that live in our oceans.  Students got to see a selection of photos highlighting some of the incredible diversity we have in our oceans. The students were able to hear a short explanation of the different creatures from a real life marine biologist!

Ms. Hines’ goal with virtual lessons is to give students knowledge about life in the oceans so that we all are much more likely to preserve it. By instilling this at a young age we really start to develop budding young marine biologists.

The students were able to ask a variety of questions, ranging from Ms. Hines’ life as a marine biologist to wonderings about the variety of animals such as, "how do turtles eat jellyfish"?

It was an informative and once in a lifetime experience for these students.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tokens for Teens

What is Tokens for Teens? 

A transportation program geared to assist low-income families who may not have access to transportation throughout the year due to financial challenges.  Since the school district does not provide bus transportation to all students, this program is critical, especially during the winter months.

Tokens for Teens rely on donations to help students from low-income families get to and from school and school-related activities each day.

Sponsors can be individuals, businesses, organizations, or churches. They can designate their donations go to a specific school or school-related activity, or to be used as needed throughout the school district.  

Thanks to the City of Janesville’s new Youth Token bus fare (at one-half of the full fare price) the Tokens for Teens program will be able to provide even more bus tokens to students!

Due to a donation from Data Dimensions, 50 students were able to ride the bus everyday for an entire month. When we asked Sandy Bennet from Data Dimensions why they participated she stated, “Our children are our future.  No one asks to be born or for the situation they are born into.  If something as simple as providing a means to get to school will help our children attain their dreams and lead our community in the future, we all need to pitch in and make it happen.  It’s just one way we feel we can make a difference in the lives of our young community members.”

We are grateful for the partnership with Data Dimensions, and we thank them for their donation and support in helping us in our goal of “Educational Excellence” for all students.

To donate, please mail a check to the School District of Janesville, Tokens for Teens, 527 S. Franklin St., Janesville, WI, 53548.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Building Bridges

Janesville school leaders focused on opening
new world and opportunities to students

This article will appear in the Wisconsin School News Magazine (WASB Magazine)
May Edition

A district-wide effort in the Janesville School District is connecting students in Janesville to students across the globe. Since January, students in the district have been participating in a worldwide project with the goal of building bridges between schools all over the world and in their own community.

The district is running the Bridges Conference, which challenges students and educators to build bridges figuratively and literally not only between people but also between knowledge. While it is called a conference, it takes place over the course of about seven months beginning in January and ending with a festival in July.

The conference builds a global education community and includes participating schools from the U.S., China, Finland, Singapore and other countries. The Janesville School District website explains the basis of the project: “Its origin derives from within our inter-connectedness as people … we feel it’s essential to collaborate as an education collective to do studies about bridges and thus promote mutual understanding and communication between and among people (such as family members, educators, students, neighbors, and other education stakeholders) in this way we can provide improvement of educational policies, strategies, and practices. ”Karen Schulte, superintendent of the Janesville School District, said participating in the conference is about providing students another opportunity to engage in international education. “We want students here in Janesville to have a world-class education,” she said.

The conference aims to promote further communication and mutual appreciation among schools around the world as well as in the wider community. This means that projects within the Bridges Conference can work to connect students globally and connecting students to community members. Craig Bergum, a teacher at Janesville’s Edison Middle School, says he has been impressed with the projects that have come out of the Bridges Conference.

One project built bridges between Janesville middle school students and veterans. Students at Edison Middle School wrote letters to veterans thanking them for their service. This is where most school projects would end but projects in the Bridges Conference challenge teachers to take the learning a step farther. A veteran was invited to the classroom and talked to the students about what he had experienced. Bergum said it was a very powerful moment for the students and the veteran. After hearing the veteran’s first-hand, account students were challenged to write another letter to their veteran. Bergum said the first letters students wrote had been only a couple paragraphs but after hearing the veteran speak, some of the letters expanded to two pages.

Teacher Krista Twist said the activity not only connected her students to veterans but also allowed her to teach through a different lens. “It fits right in with the lessons I was teaching,” Twist said. “I was able to connect this very easily to how to write a letter, the structure of how to write that letter, and the components within the letter.” One student was compelled to write a letter to a grandparent who was a veteran. Bergum said the student didn’t know the grandparent all that well and received a long, thoughtful response. “It gave her a way to talk to her grandfather,” Bergum said. “These are the kinds of things that can come out of building these bridges.”

Students at Kennedy Elementary School connected visual and performing arts with science and social studies concepts. A visiting artist helped students communicate and explore these subject areas through art and a residency with a dance professor from the University of Wisconsin exposed students to dance interpretative. The project culminated in a performance by all of the elementary students as they performed their curriculum in a dance. “We embraced the idea that I think Bridges represents, which is pulling together the creativity and the innovation of our students,” said Leah Hellendbrand, a teacher at Kennedy Elementary School.

Another project is connecting high school students to engineers; a robotics team is being mentored by engineers from the community. A project at a middle school connects students to senior citizens.
Many of these projects were already taking place in the district,
Bergum said, the Bridges Conference challenged students and educators to take these projects a step further. “We’re looking at how are we going to make these learning experiences last longer? How can we go beyond that ‘normal’ school project?”

Multiple subject areas are engaged in these projects and, most importantly, they will be shared with students around the world via a website and also during a special festival. “Artifacts from these projects will be put together whether they’re films, picture, stories, construction of bridge models — these will all be portrayed in a culminating activity this summer,” Schulte said.  That activity is the Bridges Conference festival in July. At the festival, the student projects will be shared with other students and educators from around the world through the universal language of the arts. The festival coincides with the district’s Summer International Education Institute, which will provide international learning opportunities to students in the district. Students and their families will also have the opportunity to host an international student for three weeks during the Summer International Education Institute.

Global learning will not end in Janesville when the Bridges Conference is completed this summer. The Bridges is part of a larger effort being undertaken at the district to connect Janesville students to people and knowledge all over the world. Schulte said she challenges her educators and administrators to think of new ways to engage students in real-world, relevant learning. “I tell staff to be risk takers,” Schulte said. “It’s ok if they fail, I just ask that they learn from it.”  One example of this kind of teaching is an experience recently had by students at Janesville Craig High School. Through the work of their teacher, journalism students at the high school teleconferenced with a journalist in Ukraine during the massive protests that rocked the country. Schulte said the students were powerfully affected by the time they spent talking with the Ukrainian journalist. “That is something that these kids will never forget,” Schulte said.

Kevin Leavy, Public Information Specialist for the district, said an important aspect of the Bridges Conference and the other international learning opportunities in the district are that they are available to all students. “We’re bringing all of this to our students in their classrooms,” Leavy said. “We trying to make it that much easier for international learning because it’s in their building.” In another instance, a middle school teacher connected with an anthropologist in Switzerland. The anthropologist spoke to 100 sixthgrade students via teleconferencing about his work, which included examining mummies. Schulte said the students were completely engaged, “You could have heard a pin drop.” “We have this ability in this day and age to connect anywhere,” Schulte said. “We are going to be sure that our students in Janesville aren’t left out.”

Shelby Anderson is editor of Wisconsin School News.