Eye on ECCS

Each week throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well.

So follow along as we keep our Eye on ECCS!

 

View the Integrated Arts Academy video! 

 

NOTE: Occasionally throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may be to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well. So, keep your Eye on ECCS!

Three Integrated Arts Academy students -- Peter, Tanner and Echo -- share their experiences about their high school journey.

  • EyeOnECCS

 

View the StormHawks Preschool video! EyeonECCS-StormHawksPreschool.mp4

 

NOTE: Occasionally throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may be to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well. So, keep your Eye on ECCS!

“People here love what they do. You don’t end up in Early Childhood by accident,” said Amanda Baumann, leader of ECCS Early Childhood preschool programs.

Many teachers and para-professionals throughout the StormHawks Preschool have been in the district for 10-plus years. Patti Thompson, teacher in the Nature Preschool class, has been a teacher for 30 years.

“I am a lifelong learner myself so I enjoy creating an environment where all children learn and achieve their personal best. I enjoy the challenge of building relationships with the children in my classes and then creating a curriculum based on the needs of the children. I also enjoy learning alongside the children. They are some of my best teachers!” Miss Patti said.

Nature Preschool, a place where children learn and grow surrounded by the beauty of the outdoors; the ultimate classroom for curious young minds, is currently in its second year. 

The class heads outdoors each afternoon, whether it’s fall, winter or spring. Miss Patti said kids are “disappointed” when it’s too rainy or too cold to be outside. The expectation, though, is most days class is held in the elements. Families are notified ahead of time on what gear they’ll need for the week.

Baumann said Nature Preschool develops “different motor skills” and students gain “more independence” than in a traditional preschool classroom. “(Nature Preschool) utilizes different ways of thinking and learning. There’s a little more social time. We’re excited about the growth of the class. We’re in a great spot,” Baumann said.

Nature Preschool explores different parts of the Family Learning Center campus each day. It may be the forest behind the building, a walk to Lake Grace or outdoor classroom space. 

“Nature has always been a part of my teaching. Nature has always inspired me,” Miss Patti said.

Nature Preschool partners with Camp Fire Minnesota in Chanhassen to provide off-site experiences every other Wednesday with Youth Program Naturalist Sylina Hertel. Students will visit Camp Fire Minnesota each week next school year.

The success of Nature Preschool is shown in registrations for next school year. The class is full.

In addition to Nature Preschool, Eastern Carver County Schools Community Education offers a Taste of Preschool for 2 to 3-year-olds as well as 3- and 4-year-old preschool classes. In addition to the Family Learning Center preschool classes, there are preschool options at La Academia, Bluff Creek, Chanhassen, and Victoria elementary schools

Visit https://ce4all.org/programs/early-childhood/preschool to learn more about StormHawks Preschool!

  • EyeOnECCS

 

NOTE: Occasionally throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may be to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well. So, keep your Eye on ECCS!

High school students from Chanhassen and Chaska are now in their second semester of tutoring in math and language arts classrooms at Chaska Middle School West, working alongside teachers to support peers.

The first question posed to four of this semester’s tutors was a simple, “why be a tutor?”

Chanhassen senior Grace Root realized first-hand last semester how a teacher scrambles from student to student. How at times it feels like every student has a question for the teacher all at once.

Chaska senior Cami Mendoza-Castrillón, who moved from the country of Columbia to Minnesota in fifth grade, was once a student at Chaska Middle School West. She wanted to give back, and be a resource for other immigrant students.

Chanhassen senior Jacob Humbert has heard often from his mom, a substitute teacher, about the need for extra support for students. How students are catching up after COVID shutdown schools in 2020 and limited in-person instruction in 2021.

Chaska senior Yabi Yidnekachew remembers the struggle she had in her middle school math class. She remembers what it was like to be in their position.

Students helping students learn math and language arts has proven to be a success story thus far at Chaska Middle School West. Eighth-grade math teacher Lani Grafelman contacted the high schools, working with Sally Reed at Chaska and Paige Lepak at Chanhassen to find students interested in helping middle school students for an hour or two each week.

"My kids ask when the high school students are coming back so they can seek out their help. All of my classes are extra excited about learning on the days when the mentors are here,” Grafelman said.

Seventh-grade math teacher Keisha Dokken appreciates the additional one-on-one attention students can receive with an additional helper in the classroom, and the quicker response time for students working in their whiteboard groups.

"The program provides great role models for our learners. West students see if they apply themselves in math today, they can be successful in math in high school just like their mentors -- since some of the high schoolers sat in these very classrooms when they were at West,” sixth grade math teacher Nicole Pelowski said.

GIVING BACK

Mendoza-Castrillón tutors with Grafelman on Wednesdays, staying after school to help students with the Algebra Homework Club.

“I finished middle school at West. I was still learning English and I remember how difficult it was to ask for help,” Mendoza-Castrillón said. Because of that, she enjoys staying after school to help those that need that extra support. “I want to be a resource for these students.”

Being in a kindergarten classroom at Bluff Creek Elementary as part of her Intro to Education class last semester, Root enjoyed the experience so much, when the idea of being a tutor was brought up by a friend, she joined.

“I enjoy working with people. I enjoy making an impact,” said Root, who is interested in going into health care. Root not only tutors in a math class, but also is one of two students that are in an eighth grade language arts class.

Humbert, who tutors seventh and eighth grade algebra, remembers being a middle school student. When he’s working with students, he is trying to make them feel confident about themselves in their work.

“If they’re confident in their abilities to do middle school math, it could set them up for future success when they get to high school,” Humbert said.

For Yidnekachew, algebra and her did not get along in middle school (and now she loves it). “I was once in their position. I just think being a tutor now is a way I can help students who were like me that are struggling with math,” she said.

Thank you to the high school tutors this semester!

Chaska High School: Cara O’Rourke, Regan O'Rourke, Cami Mendoza-Castrillón, Danica Grafelman, Varun Sridhar, Ethan Schneider, Annaliese Nagassar, Zoe Kushinski, Yabi Yidnekachew

Chanhassen High School: Greta Mahlke, Jacob Humbert, Grace Root, Tessa Burke

  • EyeOnECCS

 

NOTE: Occasionally throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may be to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well. So, keep your Eye on ECCS!

Linda Dierks calls the media center at Chaska Middle School East a “safe space.” At Clover Ridge Elementary, the media center is a space where creativity is sparked. At Chaska High School, the media center is so many things – a flex space, a group space, a quiet zone.

Media centers and media specialists in school buildings throughout the district play integral parts in our students’ daily experience. To celebrate “I Love to Read” month in February, Eye on ECCS visited one elementary, one middle school, and one high school media center.

CLOVER RIDGE ELEMENTARY
A classroom teacher for 13 years, Samantha Mueller shifted roles at Clover Ridge Elementary in 2022 and moved to the media center. It’s a role she enjoys, and a chance to engage with every student in the building as they rotate through her space every third school day. 

Library day is a lot more than checking out books these days, but still an important part of the student experience.  Mueller prepares the media center book space with new themes each month to spark student interest and keep them engaged.

Media time at the elementary level is all about creativity and one of its roles is to serve as a “Maker Space.” Sometimes that means introducing students to different modes of technology. On the day of the visit, one student is producing her own project, while another student records himself drawing. Other students design a safe route around obstacles for their coding robot, Sphero. Others create bracelets, play chess, and explore on tablets. 

“Students beg for Maker Space. They all love to work on something that interests them,” Mueller said.

Kindergartners begin their media time with a story, “The Book With No Pictures.” Using Novel Effect, an app that follows along with interactive music and sound effects, the story comes to life. The students giggle and gasp as Mueller reads. 

CHASKA MIDDLE SCHOOL EAST
One can understand, even in the quiet moments, the importance of the media center at Chaska Middle School East. Tranquil sounds encompass the second floor space that received a facelift as part of a two-year capital improvement project last summer.

The space is calm and inviting, an oasis during a transition time such as middle school where life can sometimes be hectic.

“It is a safe place for a lot of kids,” Dierks said. “When they come in, I want them to feel loved, to feel welcome.”

Dierks has transformed the space into a media center that serves many purposes, sometimes all at once. Everything in the space, from the different sized tables and chairs to the monitors that display nature (on this day, fish swimming in aquariums) is “intentional.”

Classes frequently come to the media center where Dierks teaches students how to research topics, how to navigate databases, and really find the answer to what they are looking for.

It’s within the pages of books where Dierks lives. “That’s my job,” she said. She reads anywhere between one to five books a week. She has a wall behind her desk that displays all of the books she has read this school year. Her deep knowledge of the media center’s book catalog goes a long way when trying to appeal to those both excited about reading and those who are a little more reluctant.

“It would be awesome if every kid was reading books, but that’s not the case, and so I try to find ways to pull the non-readers in, too,” Dierks said.

On one end cap, Dierks has a Connections display that’s a play on the popular New York Times puzzle.  Students have to identify what the common thread, or connection is, among the six books.  She and the East Student Council also held the “I Love to Read Month” book competition in February. The total number of books read among students was 2,137! A traveling trophy passed between top performing advisories each week.

How can you support reading at home?

CHASKA HIGH SCHOOL
A teacher in the district for more than 20 years, Jo Jacobson understands the importance of relationships with students and has worked to create a space that’s welcoming for all. 

“You get to know the students, know what they may like. I call them ‘my kids’ because I get to know when they will stop by. I get to know their schedules,” Jacobson said.

On this day, Jacobson bounces around the media center, helping students find a book that may interest them. Some come with an idea, others need a brainstorming session. There is also a class that has come down to check out books. Jacobson walks them through some options she has pulled and curated on small tables based on themes. 

Currently, Jacobson is running a March Madness of Books, a tournament-style competition among the 16 most checked out books over the past year. The winner will be announced on March 22.

  • EyeOnECCS

NOTE: Occasionally throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may be to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well. So, keep your Eye on ECCS!

When Carver Elementary’s Bus 54 students walk into the flex learning space known as Lower Creek, they shout with joy in recognition of the man waiting for them there. 

“Chuck!”

“Chucky!”

“Chuck E. Cheese!”

And he recognizes each and every one of them, too. Chuck calls out their names as they enter the space.

Who is Chuck? He is their bus driver. But to the students and staff of Carver Elementary, he’s more than just a bus driver.  He’s a trusted adult and part of their school community.

That has been the goal of the bus circles Carver Elementary leadership have hosted with drivers and students this school year. Humanizing one another and making connections. The adult at the front of the bus isn’t just the driver now. And the students going to and from school aren’t just students.

“We’re about building a school family, a safe place for kids to learn, and that includes when our kids are riding to and from school,” Carver principal Ryan Finke said.

Carver Elementary was seeing a number of bus referrals for behavior so Finke and dean of students Chuck Zemek met with the drivers at the district transportation center to ask how they could help.

“Part of our conscience discipline talks we have with students is our ‘wish you wells,’ so we started having bus circles with the drivers and students. Everyone wears a name tag. We have the kids all sign a book, ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,’ and we give each driver that signed book at the end,” Finke said.  ‘Wish you wells’ provide a way for children to offer caring and empathy to each other and others within their communities.

“We’ve had really positive feedback from the drivers. They’ve really enjoyed them. I think some were skeptical at first, but they’ve seen the difference,” Zemek said.

Carver Elementary recently went an entire month without a referral. 

Zemek and school counselor Ann Varpness have led the bus circles, completing the first round with all drivers on Feb. 22. They will continue to monitor data the rest of the school year with a plan to do a second round of circles next fall.

“Chuck’s job is to keep you safe. What’s your job?” Zemek said to the students. “To help him keep us safe!” the students replied.

  • EyeOnECCS