Eye on ECCS: Bluff Creek Elementary

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NOTE: Each week 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!

Beth Holm remembers the wise advice she once received: When you become a building principal, make sure you have great specialists.They have every student in the building in their classroom. Holm, now in her second year as Bluff Creek Elementary principal after previously serving as the building leader at Chaska Middle school East, fully understands that sage advice.


The art room

With the school’s PTO Parents Night event just around the corner, Julia Wilcox and students were hard at work painting, each taking a section of a large wall art canvas that will be among the auction items. 


Today’s art time for fifth-grade students gave them a choice in a project. Some decided to be visual with drawings, others designed and built models. One group of boys constructed a soccer stadium, another student built an airplane from cardboard. Two other boys were working nearby on a boat. One group was well into rebuilding their cardboard gingerbread house by the end of the class period. Two girls were putting the final touches on their clay project, a Diplodocus dinosaur. 


Looking around Mrs. Wilcox’s room at any given time throughout the hour you would have seen every student active in one project or another.


“I think it’s important to really build on each year we have them in elementary school. By the time they leave, I want them to all feel art is in them,” said Wilcox.


The gymnasium

Stacy Godwin was among the teachers that opened Bluff Creek Elementary in 1997. With more than three decades in the district, she’s proud to be among the most tenured and her enthusiasm hasn’t changed a bit. You can see it in her deep love for students, the district and getting kids active in school.


At Bluff Creek, two classrooms come to the gymnasium each period. Bowling was up on the roster this period, and classes started the unit with some bowling trivia. Each question brought a warm-up exercise to be completed after finding out the answer. “Seal jacks,” yes, imagine a seal performing jumping jacks, was certainly a hit, introduced as part of Jump into January.


Godwin and Student Supervisor Cameron Nelson, filling in for PE teacher Tim Bergslien who was on paternity leave, introduced the students to proper techniques on throwing a bowling ball. Nelson, a bowler in high school, said he was taught a method where the bowler “shakes hands with the headpin.” Godwin used Spiderman’s web shooter as an example of finger placement into the ball. After some final reminders such as “bowling is rolling,” the students were off to the lanes. 


The school’s PTO purchased pins and rubber bowling balls about 20 years ago, Godwin said. And they’ve held up. While the largest celebrations came from the crew trying to capture the elusive turkey, Godwin was one proud teacher when she helped one boy break down his throwing machine and get it more on target. Strike!


In the music room

Casey Barker never imagined herself in an elementary music room setting. She envisioned working with high school choirs. But, as a K-12 licensed teacher, she found through her student teaching placement of both elementary and secondary levels that her place early in her career is with the youngest music learners.


“I think the most important part is engaging kids in different ways. They all learn differently. They all see music differently. Some hear it, some see it, some feel it. That’s why I incorporate hand signs, visuals, the wrist and toe tapping, into their singing, so they all can understand,” Barker said.


“That way we all have a chance to be together, all in one,” she added.  Engagement and activity are high on her list for students.


The class toggled between games that incorporated rhythmic movements and active bodies and staff music reading. Even with the Do-Re-Mis, Barker split the class in half, setting up a challenge that ironically ended with the two teams in a tie. Who knew third graders had such amazing singing voices? Barker does. She facilitates a before-school choir as well.


In the media center

Can you imagine the joy of being a kindergartner that is getting their first time with stations in the Innovation Learning Center?


Programmable Bee-Bot floor robots! Marble runs and Magic Tracks! Osmo tablets! Media time isn’t just about checking out books – though there was time for that.  Claire Torrey is Bluff Creek’s media specialist. The media center is definitely among students’ favorites. On this day, Ms. Torrey even had two volunteer students behind the reference desk checking books in and out for students while she walked around the library stacks helping children select proper books.


When all students had their books for the week, Torrey introduced them to the four stations. Naturally, most gravitated toward the Bee-Bots, but the teacher had pre-arranged groups for each station to keep things in order.


Media time is about exploring. For these kindergartners, it was all about creativity. It was all about using their brains to create something fun!


Thanks for having me, BCE Lions!

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