Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Creativity, or not so much

What gets measured, gets done.  We're measuring a lot of basic knowledge, and assigning grades to schools based on how well students perform on those tests.  Friess Lake is happy to be in the "Exceeding Expectations" category according to the WI Report Card System, but we view the situation with a much broader lens than test results.

Creativity is critical to our future success as a nation.  We keep saying that, and yet the powers that be keep finding ways to encroach into any area that would allow creativity.

We have learning going on in every classroom- and that includes the MAKER'S Lab.  As a matter of fact, there is a tremendous amount of learning going on in the MAKER'S Lab.  Creative learning- learning based on solving problems.  There is a curriculum, but it isn't incredibly detailed and nicely bound in a 3-ring binder. 

It's more like this:  Here is some cardboard and some duct tape- how are you going to design and build a boat that will float?  The students are obsessing over this project- positive obsessing!  Staying in from recess obsessing.  Getting ideas and advice from parents obsessing.  Thinking and rethinking obsessing. 

The kind of obsessing that yields creativity.  The kind of learning we need more of in schools.  The kind of learning the standardized testing and accountability crowd can not account for.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cardboard Boats

I'm excited about many of the things going on as we begin the 2013-14 school year.  But, one stands out as my favorite. 

The Friess Lake MAKER'S Lab is open for business, and it is pretty cool!  And, of all the projects currently underway in the MAKER'S Lab, my favorite is the upcoming boat regatta.  Our middle school students are building cardboard boats that they will test out on Friess Lake in a few weeks.

This project has all of the elements of what education should be about, but- too often- isn't.  All one has to do is walk into the classroom and the following are all evident in spades:


The students have clearly embraced the challenge of building a boat out of cardboard.  They are passionately discussing options, working through ideas, uncovering 'AH HAA' moments, and- wait for it- LEARNING!!!

I was on the verge of posting this when a blog post appeared from Peter Gow:

Love it!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Friess Lake: Welcome Back Message

My goal was to blog more in the summer- figuring a little bit more open time would allow me a few extra minutes to write.  Well, that didn't happen.  No excuses.

This is the written version of a phone message that we sent to all parents:

Thank you for sending your child, or children, to Friess Lake School.  We know how much you love them and want them to be happy and successful.  it is, truly, an honor and a privilege to work with the students and families of Friess Lake School.

We've added two new dynamic teachers- Mrs. Jakubowski in 3rd grade and Ms. Goral in Middle School Math.  Ms. Ellefson, who joined us last year in a part-time role, has moved to 4th grade.  They add to what is already a talented, caring, and compassionate staff.

We are one of the only schools in the Midwest to offer a MAKER'S LAB!!!  Our lab will operate under the guidance of Mr. Hoefs.  Every child will have an opportunity to do at least one project in the lab.  The first middle school project is cardboard boats.  We will be testing them out on Friess Lake in a few weeks.

We've added time to the school day in order to help us provide targeted instruction in Reading and Math.

We are in Year 3 of a 1:1 Initiative, and we now have 1:1 iPads in 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th grades.  The other elementary grades have access to iPads on a cart.  Our 7th graders have access to Macbooks, and our 8th graders have their own.  More importantly, we are using the devices to both guide and change instruction.  The ultimate goal is to improve learning.

We are using both Fountas & Pinnell and STAR Enterprise tests to help us assess student achievement levels and provide targeted instruction on specific skills.

There's more- there's always more!!

I'd like to end with this:

25% of our total school enrollment is through families choosing us via the Open Enrollment program.  We have six students open enrolling IN for every one student who open enrolls out.  That positive ratio of 6:1 is the highest in Washington County!!  

Once families choose us, they tend to stay.  90% of the families who have open enrolled here over the course of the last ten years have stayed here through 8th grade Graduation.

So, in a competitive and crowded local school marketplace, the numbers prove that Friess Lake is thriving and has the support of the local community.

Thanks again for making us your school of choice.  Thank you to all of the parent volunteers who add so much to our school culture.