In the last week of the first semester at Woodbury Central, Mrs. McElrath’s biology students compared the concepts of mitosis and meiosis. In groups of 1 to 3, students chose to create a game or documentary, write a children’s book, a song or a poem, or make flashcards, posters, comic strips, a PowerPoint, or a Prezi. Then they presented their projects to their groups. “I learned a lot from other groups,” sophomore Kara Schmitz confirms.
Although the project centered on mitosis and meiosis, many students took their projects in other directions – technology, band, vocal, arts (drawing), and writing. For instance, sophomore Joci Ofert built “a poster and flashcards”; on her poster, she drew comic-strip characters, and on her flashcards she wrote “definitions, and asked people what the word is that I defined.”
The students benefit from the opportunity to pick how they show that they understand the concepts of mitosis and meiosis. By making the project “student choice,” they could “really be a true individual through their learning,” explains their science teacher, Mrs. McElrath. The students also learned new things and were able to remember the information better after the other groups presented their projects to them. Students were graded on knowledge, creativity, accuracy, and presentation.
“I enjoyed hearing the recipes and directions in Spanish, and seeing how much I comprehended,” says Hailee Sleezer, about Woodbury Central’s Spanish IV end-of- semester final project.
For their final, Mrs. Stratton’s seniors create recipes for a full meal which includes an appetizer, a main dish and a dessert. “It must include at least 10 ingredients and 10 steps, their verbs in correct form, and use vocabulary related to our food unit,” Mrs. Stratton says. Then she adds that “they can create a poster, do a cooking show or have written recipes for a magazine or cookbook.”
At the project’s completion, students have learned to apply and use the language for personal enjoyment and enrichment. Also, they present information to an audience in the target language. Finally, they compare Spanish food words to English food words. Michelle Putze says, “I have enjoyed listening to the Spanish recipes and seeing how much I understand.”
Mrs. Stratton has set aside three to four days to work on organizing the semester project and writing it in Spanish; then students spend three to four days presenting their food project to their peers.
In early December, Woodbury Central English III students created game boards to help them review their studies for semester tests. “I thought the game board was a very helpful review for the end-of-year tests,” comments junior Jacob Harris. “It took a lot of time and effort to finish the project.”
Students in Mrs. Schultz’s English classes grouped into units of three to four to create an original idea to make a game board from scratch. Mrs. Schultz notes, “Creating and playing the games lets the students review in a fun atmosphere, so they don’t feel overwhelmed when studying for the final exam.”
One of the requirements for the project was to write 100 questions and put the questions on flashcards to use for the game. The questions covered all the stories that the juniors read during the first semester. Groups were to also form a set of detailed instructions to cover the rules of their games.
The project took roughly three weeks and was due the day before winter break. After break, students played the games that the other groups made. “The game board was pretty hard to do but, our group got it done and it was pretty fun getting to play other game boards,” says junior Dakota Custer. His group created a game in which a player starts in the ocean and follows the path to find his way back to shore.
Junior Austin Wilcox works on his Advanced Biology project in the library
This year’s Advanced Biology class decided to forego the semester test idea in favor of a semester project. This “was designed to give students the opportunity to research a ‘real life’ topic” says Mrs. McElrath, the teacher who assigned the project.
The students were split into groups and allowed to pick an athletic injury to research and make a presentation about. One group was even allowed to show the similarities between the human body, and the functions and parts of a car. Mrs. McElrath says “this year the project went in a couple different directions based on the students’ interests.” She also adds that the projects “focused mainly on sports injuries, automobile accidents, and comparing the human body to parts of a car.”
The project was to allow the students to “build off their knowledge from the class into an area of research which was of interest to them,” Mrs. McElrath says. The project received a positive reaction from the students in the class for various reasons. Junior Austin Wilcox says that he liked this project because “you’ll learn more from a project than a test,” while junior Brooke Nettleton makes a more obvious point as she says with a smile, “I liked this project BECAUSE it wasn’t a test.”
Woodbury Central seniors recently chose a social problem that interested them to finalize their first semester of study in the Social Problems class. Students chose topics such as human trafficking, global warming and illegal immigration. “I really enjoyed learning about all the different varieties of social problems,” says Mikayla Mitchell.
According to Social Problems teacher Ms. Reinders, this project “allows the students to identify and research problems in our society.” Then she adds, "they have to conduct interviews, prepare a presentation and write up a summary report.” Students learn about different social problems that happen around the world. Chloe Nettleton says, “I didn’t realize how many different kinds of social problems exist in the world.”
As part of the interview process, seniors ask three to five questions about their chosen social problem of two family members and two friends. The project took about two weeks to complete and present.
“I encourage students to take the ACT as a junior," said Woodbury Central guidance counselor Mary Walker. "The first time gives them an idea of what the test is like, what to expect if they choose to take it again, and gives them a feel of how they might study for it differently the second time.”
Most students who take this test are high school juniors and seniors. “I expect the test to be difficult and long,” said junior Kendall Fouts. Registration deadlines for the 2016 ACT tests are Jan. 8, March 4 and May 6. The corresponding test dates are Feb. 6, April 9 and June 11.
The ACT is national college admissions exam that test students in the areas of math, reading, science and English. “The ACT score is an important number that will be asked for when applying for colleges and scholarships,” Mrs. Walker explained. Students can choose to take the ACT with writing, or take the ACT without writing. More information can be found at www.Actstudent.org. There is a fee for registrations past the deadline dates.
"Pursuing Victory with Honor Summit”
A group of Woodbury Central high school and middle school students were selected by Mrs. Schultz to attend the 2015 "Pursuing Victory with Honor Summit.” The event took place October 15 at Morningside College in Sioux City. WC was one of the many schools represented at the Summit.
After the opening ceremony, students from three school districts gathered in four different breakout sessions. They listened to speakers to learn skills to help guide and promote better focus, toughness, integrity and personal responsibility within their schools and teams.
Speaker Andy Winkelmann from the U. of Iowa spoke about how to manage stress, and play in the present. He talked about "good stress" which is needed to improve focus, endurance and persistence as well as "the tipping point," where good stress becomes "distress" which may lead to emotional and physical breakdowns.
Jeff Kluever of Des Moines, who focused on leading Self and others, explained the possibilities of essential skills and habits that revolve around personal and collective responsibility. Mr. Kluever stressed to students that “a leader is one who knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way.” Sophomore Kurt Countryman says he learned that “it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re doing you are a leader. Even if you don’t think you are there’s always someone watching and following your example.”
Students heard Matt Davidson talk about mental toughness, and focused on the importance of developing the right mindset. He emphasized that toughness does not come overnight, and decisions are made one at a time. “Mental toughness is more significant than physical strength,” agrees freshman Emma Persons.
Scott Rocker’s session focused on the importance of integrity and the real-life challenges of putting integrity into action. Students learned that integrity means “wholeness.” Mr. Rocker’s other key point is that a person with moral and performance integrity motivates, empowers and persuades others to do the same.
This year’s Summit featured research-based content about a student’s performance through focus, integrity, toughness and personal responsibility. Students learned ways to guide themselves and their teams from “good to great,” and “great to champion.”
Ms. Long-Birdsall Student teacher interview
By Jacey Stratton
Woodbury Central student teacher Rhonda Long-Birdsall says that her favorite part of teaching is to learn from the students. “I love when they bring up a perspective I had never thought of before,” she says. Other enjoyable teaching moments include seeing something “click” for the students if at first they don't understand.
Teaching has its difficulties and for her it is “trying to lead a discussion and you can tell the students are not listening.” Patient, kind, stubborn, good listener, and open-minded are a few words she used to describe herself. When teaching, she finds it helpful to be open-minded, a good listener, and understanding. To keep herself organized, she uses post-it notes, binders, paper clips, folders etc… “I create a system for myself and stick with it.” She likes to be organized and “when something is due, it is due.”
Ms. Birdsall decided to become a teacher as a senior in high school. “I wanted to teach secondary English because the students are able to hold discussions about the content,” she says.
Originally from Council Bluffs, Ms. Birdsall graduated from Abraham Lincoln, and continued her education at Buena Vista University. Soon she will graduate with degrees in social work and Secondary Education, English.
Ms. Birdsall values her friends, family, religion and pets. “They are like my children,” she says. Her dream is to live and work in Chicago. She also wants to work for the Peace Corps. Ms. Birdsall is the daughter of Jerry Birdsall and Cindy Long. She has two brothers: Chris Birdsall and Aeon Long.