Good Luck

December 06th, 2019

sunflower redesignA Sunflower Elementary School student gets help during a lesson from her teacher recently. New ways of teaching math and other subjects have been part of work being done with the redesign process. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The first year of the redesign efforts throughout USD 480 schools is drawing to a close, and many plans are already being made for next year. 

Overall, being part of the redesign project has been quite the opportunity for the district. 

“This process has been a great learning experience for all of us. We’ve all grown in our abilities and direction, and we actually have a clear focus school wide now where we all know what we’re doing,” Sunflower Elementary School Principal Jon Schneider said. 

Throughout the process, there have been a lot factors guiding the school’s vision. 

“After we took our surveys and talked to the parents and students and staff, we came up with the areas we wanted to hit most, because we wanted to focus on the ‘whole child,’ so to speak,” Sunflower Elementary School teacher Shadra Thomas said. “So we’re really going to be focusing on the academic, social-emotional, and the real world, which are our pillars of the redesign. Ours will be somewhat different because we’re going at a slightly slower pace than the other schools. We’re not doing all of our subject changes at the same time, we’re really focusing on that whole child, so we’re looking into becoming a Leader in Me school, which will work on staff and students and families as far as how to set goals, how to meet goals, things like that. It’s giving that intrinsic motivation for each of our students and getting them involved in their learning and taking ownership of the learning process with the teacher guiding them through everything. We’re going to also be looking at reading and handwriting programs for the students. We also have our school closet and we’re looking into developing food backpacks.”

Monday was also the first day for Sunflower Elementary School’s soft start, which Thomas said will be in full implementation next year. 

“That went really well, the students came in and got to choose an activity and weren’t just sitting in the gym waiting for the bell to ring,” Thomas said. “We had coloring stations, computer stations, library time, walk-and-talk, it was really a wide variety to choose from.”

Like other schools, Sunflower Elementary School has been working to develop community partnerships. 

“One of the things students asked for during the survey time last year was after school programs,” Sunflower Elementary School teacher Jeana Winchester said. “So we’ve had a small time looking into how we can do those after school programs for the parents and the students. Currently, we’re looking at bringing in Scouts, which will be there for about the first six weeks and 4-H will be coming in about once a month. The Kiwanis Kids’ Club will also be part of that and we’re also looking into an athletic club where athletes from either the college or high school can come in because unfortunately, not all of our students have the opportunity to participate in sports, but they really like it when older students come in and talk to them and teach them. And we also have the Good News Club up and running, so we’re really looking at having something every day after school for these students to participate in at no charge.”

“We’ve also been doing parent info days and family engagement nights and other outreach like that,” Sunflower Elementary School teacher Erica Arnold said. “Ms. Rios has also done a great job with putting together virtual field trips for the students this year so they can see things they don’t have the opportunity to see since they live in this area. We’ve also been working on parent engagement cards, and what we’re doing with that is giving parents a punch card and for every activity they attend, they’ll get punches on their card and can get little prizes because of their attendance.”

Personalized learning time has also been a major focus at Sunflower Elementary School, with praise going toward the programs themselves and the use of the discovery areas. 

“With the personalized learning time, we’re using the learning menus with Reflex and iStation,” Winchester said. “We also have our free choice specials we’re doing on Fridays with our fifth graders right now and at each station they get a different look at things and get different choices with what they want to do. We’ve also started using pods throughout the school to include all the age groups so everyone’s familiar with everyone.”

“And something else we’re doing with personalized learning is we are wanting to order some textbooks for kindergarteners and first graders, but they’ll also be doing some iStation stuff so we’ll have that direct feedback on what the students are doing well and some things they need help on,” Thomas said. “So there will be the use of both of those so the students so the students will have books in their hands and will also be getting that feedback. With the real world application portion, we started BeUnique, and with that, once a week the students get to choose what they want to do for an hour. For example, in my class earlier this week, I’m teaching them the color wheel and that day we got to focus on primary colors and for that hour they got to work on art projects related to that. We’ll also have options for say, baking, when we’ll teach them how to use measuring cups and ultimately make themselves a snack. It’s something that’s gone really well. We’ll keep working on all those pieces and making sure everything’s going well with them before bringing on more stuff, because our teachers do need a bit of time to adjust to everything, and we want to do it just right.”

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