December 22, 2013

Warmth and Light

In mid-December, high above the Great Plains, moist air from the south collides with chill arctic blasts from Canada.

Soon snow covers Minnesota's lakes and forests, sidewalks and streets, school playgrounds and park benches. Temperatures plummet well below zero.

Children watch from classroom windows. Ah, the tragedy of it all. The sledding hill beckons, but for a week or more noon temperatures are well below zero, and the principal calls for "indoor recess."

From the beginning of winter to spring thaw how do teachers capture children's attention and inspire them to learn?

When the air outside is cold, inside young hearts are warmed by practicing compassion and service. Some children make blankets for those who have none.

"I like working with my buddies to help, and bring a smile to someone's face," explains one child.

Other children write letters to housebound senior citizens, and marvel when they receive letters back. "When can we meet them?" boys and girls ask.

Outside the school, snow on benches melts to reveal the words "compassion", "respect", and "service".

When the nights are long and days short, young minds come to see learning in new light.

A social studies teacher explains, " At 211 degrees, water is hot. With one more degree, at 212 degrees, water boils, yielding power in a steam engine or turbine to produce electricity. What does one more degree of effort mean to your success and achievements?"

Outside the school, snow on benches melts to reveal the words "responsibility" and "integrity."

Warmth and light. So much of learning depends on inspiration, effort, and confidence. During the winter, when our world is cold and dark, teachers reach students by nurturing warmth -- and inspiring light -- on the inside.

Dr. Michael Lovett


Student News - Giving back

'Tis the season for giving and our White Bear Lake Area elementary students have completed a variety of service projects in the holiday spirit. Lakeaires fifth-grade classrooms completed an annual service project during the month of November. "The project ties in nicely with what the community does around this time of the year for families who are less fortunate," said teacher Cha Vang.

Fifth-graders baked and delivered cookies to the White Bear Lake Fire and Police Stations, collected and raised money to donate to the Animal Humane Society, volunteered at Second Harvest and Feed My Starving Children, made gifts for residents of an elderly home, and much more! In recognition for their service, students received a certificate that was displayed in the Lakeaires fifth-grade hallway. Vang said that she encourages her students to do random acts of service throughout the year. In fact, this year's project of writing letters to the residents of an assisted living home is expected to continue for the rest of the school year.

Vadnais Heights Elementary Student Council members coordinated a food and toy drive to support families in the community. The students worked with the Vadnais Heights Lions and the Vadnais Heights Food Shelf to ensure that everyone has food for their table and presents for their children this holiday season. Principal Sara Svir said, "the generosity we have observed is incredible." In addition to the items donated, the school received cash donations, which allowed student council representatives to go shopping for items to be added to the collection to ensure that children of all ages received a gift. On Dec. 18, much to the school's surprise, Santa Claus and his elves collected the donated gifts. View the photo album here

Some of our youngest students are getting into the mix, learning great lessons from their older elementary classmates. Lincoln Elementary kindergarteners participated in the unique Scholastic's Great Bedtime Story Pajama Drive. For the fourth year in a row, kindergarten students and their families collected pajamas for children in need. This year, the school received 56 pairs of pajamas. The Scholastic Corporation will donate each new pair of "jammies" and a new book to a child in need. 

Movin' on up

On Thursday, Dec. 12, the boys' swimming and diving teams won their first ever conference dual meet by a score of 94.5 to 91.5. They also broke five team records! The 200 Medley Relay of Dan Johnson, Quinn Johnson, Caleb Odmark, and Abe Townley broke the record with a time of 1:49.97. Quinn Johnson broke the 200 Individual Medley record with a time of 2:12.74. Harry Baden broke the six dive record with a score of 222.95. Caleb Odmark broke the 100 Butterfly record with a time of 58.03. Quinn Johnson broke the 100 Breaststroke record with the time of 1:06.56. Coach Jake Mueller said that he can see more records being broken throughout the rest of the year. 

Tanner Hinck, the senior captain of the White Bear Lake basketball team, has been honored twice this week - he was named this week's Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week and he won ESPN 1500 Fan Pick on the ASPIRE Athlete of the Week website contest. Hinck has scored at least 20 points in four of the Bears' six games this season and has shot 47 percent from three-point range. He volunteers with White Bear Lake youth basketball teams, is a member of the National Honor Society and has a grade-point average of 3.9. Congratulations, Tanner!

The road to sports excellence begins with family fitness. Fortunately, White Bear Lake Schools have BearPower, a community-wide movement of helping families eat well and be active. In December, Oneka Elementary had their first BearPower Family Fitness Frenzy. With almost 50 participants, the event was a huge success. Activities included: dancing, last chance workout obstacle course, critter soup running game, and free time ball skills. 

"It was exciting to see the wide range of ages all playing together. Fitness should be play - it was so obvious that the Family Fitness Frenzy was fun for all!" said Nancy Krocak, physical education and health teacher at Oneka. Family Fitness Frenzy will be scheduled for the first Friday of every month during the school year at Oneka Elementary. The school also now has a BearPower committee. 

Local contest winners

Central seventh-graders Sydni Miles and Olivia Schwintek used their creativity and artistic talent to win two local contests. Sydni Miles placed first in the local VFW Patriot's Pen essay contest and then placed third in the district-level contest in early December. She wrote a 400-word essay about "What Patriotism Means to Me." Sydni shared her personal story about losing her cousin Nick Spehar, a Navy SEAL, in Afghanistan in 2011. Not only did she receive two beautiful certificates and a sizable monetary award, but she also attended a lovely dinner with veterans of all ages and their wonderful families. 

Olivia Schwintek created the winning poster in the annual White Bear Lake Lion's Club Peace Poster Contest. The theme was "Our World, Our Future." Olivia won the district-level competition and is now entered in the multiple district competition. Winners from that level will be entered into the international contest. Olivia will be recognized for her efforts in Bloomington in January.

Reaching out

In November, students from Central Middle School, gave in two different ways during a community-based instruction event led by Kim LaCasse. First, students and staff showed selflessness by purchasing baby clothes with their own money for an orphanage in Vietnam. Most of the babies at the orphanage have had serious health conditions. 

Another way the students practiced giving was by making their purchases at ARC Value Village, where proceeds from sales go to people with developmental disabilities and their families. As an added bonus, students used their math skills by comparison shopping baby clothes at high end, mid range, and inexpensive thrift stores. Additional Central staff, Laurie Hubin, Paula Johnson, Rochelle Scheel and Lori Wills, supported students in this learning activity and donated to the orphanage.

The spirit of giving is just as strong on the southern end of the White Bear Lake Area School District. Sunrise Park Middle School staff, students, and families should also be commended for giving of their time - on a holiday nonetheless - for a good cause. The group exhibited a high level of dedication when they woke up early on Thanksgiving morning to volunteer at the Walk to End Hunger in the Twin Cities. 

The fundraiser eventually brought in $300,000 to go to hungry individuals and families in the metro area.

Adding a new dimension

Last week, Delroy Nyren, technology education teacher at WBLAHS - South Campus, finished configuring two new Afinia 3-D printers, giving our high school students the unique opportunity to work hands-on with a cutting-edge piece of technology. 

The equipment was purchased thanks to a generous donation from Bob and Michele Hirsch. "3-D printing is the future and I'm hoping that the printer will help students understand the end-to-end engineering process and have fun at the same time," Bob Hirsch explained.

Specific projects have not yet been established, but students involved in Project Lead the Way and robotics classes will be using the 3-D printers on a regular basis. Initially upon introduction, students had many questions about the printers and seemed very intrigued. "It allowed for some great classroom discussion on the impact of technology," said Nyren. Regular use of the printers will begin in January.

The technology department was also able to get additional funding on top of the Hirsch donation so more printers could be purchased for WBLAHS - North Campus and the middle schools. Click here to watch a video of one of WBL's 3-D printers.


The past few weeks have produced a few funny surprises at the high school campuses - both of which were captured on video. First, on December 11, students and staff members at WBLAHS - North Campus coordinated and performed a flash mob dance in honor of Principal Don Bosch's birthday. Click here to watch the video.

At South Campus, chemistry teacher, Cassandra Knutson and her husband hosted their annual liquid nitrogen day for students in the Chemistry Club. During the day, students observe and participate in numerous demonstrations involving liquid nitrogen. This kind of experience is quite rare for high school students, as most high schools do not have access to liquid nitrogen. Nitrogen day ended with a "bang" as the team used the liquid nitrogen to propel 1500 ping pong balls into the air. See the explosive video here!

Activities Updates

Boys' basketball team member Tanner Hinck was named this week's Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week and won ESPN 1500 Fan Pick on the ASPIRE Athlete of the Week website last week. The senior captain of the White Bear Lake basketball team has scored at least 20 points in four of the Bears' six games this season and has shot 47 percent from three-point range. He volunteers with White Bear Lake youth basketball teams, is a member of the National Honor Society and has a grade-point average of 3.9. Cast and crew members of the WBLAHS Fall Musical were honored with a record-breaking number of awards in the Hennepin Theatre Trust's SpotLight Theatre Program. See the press release here

White Bear Lake Area High School Athletics schedules can be found here.

Please contact the Communications Department (651-407-7695) to submit Student News for inclusion in future publications.

School Board News - Meetings

School Board meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.
Upcoming meetings 

Date Type Time Location
January 13 Regular 7 p.m. District Center
January 27 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center
February 10 Regular 7 p.m. District Center