January 10, 2016
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Room at the Table
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago
Christina Rossetti, 1872
December of 2013 began with heavy snows. Temperatures dropped below freezing and held steady for more than two weeks. Then, the week before Christmas, temperatures dropped precipitously to below zero and the coldest winter in decades began.
For several days that Christmas week, a man was seen in White Bear Lake pedaling his bicycle north on Highway 61 and through downtown. The bicycle was conspicuous as much for being out of season as for the two-wheeled trailer rigged behind and tied down by a blue plastic tarp. On top of his load was lashed a pair of heavy snow boots. It was hard not to wonder where he was going or to guess what purpose impelled him to turn face to the wind and into the flurries of snow. After sighting him the next day, it was hard not to wonder where he had stayed the night before.
Then it was Christmas Eve and snow fell gently on the town until roads and driveways and sidewalks were covered in a White Christmas blanket of snow. By dawn a half foot had fallen and muffled the footfalls of those who walked along the lake to enjoy the silent beauty of a Christmas morning. And there he was again, the man with the bicycle, sitting quietly on a bench tucked under the awning of a downtown storefront. It was unsettling. Where is he from? Where has he been? Where is he going? Why hasn't he moved on? And where did he sleep last night in the bitter cold? Christmas morning was suddenly not so serene and simple. The world outside had broken in.
A mother cornered her husband who was busily shoveling snow. "This is the third time I've seen him this past week. I think he must have slept in the vestibule of the church last night. Would you go talk to him and invite him to come home for breakfast?"
The father was ever so slightly annoyed. He was shoveling snow and had no interest in the outside world other than the small domain of his driveway. "Maybe we could just offer him some food," he suggested.
"No," she answered, annoyed in return. "He should be given an invitation, not a handout." With those words she turned and went back into the house.
The man paused and wondered at his own selfishness. He leaned the shovel on the gate and went off in search of the traveler and his bicycle. A few minutes later, mother looked out the window and saw snow flying from two shovels.
"Set another place at the table," she told the children. "We are having a guest for breakfast."
During the holiday season, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, Americans demonstrate contradictory behaviors. It is a season of generosity and increased giving, but it is also a season of preoccupation with shopping, holiday preparations, and celebrations.
In our school district, we thank our community for your awareness of the needs of others, including generous support for our students and families. We also see through our daily work that human needs are significant and not always visible within our community.
To this second point, we can all use a reminder now and then to avoid getting preoccupied with work and activities...and to make room for guests at the table.
Michael J. Lovett, Ph.D
Superintendent, White Bear Lake Area Schools
This article was recently published in the White Bear Press.
This Hug-A-Heart activity was also featured in this 62.4-second video update!
As the doors unlocked and students and staff stomped off their snowy boots, they flooded back into our buildings and returned from a long winter break. Reuniting with friends and coworkers, many shared stories of their holiday happenings, and while it's certainly a fun conversation to share what new gifts were received, many students had stories to share about how they gave back to others. One heartwarming example comes from our Vadnais Heights Elementary Student Council students. They teamed up with the Vadnais Heights Lion's Club to give back to the community for the holidays. Student representatives made posters and collected canned food items and toys to be distributed to families in need within the White Bear Lake area community. In addition to the collection from the Vadnais student body, the student council representatives decided to use profits made from the school store, along with personal donations, to purchase even more toys and food. Students were given a budget and with the help of five parents, two staff members and nineteen students, more than $420 dollars of non-perishable items and toys were purchased and donated.
Lincoln Elementary students took part in an activity with a similar motive. You may remember reading about the Hug-A-Heart event this past fall, where students helped rake leaves for our elderly community members. Well, there's a winter edition of Hug-A-Heart, too! More than half of the Lincoln student body (roughly 160 students) and 80 family and staff volunteers took part in this year's Winter Hug-A-Heart activity. Students and volunteers made 40 fleece tie blankets for an organization called Infant Layettes and also made holiday decorations and cards for White Bear Lake Meals on Wheels recipients. (This event was also featured above in the "In Photos" section of this e-newsletter and in a recent 62.4-second video update.)
If those stories aren't heartwarming enough, this video is sure to make you melt. Before every winter break, Superintendent Dr. Micheal Lovett shares a holiday message for students and staff to remember while away from school, and each year, he selects a group of students to help share this message. This year's participants were students and staff from My Nature Preschool at Tamarack Nature Center. The preschool students had a blast splashing around in the mud (due to the delayed snow) and playing outside with their teachers and our superintendent. Though it may have appeared this group was merely "monkeying" around, they were actually partaking in message number one, which was to play outside everyday. There were two other messages Dr. Lovett and district staff wanted students to keep in mind while away on break - to read and to be kind every day. Click the featured image or this link to watch this year's fun-fulled video. We hope you enjoyed these messages and had a wonderful holiday break.
Though just returning from winter break, Central seventh grade students have been in and out of the building already - for field trips to the University of Minnesota. All 340 Central seventh grade students have or will be heading over to the university's campus to do some research at the Wilson Library. The purpose of the trip is to provide the seventh grade students with more resources to prepare for their History Day projects. The Minnesota History Center partnered with the school to provide mentors for the students as they perused through the library. Plus, some U of M students helped them to navigate their way around the college library. Some of our students even got to look through real government documents and browse through the rare books section. All seventh grade students in the WBLAS District will participate in History Day in the spring and will compete in the regional competition at WBLAHS - South Campus.
Eighteen of our ALC students and two of its staff members recently took a field trip just down the road to the Xcel Energy Training Center in Hugo. This was for a hands-on job shadowing experience. The students first listened to a couple lectures, then were given the opportunity to try out some job tasks that linemen do on a daily basis. Organizers say the students were heavily engaged and would be directly applicable for future apprenticeships, if that's something they wanted to pursue. Click here to view an entire photo album of the students in action.
The Otter Lake Elementary First Lego League Team (FLL), Rechargeable Doom, also hit the road for some hands-on learning recently. This was for the team's first robotics competition. Rechargeable Doom was one of the top qualifying teams in the competition and will advance to MN FLL State Sectionals held this month. FLL is a team-based, hands-on, competitive robotics program. Teams collaborate to build and program an autonomous robot to score points on a thematic playing surface and create an innovative solution to a problem correlated to the yearly theme, all while guided by the FLL Core Values. Rechargeable Doom consists of fourth grade student Henry Whelan and fifth grade students David Maruyama, Alex Jonell, Ryan Hartjen, Marion Moore, Ava Marino, Mallory Theissen, Kaisa Brown and Elaera Knutson. Way to go, Bears!
62.4-second video updates
Take a look at our 62.4-second video updates that highlight weekly activity throughout our schools during the school year.
At this week's boys' swim dual meet, two records were broken: Abe Townley broke the 50 Freestyle records with a time of 22.27. The old record was 22.35. The 200 Freestyle Relay record was also broken. The relay was swam by Dan Johnson, Blake Burnau, Mack O'Neil, and Abe Townley. The new time was 1:34.64, beating the old record of 1:35.79.
Click here for a schedule of all fall sports contests. Find a complete list of all WBLAHS Activities, Athletics and Fine Arts here.
Please contact the Communications Department (651-407-7695) to submit Student News for inclusion in future publications.