Education Matters: Whiteside Middle School reading event included running

Students break school rules and teachers cheer

Whiteside Middle School's "Drop Everything And Read" event included a scavenger hunt to match quotes with the books they came from. "This is hard for a principal," said Monica Laurent, because they typically demand that students walk in the halls
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Whiteside Middle School's "Drop Everything And Read" event included a scavenger hunt to match quotes with the books they came from. "This is hard for a principal," said Monica Laurent, because they typically demand that students walk in the halls

Assistant Principal Monica Laurent clenched her fists and bit her tongue on Thursday afternoon, being careful not to shout “No running in the halls!” at the dozens of students doing just that.

The after-school, book-based, fast-paced scavenger hunt had teams of Whiteside Middle School students matching quotes from the Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Junie B. Jones, Hunger Games and Harry Potter series, as well as “Wonder,” “Divergent” and “Charlotte’s Web.” Teams started with different quotes and a map of the school that showed where teachers assigned each book would provide the next clue, if the group had correctly identified the quote to the teacher.

The scavenger hunt was one of the events for the “Drop Everything And Read” afternoon, which started with everyone in the building pulling out favorite books at 1 p.m. to read. Students lounged on recliners and sofas pulled from the library into the hallways, or on pillows and sleeping bags brought from home.

Sixth-grader Baylie Stald, 11, was prepared “with a few books,” leaning to “The Truth.”

“I love the scary mystery,” she said, noting that Laurent was reading one of Baylie’s favorite books, “Cinder.”

After the scavenger hunt and snack, parents were invited to the Scholastic Book Fair and more reading-based events.

“I think it’s a great incentive to stay after school with their friends,” Laurent said. She said students who remained after school were a diverse bunch, with plenty of non-bookworms.

“It’s being with your friends and reading,” she said.

Illinois is No. 11

The Illinois State Board of Education announced last week that the state’s class of 2015 ranked 11th in the nation for the percent of students who scored well on the College Board Advanced Placement exams. Those tests are part of Advanced Placement courses that several high schools in the metro-east offer. The state reported that 25 percent of the 2015 graduates scored at least a 3 on the exam; the national average is 22.4 percent.

AP considered followed students from their freshman through their senior years to come up with the ranking.

Area schools do not use the same method. Belleville District 201 reported that 77 percent of last year’s test-takers had a 3 or better at Belleville West; 69 percent of the same cohort had a passing score at East. Melissa Taylor, director of the district’s special services, said those students include juniors and seniors, and some of those students take more than one AP class.

“It can be a little bit misleading, because if people think you’re talking about that 25 percent of the kids, that’s different than 25 percent of the tests,” Taylor said of the state’s release.

Other area high schools reporting pass rates were: O’Fallon Township High School, where Superintendent Darcy Benway reported 68 percent of students who took the AP tests receiving a 3 or higher; and East St. Louis, where two of 170 students taking AP tests received the passing score.

Advanced Placement courses allow high school students to master college-level studies, and a score of 3, 4 or 5 means the student is qualified to do the work of an introductory-level college course.

The states that had higher passing rates for the Class of 2015 than Illinois were Maryland, Massachusetts, Florida, Connecticut, California, Virginia, Colorado, New York, New Jersey and Utah. Neighboring Missouri ranked 46th.

Signal Hill students lose their hair

A teacher and nine students at Signal Hill School in Belleville again participated in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation event, where they shaved their heads after raising more than $5,500 for childhood cancer research.

Fifth-grade teacher Kyle Selliers said the school has had at least one teacher and three students participate in the public shaving event for the last eight years. He said some of the students have participated several times.

“They see the importance of the shaving and aren’t just in it for a cool haircut,” he said.

East St. Louis girl wins LESA award

Aleesia Glass, an eighth-grader at Unity Lutheran Christian School in East St. Louis, will receive the 2016 Lutheran Student Leadership Award from the Lutheran Elementary School Association in April.

Aleesia was nominated for the award, which includes a $500 scholarship, because of her help and support for a school friend with throat cancer. Aleesia helped organize a rally for #TeamNessa.

“We wanted to let her know we were still here for her and supporting her,” Aleesia said. “She’s my friend and I needed to do something.”

The award recognizes Lutheran elementary school students who show courage, compassion, leadership, academic achievement and a commitment to their community. There are more than 8,500 children who attend Lutheran schools in the greater St. Louis area.

“Aleesia has a gift for building unity in a time of need,” said Rev. Aaron Dickerson, Unity’s principal. “She shows us that loving and caring for others is exactly what God has asked us to do.”

Aleesia plans to attend the SIUE Charter High School in East St. Louis next year.

St. John Neumann girl wins President’s award

Madison Harbison, a fifth-grader at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Maryville, has earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

The school nominated Madison for the honors last fall, in recognition of her volunteering. Her Girl Scout troop has held a blanket drive and gone Christmas caroling at nursing homes. She organized a Baby Basics Drive. She enlisted Girl Scout and school friends to write “Messages of Hope” for children at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

“I learned a little thing can make a big difference,” Madison said. She received a similar message of hope when she was sick in the hospital.

“The recipients of these awards demonstrate that young people across America are making remarkable contributions to the health and vitality of their communities,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. “By recognizing these students and placing a spotlight on their volunteer activities, we hope to motivate others to consider how they can also contribute to their community.”

Ameren visits school

Students at Signal Hill School, in Belleville, learned that phone chargers and video game consoles use energy even when not in use at a presentation by Ameren last week. Teachers said the students were surprised at how little energy was used in the long-lasting CFL and LED bulbs compared to the incandescent light bulbs.

John Koslowski, of Ameren’s Educational Division, brought energy efficient kits for the 120 sixth-through eighth-grade students at the school. The kit included CFL light bulbs, a water-saving shower head and facet aerator, and a worksheet for conducting energy tests within the home. Students who complete the worksheet can input the information at the Ameren site and their teacher will be entered into a drawing for a $250 classroom grant.

Three make finals at Fabulous Fox

Three metro-east students have advanced to the finals of the sixth annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition, sponsored by the Fox Theater. Christina Jones, of O’Fallon Township High School, and Abby Zaiz and Rayna Campbell, both of Belleville East, are among the 22 finalists vying for prizes, college scholarships and performance opportunities.

Christina is a singer; Abby will tap dance and Rayna is an opera singer. They advanced from semifinals at the Fox on March 5.

The finals are at 8 p.m. April 23 at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis.

Healthy Kids sharing with St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Students at Union Elementary School in Belleville are collecting items for their latest service learning project called “The Healthy Kids Express,” sponsored by the Student Leadership Team. Students collected more than 1,550 toiletries, socks, backpacks, coloring books and toys for children at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The school expects to be delivering the items to the hospital on March 16.

Poetry Out Loud

Both private and public school high school students from around the area took part in a Poetry Out Loud contest at Southwestern Illinois College Belleville. The 16 students read from well-known poetry, including works by Dorothy Parker and Emily Dickinson. Madelyn Foster of Edwardsville High School was the regional champion, and Therese Beabout of Gibault Catholic High School was regional runner-up. They will be going to the state competition Friday at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield.

Immaculate Conception School news

▪  Immaculate Conception School’s James Ramette came in 15th of 156 players at the IESA State Chess Championship. The Illinois Elementary School Association had more than 50 schools at the event Feb. 26 and Feb. 27. James went 5-2 in his matches.

▪  Spencer Biske was honored on March 2 by the Daughters of the American Revolution for his essay on the Stamp Act of 1765. He won both the regional contest and will later go to Springfield to pick up his state award.

Kindergarten doctors

Deborah Rozhon’s kindergarten class at Ellis Elementary School in Belleville dressed up as doctors to perform ‘vowel surgery’ on Thursday. Each child had a doctor’s coat, mask, latex gloves and headbands with a surgical light. The doctors had to fix the letter patients by completing their patient charts, which had missing vowels. Kindergartners used oversized tweezers to move the missing vowel from the middle of the table to its place and copied their work into the charts.

Rozhon said it was the first time she had used the vowel exercise from the website Teachers Pay Teachers, and she will use it next year.