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Jefferson School welcomes the Board of Education
Jefferson Elementary students’ hands “glow” under ultraviolet light as they demonstrate a science project at Wednesday’s school board meeting. - photo by photos by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune
The students taught the adults an action game that depended on close listening and quick reflexes.

Jefferson Elementary School was the host site Wednesday for November’s luncheon meeting of the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education. Students gave presentations on things they’ve been doing this year, from kindergartners sharing Thanksgiving turkey jokes to sixth-graders investigating a mystery and using science to solve it.

Students taught the adults a new game to test their reflexes and shared some of their work from November’s Turkey Project. Some wrote about their favorite Thanksgiving foods other than turkey and some created “turkey in disguise” artwork. Turkeys disguised as Patrick Mahomes, a gumball machine or a dinosaur were probably safe from becoming someone’s main course.

Ashley Davis and some of her special education students gave a presentation about their job as the Delivery Crew. They have a cart and deliver snacks of fruits and vegetables to the other classrooms every day.

Kindergartners shared a few of their best Thanksgiving jokes:

• What did the turkey say to the computer?


Thanksgiving wasn’t the only holiday observed in November. For Veterans Day, students welcomed guests who have served in the Armed Forces. They decorated a Hall of Fame and some classes sang to them.

Fifth graders worked in two-person teams to research topics and make presentations. The board heard from two teams, one that researched systems of interconnected food chains and one that researched early Native Americans.

Sixth graders were tasked with tracking down a mysterious “infection” in the school and finding its source. Two students demonstrated how a special gel reveals germs on their hands when held under ultraviolet light.

Principal’s Report

Jefferson Principal Adam Niedens and other staff members were invited to share information regarding the academic programs and school improvement efforts. In addition to the student presentations, Niedens and instructional coach Cindy Beck addressed the board. Niedens said attendance is above 95% at present.

The Building Leadership Team has focused on chronic behavior issues and how to limit rude and disrespectful behavior in the building. The Capturing Kids’ Hearts model implemented by the district has helped in that area, Niedens said. Niedens, Beck, and student and family advocate Krystal Woodral lead the Capturing Kids’ Hearts Activity Days that focus on a different word or character trait each month.

 “We’ve done different activities where kids work together as teams or as a class,” he said. The first one featured a life-size version of the board game Hungry Hungry Hippos. The tabletop game features marbles rolling around the playing field as players operate brightly colored hungry hippos that want to munch the marbles; the faster players press the tails, the more marbles the hippos try to chomp. In the Jefferson version, students pushed and rolled each other around the gym floor on scooters and tried to catch balls using laundry baskets.

Niedens talked about some of the other fun things coming up at Jefferson:

• “We are going to have our first-ever staff Spelling Bee the day before we have our kids’ Spelling Bee.” Niedens and other adults have volunteered to stand on stage in front of the students and compete in a bee just like the one students will have the following day.

• Theme Thursdays are dress-up days. People dressed as their favorite holiday one week and everyone wore Western attire for another. “So tomorrow we’ll have ‘Dress like you dressed back in high school,’” he said, adding he would be wearing sweats on Thursday.

• The StuCo members come up with ideas for Spirit Weeks in the fall and spring semesters.

• Two weeks ago the school had “Muffins with Moms,” inviting mothers to join their students for breakfast. In the spring they’ll have “Doughnuts with Dads.”

• Every Monday, fathers and other male role models are invited to come play with the students at recess time and stay for lunch if they want. It’s called Dads on Duty.

• Breakfast with Braids has four teachers who volunteer to braid girls’ hair on Thursday and Friday mornings.

Taking ownership

Instructional Coach Beck reported that Jefferson students have just started their second round of benchmark testing to see if there are areas where they need extra help. They may be put into small groups where teachers work with them to fill in the gaps. Their progress is monitored once a week. So, if they struggle with reading fluency, students may practice seeing how many words they can read in a minute. The same thing goes for math applications.

 This year, the teachers have talked to the students about goal setting, which has helped give the tests more meaning. The students set goals and mark their progress on graphs. 

“We want them to understand why they are having to do (progress monitoring) and for them to take some ownership in it,” Beck said. The results have been positive, with students choosing to work to improve their scores.