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Peace Wapiti Public School Division
Educating today for success tomorrow
Peace Wapiti Public School Division No. 76
‘Snack Shack’ opens at Beaverlodge Elementary School
Beaverlodge Elementary School just keeps getting healthier and healthier. 
With funds from a Healthy Schools - Healthy Futures (HSHF) grant, the school purchased a large double-door cooler that it keeps stocked with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Located in the hallway near the gym and library, students and staff can help themselves to a healthy snack at any time.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” says the school’s HSHF Coordinator Michelle Werbiski. “The kids get greater access to healthier foods, which helps the students stay alert and ready to learn.”
The “Snack Shack” is re-stocked on Mondays, with all purchases so far supporting local businesses, the Beaverlodge Bigway and the IGA.
A listening ear at Peace Wapiti schools
Dean Enyedy describes talking with and helping kids as his “dream job.”
A mental health therapist with Alberta Health Services, he travels to 10 schools in an area that ranges from Eaglesham in the north, to Hythe in the west. His job is to help kids cope with or overcome any number of problems.
Available for one-on-one counselling with students, he’ll first listen, then offer strategies to help with any issue:  general anxiety, test anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addictions, relationship angst, ADHD, abuse, or family stress, for instance.  High school students do not need their parents’ permission to talk to the counsellor. Unless he feels a student is in imminent danger -- and therefore needs an immediate referral -- all conversations are confidential. 
Enyedy also leads popular group workshops to help students reduce “test anxiety.”
He is friendly, approachable, easy to talk to, and a big sports fan; just mention basketball or hockey and see what happens.
Enyedy (sounds like “Kennedy” without the “k”) is at the Counseling Office at Beaverlodge Regional High School on Thursday afternoons, and at other schools throughout the week.


‘Muffins, Music and Mystery’ to showcase SRRA talent

It will be muffins, music and mystery at Spirit River Regional Academy on Tuesday evening as elementary students and Grade 10 drama students showcase their musical and dramatic talents.

Students in Grades 1-4 will present short musical pieces, Grades 5s and 6s will perform a musical play, and the high school students will dramatize a mystery. 

“We’ll also have many, many muffins, coffee and juice prior to the show,” says art and music teacher Gayle Williams of the school’s first spring concert.

The performances start  at 7 p.m. on March 26, 2013 in the school’s gathering area. Admission is free, but cash donations to the music program will be accepted.

Computer program makes students confident, eager for math practice

Teachers at Teepee Creek and Woking schools are noticing big improvements in their students’ confidence in math. What’s more, the students are having so much fun building math skills that they’re even practicing at home.

“They just love it,” says Corry Stark who teaches at Teepee Creek School. “Reflex Math” is a computer-based program she’s using to build math fluency. It runs like a game. Students have an avatar – a symbol of a person or a tree, for instance – to represent themselves and they “earn” accessories for their avatar as they master math basics.

Stark has noticed a significant increase in math skills since she started the program this year. Assessments in September showed 43 per cent of her students had what’s called “math fluency,” meaning they could quickly multiply and divide. By February, that number was 92 per cent. 

While it can be tailored to lower grades for addition and subtraction, Stark is using it to reinforce multiplication and division with her Grade 5 and 6 students.“If they don’t have their basic facts by Grade 5 or 6, they can’t go on to three-digit multiplication, or anything else. It becomes a stumbling block,” she says.

What she particularly likes about the program is that it demonstrates the “whole fact family” and the relationship between multiplication and division. It will show, for instance, two numbers multiplied, then divided in various combinations.

A green light in the corner shows students they are getting the right answers, but just as they can move up to higher levels, they can also move down if their answers are wrong. “The goal is to keep the light green,” says Stark, who is able to log on and watch the students “play.”

The Teepee Creek students are using the program about three times a week for 20 minutes a session. They can also log onto the program at home, and many of Stark’s students are doing just that. While they can play – and thus practice – endlessly, they can only earn a specified number of tokens to improve their avatar each day.

Gil Farley, Acting Principal at Woking School, is equally excited about “Reflex Math.” He began using it in February with his junior high students and likes how he can see exactly what areas are giving his students trouble. “I can see the facts the kids have mastered,” he says. 

The students see it, too, and building skills is building confidence. “They are getting their basic skills, and they have won confidence in math. They are not thinking as hard, and they can move on to more difficult math concepts.”

While the cost of “Reflex Math” is about $30 per student , both Woking and Teepee Creek schools received grants this year from ExploreLearning.

For more info, visit www.reflexmath.com

Picture books, positive acts helping Grade 1s make the world better

Six and seven-year-old students at Spirit River Regional Academy are learning that everyone – even someone in Grade 1 – can have a positive impact on the world.

“I want to teach my students that they are more than just individuals, to see beyond themselves, and to look at their community and to see how they can help,” says teacher Anna Shura of a project she began in earnest last month when she asked her students to complete 100 Random Acts of Kindness. 

This month, after reading “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” she’s asking her 13 students to help fill up other people’s “buckets” with good deeds.   Students will reach out to the community in April, perhaps gathering donations for the Food Bank, picking up garbage in the community or visiting seniors. By May, she wants the children thinking beyond their immediate community while reaching out to others. “I want to show them we can make a difference in the world,” she says.

While global citizenship is part of the curriculum, for Shura, it’s more than that; it’s a personal mission. “It’s something I was already passionate about.  I’m interested in having students look beyond themselves, even at this young age, not waiting until they grow up,” she says.

As she moves to the idea of global citizenship, she’s hoping to have her students figure out how to raise $100 to purchase a milking goat for a farm in Kenya she plans to visit this summer where there are 20 children under the age of six.

With funding through the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI), Shura purchased a collection of picture books that she is using to teach, re-inforce concepts and create discussions about empathy, the ability to understand others’ needs by imagining yourself in their shoes. “It’s amazing how quickly they’ve picked up on things, how they are getting the connections between the stories and kindness in school,” she says.

Although AISI was cancelled in the last provincial budget, it’s not over for Shura or for her students. “It’s a passion for me. If the children start thinking about it (compassion) here, in Grade 1, they will be so much farther along,” she says. Her students will also interact with the people they’ll be helping, most likely through email.

As part of her project, she took a video of her students at the start of the program in February and will film them again at the end of the school year to see if they have different ideas, if they’ve changed their perceptions. She’ll also take the video of her students with her when she travels to Kenya to visit her parents, and bring back images of the African children – and hopefully, a happy goat.

To find out more, visit her webpage or access her blog at www.heartfeltglobal.weebly.com


Elmworth staff given spa-like treatment

BRHS senior cosmetology students Ellice Saastad, Dayel Saastad, Brittni Hudson, Brittany Stewart, Taylor Leslie, Raylene Rudrum, Alicia Brozny, Hailey Williamson, Farron Hill and Twyla Jurasek donated their services to pamper the staff at Elmworth School.

The staff at Elmworth School was treated to a new level of pampering and a show of appreciation by ten students from Beaverlodge Regional High School. The senior cosmetology students donated their services for haircuts, facials, manicures and new spring hair styles for the staff at the rural school.

Co-ordinated by the Elmworth School Council, the “appreciation” event was well-named. “Our Parent Council put on such a terrific event. The students from the high school were a lot of fun to have out. Thanks to all who made this possible,” said Principal Andrew Lojczyc.

The male teachers weren’t left out. But when John Rempel suggested he’d like to have farm animals painted on his fingernails, he was forced to bite his tongue when undaunted, BRHS student Brittany Stewart said, “Sure!” Rempel reconsidered and opted for a haircut instead.

“The girls had lots of fun, they absolutely loved it,” said BRHS teacher Connie Mitchell.

Students raise money from – and for – the Heart

Students, school and skipping in the same sentence aren’t usually a positive, but for students at Rycroft School, it was. The school, that has only about 100 students, raised $1,725. for the Heart and Stroke Foundation through the “Jump Rope for Heart” program. 

Not everyone collected pledges  in the small community but all students took part in this challenge. Rycroft School alternates its fundraising each year between “Jump Rope for Heart” and the “MS Read-a-thon.”

 Meanwhile, students at Spirit River Regional Academy were busy tossing basketballs into hoops as they raised money through a “Hoops for Hearts” fundraiser. About 200 students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 raised more than $5,000.

Adding to the fun, students were encouraged to dress in costumes with a cartoon theme, with prizes for the best-dressed team. Who knew that Sponge Bob and Smurfs could shoot hoops?


‘Voyageurs’ teach French and social studies

Grade 5 French students at R.W. Zahara Public School practiced their language skills and learned about early Canadian history by taking part in a hands-on class festival.

Presented in French, with costumed presenters and translators, the event began with a short role play and presentation about the history of the voyageurs in Canada. The students wore or used authentic regalia, fur trade clothing, and artifacts.

Students then went to the school gym where they played “voyageur” games, such as a Dress the Voyageurs relay, Bannock Toss (with beanbags), Portage (using long blue mats around hula hoop pools, pylon trees, and mat rocks), and took part in a jigging competition.  The mini-festival ended with samples of “voyageur” foods -- bannock/galette with honey butter and jerky.

Study of the Canadian voyageurs is part of both the Grade 5 and the Grade 7 social studies curricula.


Helen E. Taylor School's Grade 6 class Edmonton bound

Planning is underway for a three-day, two-night trip to Edmonton for Grade 6 students at Helen E. Taylor School. The first of what is anticipated to become an annual event for Grade 6s will include visits to the Alberta Legislature, Fort Edmonton Park, and the Edmonton Space & Science Centre.

The 24 students have been fundraising for the May trip with a catalogue sale, hot dog Fridays and an incredible bottle drive that raised more than $3000.


As cold as ice: Quebec trip fosters lifelong memories

A dozen Grade 9 students from three schools have happy winter memories after a February trip to “La Belle Province.”

The students from Helen E. Taylor, Bezanson, Peace Wapiti Academy schools teamed up for the trip to the Winter Carnival in Quebec City, Quebec, where they visited the quintessential “sugar shacks,” made music with spoons, ice drums and folksongs, even when the thermometer dipped to -37. The students also visited waterfalls, watched circus performances and the Carnival parade, learned Canadian history and did plenty of walking.

All students in Grades 4 to 9 in the Peace Wapiti School Division take French daily. Last year, there was a similar trip with students from Bezanson, LaGlace, Elmworth, and Peace Wapiti Academy taking part.


‘Rising Windz Flute Circle’ emerges at R.W. Zahara

Grades 5 and 6 students at R.W. Zahara Elementary School have been making a new kind of music this year. The fine arts students have built, painted and learned to play Native American-style flutes.

A few others have also joined the 30-member musical group that’s known as the “Rising Windz Flute Circle.”

Made of ABS Food Grade plastic, the instruments were purchased as an instructional kit from Northern Spirit Flutes in Saskatoon. Under the direction of teacher and flute player Janina Carlstad, the students have been creating original compositions, as well as learning how to play familiar songs and a few traditional ones. During the next few months, the students will learn about storytelling, dramatization, research, nature sounds/study as they relate to their flutes, and to play in accompaniment with other instruments.

Carlstad is excited about the students’ enthusiasm as they create their own instruments. “These flutes are so empowering and immediately provide students with the ability to create songs that sound great and allow them to experiment with, and develop their own expressive voice musically,” she says. 

Carlstad, who has been building, teaching and performing with the flute for the past six years, first developed the program at Bonanza School. The program has since been offered at Beaverlodge Elementary, Harry Balfour, Eaglesham, Clairmont, R.W. Zahara and PAVE schools.

“I just love seeing that look of joy on the students’ faces as they hear their own songs,” says Carlstad.  


Pink clad students stand strong against bullying

Students and staff at Harry Balfour School were seeing pink Feb. 27 as they demonstrated a strong stance against bullying. This is the second year the school has taken part in “Pink Shirt Day” to create awareness of how taunts, teasing, exclusion and physical abuse affects everyone. 

Vice-principal Rhonda Winia says events such as this and Rachael’s Challenge help students understand what bullying is and how it hurts people. “I think it makes students more aware of bullying, and more likely to stand up for someone,” she says.

Information from a recent provincial survey shows that half of Alberta children and youth had  been bullied since the start of this school year; 36 per cent admitted to engaging in some form of harassment at least once during the year.

“Pink Shirt Day” began in Nova Scotia when a Grade 9 student was bullied because he wore a pink shirt to school. In response, several students purchased pink shirts, distributed them to other students, and the following morning, the school foyer was awash with students wearing pink.

Since then, a number of schools, communities and organizations have participated in “Pink Shirt Day” by encouraging people to wear something pink as both a proactive message of support for youth who have experienced bullying, and as a way for people to show their commitment to refrain from bullying behaviours.

More information about the original “Pink Shirt Day” is available at www.iccrevalcore.net/Sito_Polo/Agio%20e%20Benessere/story_of_pink_shirt_day.pdf.


International Food Fair: Tables laden with ethnic foods

Ask students at Harry Balfour School to bring food to school to express their heritage, and what you end up with is a massive international smorgasbord.

Started by the student union 31 years ago to raise awareness of the different cultures at the K-8 school, the International Food Fair is an annual event that’s now co-ordinated by the Partici-Parent group.

Principal Wendy Crispin and Vice-principal Rhonda Winia remember the first Food Fair in 1982 and have watched the event grow. “We’re definitely becoming more diverse. We now have children from all over the world,” says Winia.

As well as parents sending ethnic dishes to school, a squad of parent volunteers took care of setting out the food, keeping hot foods hot, and trying to encourage the children to eat at least some vegetables. They also took care of clean-up.


Teepee Creek students celebrate flag

While most of us are thinking Valentine’s Day in mid-February, the students and staff at Teepee Creek School are thinking “Flag Day.”

For the past few years, the school staff has worked to raise awareness of our national flag, its history and its symbolism. “We try to recognize Flag Day every year,” says Principal Barb Arend. “The fact that we live in Canada, we should know about the flag and what it represents.”

Students were encouraged to learn more about this national symbol through research, answering a quiz, and taking part in a school scavenger hunt, in which they had to locate the flags scattered through the K-8 school. Further, junior high students hosted a fundraising Flag Day pancake breakfast, with berries representing the red side panels and the maple leaf on the Canadian flag, and whipped cream representing the white background.

Prizes for contest winners were, of course, items emblazoned with the Canadian flag.


Students raise money to help others

Forty Beaverlodge Regional High students went without food to help people in an east African country who don’t have clean drinking water. The students collected pledges to raise more than $4,500 for a project to supply a pump for potable water and a sanitation system to a rural area of Sudan where water is now miles away.

Thirty-seven of the students spent the night at school, playing a marathon game of dodgeball, “Home Free” with all the lights off, and “Capture the Flag.” They also created a giant banner, took part in team-building activities, played video games and watched movies as part of World Vision’s 30-hour Famine.

For more information on World Vision’s 30-hour Famine or how to get your school involved, visit http://www.worldvision.ca/About-Us/Newsroom/press-releases/Pages/background-world-vision-30-hour-famine.aspx

Pictured above: Thirty-seven BRHS students stayed at school overnight to raise money for a World Vision water project in East Africa.

Chance discovery leads to student-driven party

Four tall students made a chance discovery at Beaverlodge Regional High School that turned into a party.

Grade 12 students William Moutray, Daniel Wall, CJ Lind and Tyler Vig noticed an engraved plaque positioned high on the wall of the student gathering area known as “The Pit.” It proclaimed the re-dedication of the school, exactly 20 years ago, on Feb. 10, 1993.

Thinking it a good reason to celebrate, the boys planned an event with the blessing of Principal  Maureen Carter. They decorated the Pit in the school’s colours of red, black and white, served cake to about 400 students and staff, and cleaned up afterwards.

The school was modernized in 1993. It was originally opened in 1962.

Pictured above: Tyler Vig (left), CJ Lind, Daniel Wall and William Moutray served cake to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the re-dedication of Beaverlodge Regional High School.

Peace Wapiti School Division honours top academic students


 Picutred right: Peace Wapiti’s top academic graduates for 2012 received Awards of Excellence. Recipients included (l-r): Matthew Schmakeit, Peace Wapiti Academy; Annelise Knoot, Spirit River Regional High School; Chantel Matlock, Ridgevalley School; and Talon Fowler, Beaverlodge Regional High School. Missing from photo are: Emanuel Villiger and Derek Syme, both of Beaverlodge Regional High School; Tenille Nadkrynechny, Peace Wapiti Academy; Hannah Senft, Sexsmith Secondary School; and Mitchell Heinricks, Savanna School.

Nine Peace Wapiti graduates from 2012 were recognized by the Board of Trustees for their outstanding academic achievement.

Three students from Beaverlodge Regional High School – Talon Fowler, Emanuel Villiger and Derek Syme – received honours for excellence with averages above 90 per cent, with Talon being named the top Grade 12 student, not only in his school, but in the entire school division.

Two students from Peace Wapiti Academy – Matthew Schmakeit and Tenille Nadkrynechny – received honours for excellence with averages above 90 per cent, with Matthew being named the top Grade 12 student in his school.

Students honoured for excellence with averages above 90 per cent, who were also the top Grade 12 students in their respective schools, were Hannah Senft, Sexsmith Secondary School; Chantel Matlock, Ridgevalley School; and Annelise Knoot, Spirit River Regional High School.

Mitchell Heinricks was named the top Grade 12 student at Savanna School.


Unique outdoor education program slated for Eaglesham School

Battling a demographic in which the average age in the area is over 40, Eaglesham School is taking an innovative approach to maintaining – and even enhancing – its high school program. Starting in September, the school will offer an alternative education program it hopes will attract local and international students.

The goal is to double the K-12 school’s current high school enrollment with a program that mixes academics with a lifelong learning component that focuses on the outdoors. It’s a natural fit for a school known for its cross-country running program, and for having students dig trenches and live outside for a weekend in November as they simulate life as WWI soldiers.

It will be a full high school academic program, with the  activity-based “outdoor pursuits” segment  used in place of  traditional high school “options” courses that will run two afternoons a week and one Saturday per month.

Led by professional instructors, students will learn through a practical, hands-on approach.  First aid, golfing, hiking, outdoor photography, orienteering, camping, trapping, and ice sports are slated for the first semester. In the second semester, they’ll take archery, fire arms safety, cross country and downhill skiing, swimming, baseball, and forestry.

“Students will not only earn school credits, they will also earn certificates in hunter training, first aid, and firearms safety,” says teacher Patsy Blois.

Above:Team Koe – Supporters of Eaglesham Outdoor Pursuits.
Join us in following Team Koe on their road to the Olympics.

Principal Terry Pattison says the community has been supportive of the initiative, and part of the planning from the beginning. “There was much discussion as to what type of program to offer and how it would affect the school,” he says. 

Additionally, a number of families have agreed to billet students in their homes – either foreign students, or those who live beyond an easy commuting distance.   

High school students who are not participating in the Outdoor Pursuits program will also benefit. The rural school will offer a “Food and Fine Arts” program for those students, with guest instructors, such as a professional chef, and specialists in art, drama and music from Grande Prairie Regional College. Additionally, the school will offer CTS (Career and Technology Studies) programming through the use of the recently announced CTS trailers.  The fully-equipped “classrooms on wheels” will offer high school programs, such as robotics, small engine and transmission repair, and electromechanical studies.

Tuition is set at $2,000 per student per semester, with first dibs going to current Eaglesham School students, then to students outside the normal bussing boundaries, then to students from abroad. Blois will travel to Germany in March as part of an Alberta Learning contingent to recruit students.

“We are excited to enter into this new program,” says Principal Pattison.  “It will create a unique educational experience for the students and an exciting, rejuvenated atmosphere in the school.”

For more information or to register, contact Terry Pattison at 780-359-3792 or terrypattison@pwsd76.ab.ca.

More information is also available at www.eagleshamoutdoorpursuits.ca

A playground in one year: Fundraising moms playground champions

Pictured right: Parents Tanya Frith, Kathryn Soderholm-Martell and Donna Smith raised $104,000 in a single year to build a new playground at Penson School. 


After a year of relentless fundraising for a new playground, parents Tanya Frith, Kathryn Soderholm-Martell and Donna Smith received the ultimate compliment from Soderholm-Martell’s young son, Liam, “It was great, Mom. Everyone played and had fun.”

The three women were the energetic champions who led the Penson School community to raise more than $104,000 in a single year to build a new school playground to replace an old wooden one that was worn and regularly giving up splinters. Their work came to fruition Sept. 4th, when Penson’s 130 students climbed, swung and chased their peers on, under, over, and through the colourful, modern playground.

Frith, Soderholm-Martell and Smith attribute their success to good group dynamics, positive communication and networking.   Daily communication and monthly meetings were crucial, they say, with all decisions voted on, then supported by all three.

Professionalism was also key as they worked on a tight timeline:  They decided from the outset they would allot just one year to the project.  Spouses and family members offered support, while the existing non-profit society at the school helped speed up the process.  The trio boosted their learning curve by networking with other schools and with relatives who had fundraised and built playgrounds.

Frith diligently searched the Internet to watch for grants and fundraising opportunities; Smith tenaciously came up with fundraising opportunities and carried them through; and Soderholm-Martell was the diplomatic team player.

A community golf tournament raised $14,000 while parents further supported the fundraising drive through Christmas wreath sales, La Montagne direct sales, Cars for Christmas ticket sales and a coin drive. Support also came from the community’s

MLA and MD councillor, as did word-of-mouth information about grants, and generous donations from oil companies and local businesses.

The piles of paperwork, planning and hard work culminated in a playground work bee in August. While the playground company installed the Canadian-made playground, volunteers built the perimeter.

The chief organizers say it was a steep learning curve, but all-in-all, an enjoyable experience.


How to build a fossil: heat, pressure, and time

Grade 4 students at Beaverlodge Elementary School rolled up their sleeves and dug into dinosaur fun with the education staff from the Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Initiative.

Guided by Education Manager Laura Beauchamp, the students first learned about dinosaurs and fossils through a hands-on art activity. They used stencils and paint to create dinosaur hand bags, using the same process it takes to create a fossil -- heat, pressure and time.

They took part in a dramatization of how to “bake” a fossil using a “magic Cretaceous oven,” and were able to handle 73 million year old fossils and replicas while also learning about Alberta’s stringent fossil laws.

The students ended the afternoon of activities with a trivia game to review what they had learned. “The students were captivated from beginning to end,” said teacher Donna Dueck.

Construction of the world-class Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum is slated to begin near Wembley this spring.

To learn more about the museum’s educational programs for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12, visit http://www.curriemuseum.ca/programs/k-to-12-outreach.


Colour, characters & story: Beaverlodge Elementary celebrates literacy

The hallways of Beaverlodge Elementary became a kaleidoscope of colour, characters and story as students and staff celebrated a love of reading in the school’s first annual Literacy Week.

Readers, such as Dawn Calvert from the Beaverlodge Post Office, local physician Dr. David Miller, firefighters Trevor Bartsch and Stan Metcalfe, local pharmacist Cody Hauger, RCMP Const. David Lee, Mayor Leona Hanson, Town Councillor Terry Dueck and numerous Peace Wapiti staff, were among guests who visited the school to read to students.

In addition to plenty of reading,  students and staff recorded the books they’d recently read on coloured pages used to decorate the hallways,  dressed as their favourite book characters, decorated their classroom doors with a theme from a book, and exchanged gently-used books in a book swap.

The week of literacy activities coincided with national Family Literacy Day, January 27.



Learning from living a world away

Kory Rycroft is learning new ways of living.

“Simple things can be a lot harder when you are on (an) exchange,” says Kory, a 17-year-old Beaverlodge Regional High School student, who is living this year in Argentina. “The simple act of communicating can be nearly impossible.” 

Kory is one of more than 8,000 students on international exchanges through Rotary International. He’s based in Catamarca, a province in the northwest.

The challenge of learning Spanish, says Kory, and communicating with people who learned English as a second language, or those who can’t speak English at all, is daunting. Miscommunication is just one unknown word away.

“I have been offended or have offended other people by things (being) misinterpreted,” says Kory noting the problem is common with exchange students. “I have definitely learned to be sure that what is said is understood correctly.”

He’s enjoying the heat and the beauty of the Argentinian province that borders Chile, and adapting to the slower lifestyle, including the fine art of siesta when everything shuts down for two to five hours in the afternoon. 

“Once I realized why people here do what they do, and I accepted that there are other ways...it is actually really nice.”  Kory has learned to appreciate the time each afternoon to read, study Spanish, go for walks, or meet with fellow exchange students.

With the slower pace also comes later hours for regular activities. School runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., with lunch at two, followed by a siesta. Dinner is typically at 10 or 11 p.m. 

“No matter how similar or different (we are), everyone adapts and adjusts to things in their own way,” says Kory, who says living away from Canada has given him an appreciation for his home country. He’s also learned to be more independent, to work with, and to help others.

“What used to be the ‘host country’ is your other country, your other home,” he says, knowing he will miss his new found friendships. “It has been the time, of my life.”

Beaverlodge Elementary works to be a healthier, more active school

Beaverlodge Elementary School has its own SWAT team, but it’s not what you think.

Composed of students, staff and volunteers, the School Wellness Action Team (SWAT) is integral to the school’s healthy lifestyle initiatives.  It sets up Fun Fitness Fridays, conducts healthy snack “SWAT attacks” at recess and lunch hours, supports the  Tasty Tuesday snack program for students, and acts as playground activity directors for younger students during recesses and noon hours.

Last month the group attended the Healthy Active Schools Symposium in Grande Prairie. During the annual conference, the wellness team worked on team building, developed members’ leadership skills and discovered ways to make their school a healthier more active place.

“Our students, staff and parents have been very engaged throughout this program and we will continue to support active living and healthy lifestyles at Beaverlodge Elementary School for years to come,” says Principal Paul Cincurak.

For more information about the Healthy Active Schools Symposium, visit www.everactive.org/hass-2012-2013


 Victorious!  ‘Hungry Games’ make sure families don’t do without

Class was pitted against class as students vied for “greatness, victory and infamy” in a not-so-classic battle to collect non-perishable food for the Salvation Army’s Food Bank.

Dubbed “The Hungry Games,” the food drive at Harry Balfour School played on the theme of the popular “Hunger Games” series written by Suzanne Collins. 

Organized by the school’s four student-teachers, each item collected had a value of one point, and the top class in each division – Grades 1-3, 4-6, and 7-8 – took part in the ultimate challenge, a huge stacking competition.  The winner was the class that could build the best city, known, as in the books and movies, as “The Capital.”

The student-teachers found that creating a bulletin board to chart progress drove up the competition for donations, especially when students saw that one class had brought in more than 400 items.  The closer the competition came to Christmas, the more food poured in. 

Although donations to the school’s annual Christmas food drive were about the same as previous years, it was a lot of fun, said Reeghan Gripich, one of the organizers and a third-year student at Grande Prairie Regional College. Student teachers are encouraged to complete a "whole school" service project in the schools where they serve their practica.


Students inspiring others to reach out
The Peace Wapiti School Division has many students who are "class acts," students who inspire others by their attitude, selflessness, spirit or generosity, both in school and out. Here is a glimpse of half a dozen Peace Wapiti students who are reaching out to help others.

Photo: Country singer Tenille (second left), a student at Peace Wapiti Academy, poses with "class acts" from Harry Balfour School, Jhett O’Greysik, Madison Shields and Drey Russell.


When country songstress Tenille visited schools this fall on her “Play it Forward” tour, she encouraged students to make a difference in their communities. She also recognized three students at Harry Balfour School for their contributions to school life, giving each of them $75 to continue to “pay it forward;” that is, to do good works for others with the aim of having the recipients, in turn, do further good works.
A positive leader at Harry Balfour School, Grade 8 student Madison Shields demonstrates her caring nature with the kindness and consideration she shows others. Last year Madison began volunteering at Odyssey House for a school project, but found the work so worthwhile that she has continued to dedicate time to the Grande Prairie women’s shelter. She manages to balance school, a part-time job, gymnastics, friends and family with volunteering.

Jhett O’Greysik is a kind, helpful and considerate Grade 5 student. A natural leader who understands the value of including everyone, he puts his full effort into everything he does, making him a great role model for his peers, and an inspiration to his teachers. Jhett “pays it forward” daily with his kindness and willingness to lend a hand whenever needed. He is always the first to help someone in need.

Another Grade 5 student, Drey Russell, typifies a “class act.” She not only thrives academically and takes on extra challenges, she is a role model for how to work positively with others. If someone drops his supplies, for example, she’s the first to kneel down and help clean up. When someone is having a bad day, Drey is the first to try to encourage a smile. When someone needs a partner, Drey is the first to volunteer. The words Drey seems to say most often are, “How can I help you?”  .

Eighteen-year-old Tenille Nadkrynechny is herself a former Harry Balfour student who is doing her part to make the world a better place. Currently a student at Peace Wapiti Academy, her recent “Play it Forward” tour saw her sing and speak to students across Alberta, inspiring and promoting positive leadership for youth. She was recently recognized with the 2012 Slaight Music Humanitarian Award and won the 2012 Female Artist of the Year at the Alberta Country Music Association Awards.  She was the youngest-ever to be nominated for Female Artist of the Year at the CCMA Awards, following the 2011 release of her debut album, REAL. Tenille is also the founder of the Big Hearts for Big Kids charity which has raised nearly $200,000 for the Grande Prairie youth emergency shelter Sunrise House.


Darci Peterson
Elmworth School

Darci Peterson’s spirit and positive attitude energizes a room. A Grade 9 student at Elmworth School, she’s a strong leader and role model who leads by example as she willingly lends a hand to her classmates and staff.  Although her attitude and work ethic are second to none, she always tries to do better.

She is also athletic and takes part in school sports where she demonstrates the same talent, attitude, and work ethic that she shows in her schoolwork. 


Outside of school, Darci  focuses her passion and dedication on horses and all things equestrian. To get an insider’s view of Darci’s love of horses, check out this video, “The Perfect Horse,” that she made as a tribute to her favourite horse.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIE1Y2sIVig&feature=relmfu


Sarah Monk
Beaverlodge Regional High

Whether she’s coaching figure skating or soccer, helping with the children at her church, or working at a summer camp, Sarah Monk likes to feel as if she’s making a difference in someone’s life.

Although she was “kind of surprised” to have received the citizenship award at her school last year, and four others, including a “Leader of Tomorrow” award, those close to her weren’t surprised at all.

Sarah has a strong sense of empathy that’s clear when she’s helping calm the anxieties of young figure skaters, helping children feel valued, or just talking about what’s important to her. “I like allowing them (children) to know they are unique and important and valued,” she says.

The eventual plan for this 2012 graduate of Beaverlodge Regional High School is to become a parole officer. She is currently working towards a BA in psychology at Grande Prairie Regional College, but in January, her desire to help others will take her to South Africa for three months on a volunteer project.  “I like being able to know I’m making a difference,” she says.


Penson students making their world a better place

 Upper elementary and junior high students at Penson School have been shining as they step into leadership roles and learn to be community builders. They’ve been organizing events, decorating bulletin boards, running the school’s recycling program, and mentoring younger students.

The idea is to have the school mimic the real world, where volunteering and doing for others benefits everyone, says Principal Jenny McAusland.  “In society, we have mentors/teachers, workers and organizers, and they all have to work together to make society work,” she says, noting the students’ contributions are making Penson School “a great place to be.”

The Grade 6-7 class, for instance, recently organized a dance with a professional DJ, a decorated gym, snacks and beverages.  Meanwhile, the mentorship group works closely with elementary classroom teachers to provide extra help to students who struggle and for those who need enrichment. The school works group takes care of beautification – making sure bulletin boards are attractive, flower beds are planted, and the recycling is done. Time to work in their chosen group is timetabled in – half an hour a week.

“Everyone is important, and everyone has a sense of purpose,” says McAusland of a new, formalized program the staff developed this year.  “(Parenting expert) Barbara Coloroso has said that when kids lose a sense of purpose, they feel like they don't matter, and when that happens, accountability and responsibility are sacrificed, and self-worth diminishes dramatically. Our students are what matter most; they have to feel that.”

Students in Grades 5-9 who sign up for one of three groups – mentorship, school council or the school works crew – can earn a Citizenship Card.  It offers privileges, such as, being allowed to use physical education equipment outside of class time, staying inside for recess on cold days, exempting assignments, and qualifying for incentive trips.  Like a drivers’ licence, the cards earn demerits for poor behaviour, and are revocable.

“At Penson, we are always trying to bridge or build parallels between the real world and school, so students see a connection between school and society as a whole,” explains McAusland. “It’s an authentic way of learning about society.”

Initially inspired by the children’s book “Have You Filled Your Bucket Today?” the program works on the theory that helping other people helps the recipient, but makes the giver feel good, too. 

Although only a couple of months into the citizenship program, McAusland is heralding it as a success.  Every student in Grades 5 to 9 has earned one, and no one wants to lose it. “They are not perfect. They are teens and they are learning by mistakes,” she says, but it seems to be working.

“We have the perfect opportunity to not only promote citizenship development, but to allow them to build the school experience they want to have. Sometimes people forget that ‘school’ is ‘life’ for kids; it's not only about academics.”

L.A. project inspires volunteerism, kindness, making a difference

If you happen to notice Grande Prairie and area being a kinder place each fall, it may have to do with a project by Grade 7 students at Harry Balfour School.

As part of a language arts unit called “Stepping Up,” teacher Abby Stilwell encourages her students to make a difference in their communities. Working either individually or in teams, the two-month project involves creating plans, putting them into action, and analyzing the results.

This year, students baked with seniors at Points West Living, held a neighborhood bottle drive and donated the proceeds to the charity Kev’s Kids, picked up garbage at school, and conducted a series of “random acts of kindness,” including leaving little bags of coins on candy machines with a tag noting the recipient had just received a random act of kindness. The students complete about two dozen projects each year.

The junior high students then produce a PowerPoint presentation, a poster, or give an oral report to tell their classmates about their project and how successful it was.

“Watching at the end of the unit, even the kids whose projects maybe weren’t so successful, everyone feels so inspired and happy to see what the others did,” says Stilwell. Some students are so inspired by volunteering that they continue their efforts after their final report is handed in. “It’s really positive for the kids to see they can make a difference,” says Stilwell.

Junior curling program good for school and for club

For the past three years, Beaverlodge Elementary School has teamed up with the Beaverlodge Curling Club to teach students how to curl. 

Members of the local club provide students in Grades 4-6 with hands-on instruction in the sport during three consecutive Wednesdays in November. “We have seen a tremendous improvement in our students’ ability to slide, throw a curling stone, and to sweep it into the house over these past three years,” says Principal Paul Cincurak.

The school program has, in turn, boosted the Beaverlodge Curling Club’s Junior Curling program by sparking students’ interest in the sport.

The school also purchased two sets of “gym curling stones” for younger students. The  indoor curling sets are used during physical education classes to get the Grade 1-3 students excited and ready for the upper elementary program at the Beaverlodge Curling Club.


Teaching Cree language, culture through story

In keeping with First Nations’ tradition, Calvin Laliberte infuses his class as much with story as with Cree vocabulary. “In our culture, there is a lot of oral history and an oral tradition of storytelling,” he says of his aboriginal heritage that he shares with students in Grades 10-12.

 A Métis from northern Saskatchewan, Laliberte is teaching a Cree language program this year at Beaverlodge Regional High School, using legends, storytelling and personal anecdotes to share the language he learned from his grandmother.  

He’s teaching  his 28 native and non-native students the Cree language, of course, the words of greeting, seasons, counting and weather, but he’s also teaching them about First Nation’s culture – the significance of the sun dance, sweat lodges and other cultural references. They’ve made drums and dream catchers, for instance, and more than just the physical “how to,” they’ve learned the legends and stories associated with them.

He doesn’t romanticize the culture nor shy away from tough subjects, such as the past treatment of First Nation’s people, but rather than anger, he encourages the students to be the ones to make the change, to see beyond stereotypes, and in the spirit of First Nation’s teachings, to learn to understand each other and to get along. “From experience and from mistakes, we usually use oral history and language to teach students about what is right and what is wrong,” he says.  

Laliberte was raised by a grandmother who spoke only Cree. His first language is Michif, the Métis language that’s a combination of Cree and French. Still, he nearly lost that language when it went unused during the three years he served in the military. Today, he keeps the language alive in his classroom, and in his mind, where he consciously thinks in the Cree.

Some non-native students have told  Laliberte that being in his class has changed the way they look at First Nations’ people. “To change a person’s perspective, so they don’t see the stereotype, they see the whole picture, that’s something,” he says. “People tend to judge on first sight.”

The Cree language program is a Grade 10 level pilot this semester that Laliberte fully expects will continue next year.  His goal is to see Cree offered in Grades 10, 11 and 12, so students leave the school knowing how to speak the language.



Students take action; parents support playground build

Kiana Green, Joel Kosa, and Kyler Dahl, who are now in Grade 11 at Sexsmith Secondary School, as well as Brittany Gerber and Baylee Adams, who are students at Peace Wapiti Academy, were instrumental in getting a new playground for Robert W. Zahara School in Sexsmith. After five years of fundraising, it opened this fall.

Rather than continue to complain to teacher Amy Lovell that there wasn’t enough playground equipment for older children, a group of Grade 6 students took action: The students began a playground fundraising project. 

“They realized that it wouldn’t be built while they were at the school, but they wanted other kids to benefit,” says Vice-Principal  Stacy Rorem of the students who are now in Grade 11. The playground the students envisioned was installed this fall at Robert W. Zahara Public School in Sexsmith. It officially opened November 19.

The fundraising began simply, with large, empty water jugs placed in prominent locations in Sexsmith where people could deposit loose change.

The following year it became a school project spearheaded by parents, and the fundraising grew to include raffles, a Fall Fun Fair, and a dinner. The volunteer committee filled out grant applications and led even more initiatives to raise money for matching grants. When the school donated all proceeds from its spring musical, the fundraising tallied $160,000, including grants and gift-in-kind donations, and exceeded the committee’s goal.

Current students voted on the equipment they wanted in the new, partly wheelchair accessible playground. Shipping delays, however, meant construction didn’t begin until late October.

“As the temperature dropped so did the number of volunteers, but the committee pressed on,” says Rorem. “The volunteers worked tirelessly through the weekend, which was rainy, sloppy and chilly. The rain stopped, but the temperature dropped even further, and the rain turned to snow.

“It was very hard work, especially with frozen fingers, but it was incredible to see people pull together to get the playground built,” she says, noting other volunteers and local businesses took charge of feeding  the work crew. The job also came with frustrations: missing components, malfunctioning tools, incorrect parts, things that didn’t quite fit, and frozen gravel that needed to be spread. Still, “there was also a lot of laughter and a feeling of accomplishment when it was finished.”

But the parents’ joviality couldn’t match the roar of excitement  that  erupted Nov. 6 when Principal Lawrie McKeith  announced  the playground was inspected and ready for play. “Words cannot describe the appreciation the school has for the parents and other volunteers who made this huge project possible.  We have so many parents who were willing to step up and help us out; it is very humbling,” says Rorem.

The older elementary playground has blossomed from one small piece of equipment, a few slides, and a sand volleyball court with no net six years ago to a dream playground, all because some students and a group of dedicated parents took action.


Special Programs 

Teaching success: 'At risk' junion high students staying in school --and thriving

Helen E. Taylor School has seen stellar changes in attitude and academic performance after introducing a new program last year.

Designed for students “at-risk” of dropping out of school, the program runs parallel to a regular Grade 8 and Grade 9 curriculum. The difference is a smaller class, more individual attention, and a more streamlined approach. “Dropping out really begins in junior high. That’s where we see students really begin to struggle socially, emotionally and academically. All of these challenges take a huge toll on their self-confidence and their lack of belief in their own abilities to succeed,” says HET Principal Lynda Miller, who sees the program as a strong positive for her school.

The school’s Grade 9 Provincial Achievement Test (PAT) results tell the score definitively: Year to year, the school saw a 12 per cent increase in Grade 9 students who achieved “acceptable” standards. And perhaps more importantly, students enrolled in the “Knowledge and Employability” (K&E) program showed an overall average of 79 per cent.

It’s not a special education program, but rather a different way of learning that’s designed to reach students who struggle at school, whether from academic difficulties, attendance, social problems, emotional issues or simply, disinterest. “Many of these students haven’t had positive school experiences, and don’t have confidence in themselves or their ability to succeed,” explains Miller.

The K & E classroom, with a combined Grade 8 and 9 class of only 11 students, offers a more structured environment for students who benefit from one-on-one help. Selected students may take one, some or all of their mandatory classes this way. Another important piece is the “Employability” component in which students learn skills valuable for the work force and for high school success: time management, organization, meeting deadlines, money management, and resumé writing.

The program, which also helps students understand they matter to the school, boosted attendance, and better attendance meant better academic results. Better academic results meant boosted confidence, a desire to succeed, and a reason to stay in school. Principal Miller says the growth in the students who participated last year was nothing short of amazing. “Several of the K & E students had a history of serious attendance issues, missing 15-25 per cent of school, and several students were habitually late. As the year progressed, these students came on time every day. They came because they wanted to…They were finally experiencing success in the school environment; some for the first time ever,” she says.

One student, who had only a 27 per cent average in Grade 8 the year prior, became a consistent honors student when he repeated the grade last year in the K&E program. Similarly, a Grade 9 student with no interest in school, and whose only goal was to be old enough to quit, wrote provincial achievement tests in June, garnering a 70 per cent. The academic pendulum continues to swing in his favour in Grade 10 with plans to pursue an education in the trades. Another Grade 9 student with severe attendance issues and an initial desire to drop out of school earned the “standard of excellence” on two of her four Grade 9 achievement tests.

Seeing the success of their older peers, several Grade 7 students approached Miller last June, asking to be part of K & E. Likewise, parents are asking that their children be considered for the program. “When I met with these parents for IPP meetings several weeks ago, the support, the comments, the tears of happiness for their children was overwhelming,” says Miller. “Offering the K & E program at HET has made a huge difference for our students and for our school.”

All of the students who completed the Grade 9 K&E program at Helen E. Taylor School have moved on to high school in Beaverlodge where they have joined the mainstream students in regular courses. All are doing well.

More information about the Knowledge and Employability program is available on the Alberta Education website, http://education.alberta.ca


Halloween carnivals scare up fun and cash

Helen E. Taylor students scared up some cash for a year-end trip by hosting a Halloween Carnival and Haunted House.

Organized by “The Warriors,” one of the school’s four, cross-graded intramural houses, the event was designed to help fund a potential, first-ever Grade 6 trip to Edmonton where students hope to visit the Alberta Legislature, the Royal Alberta Museum, and the Telus World of Science.

As well as a harrowing stroll through a “haunted house of horrors,” students decorated pumpkins, and plunged their hands into mysterious mixtures at the mad scientist table. The carnival raised a good share of goose bumps and gross proceeds of $825.

Similarly, the Grade 6 class at Ridgevalley School created a haunted house to give shivers to elementary students and food to the Food Bank.


Honouring and thanking veterans

Sometimes, we don't give teenagers enough credit. The following are excerpts from comments by Peace Wapiti students after hearing veterans describe their wartime experiences:

“Their stories grabbed every single person in the room and dragged them to that little house in Italy or the old bullet-riddled hotel in the no-man zone of Cyprus. I would like to thank both of these great gentlemen for their sacrifices in the name of our country and our freedom.”

"Your story made me appreciate my life a lot more. I felt the ground shake and the bullets bounce off the ground. Thank you for all that you have done for us and the country. Your efforts inspired me to do more with my life. All the soldiers and veterans of our nations are the heroes of the world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for everything. My life wouldn’t be the same without you. I will remember.”

 “Mr Olaf Hegland and Mr Len Mainville held the attention of my class with stories of bravery and struggle from the Second World War and Cyprus. It is men like them that continue the legacy of Remembrance Day and earn the public’s respect over and over again.”

 “The one thing that hit me the most was ‘What if?’ It made me think about what I have in my life, and I thank you.”

 “I have the utmost respect for you two. I am so grateful that you risked your lives for our country and therefore allowed my peers and me the opportunity for a bright future. Thank you.”

Sunday is Remembrance Day. Remember to honour, thank, and show respect for veterans and for all they have given us.

 Chillin’ in the Park: The Modern Day Drive-in?


The wind made things a little chilly for “Flicks in the Park,” an outdoor movie night hosted by the Student Leadership Team at Beaverlodge Regional High School, but movie-goers were prepared. They brought sleeping bags, lawn chairs -- even couches, ate popcorn and drank hot chocolate while movies were projected onto the outside wall of the school.


Students living history at Elmworth School

The Grade 1-3 class at Elmworth School and their teacher, Judy Gundersen, came to school dressed in the styles of the 1920s as the school kicked off its “Blast from the Pastevents. The September event also kicked off the school’s MS Read-a-thon fundraiser.

Students at Elmworth School are learning about history by living it – at least, during monthly intramural activities.  Known as “A Blast from the Past,” each month’s activities this year will focus on a different decade.

September started with a 1920s celebration in which students came to school dressed in button-down shirts, vests, poor boy caps, skirts and fancy hats.


“We googled the 1920s and looked at pictures of what they wore then – the kinds of pants and dresses -- and how they styled their hair, so they had some ideas,” said Grade 1-3 teacher Judy Gunderson.


During the lunch recess, all students took part in activities that related to the 1920 Olympics: archery, basketball, football free-throw, a hockey-type activity, and perhaps the most popular event, squirting a badminton birdie off the head of a junior high student.

Prizes were also from the era, with students learning how to use yo-yos, tops, and jacks.  In October, the school will welcome the 1930s, and work each month through the decades to end its “Blast from the Past” in June with the 2010s.


‘Think ahead and set goals’

Former Edmonton Eskimo football player Jed Roberts brings a “stay in school” message to the schools he visits, and challenges students and staff to think ahead, and to set goals. “There will always be people who will tell you that you can’t do something,” he told students at various Peace Wapiti Schools, as he reminded them that hard work will be rewarded.

He also reminded everyone to tell people -- especially school staff -- when they’ve made a difference in their lives. 

Roberts visited Beaverlodge Regional High, Beaverlodge Elementary, Elmworth, Hythe Regional, Helen E. Taylor, Woking, Peace Wapiti Academy and Ridgevalley schools.


Creativity, problem solving and team building

Students at Teepee Creek School learned to think on their feet, work together and devise creative solutions to tricky problems last year as part of Destination Imagination.

The team-based problem solving challenges took two students to an international competition in the United States where they finished second overall in their category for completing an instant challenge.

They scored 97.6% for the instant challenge against different teams from around the world. Although they didn't win an overall award, we are impressed with their accomplishment and their representation of the school,” says Principal Barb Arend.

Arend says the K-8 school integrated the Destination Imagination into all grades of the school curriculum, allowing the teams two classes per week, over a 12-week period, to work on their projects.

Five of the nine competitive teams the school entered in the provincial competition held at Grande Prairie Regional College were in the top three in their categories, with the “Teepee Creepers” winning the DaVinci Award, which recognizes outstanding creativity.

The school entered a total of 15 competitive and non-competitive teams into the provincial tournament, giving the 75-student school the largest representation at the tournament. It was the only Peace Wapiti school to take part.

Teepee Creek School did a trial the previous year with its Grade 2-3 class and received a grant from Alberta Education to extend the program to the entire school last year.

“We saw the value of allowing everyone to have the opportunity to take part in this. They are open-ended challenges that allow students to use all of their talents,” said Arend.

Kindergarten to Grade 2 students, who took part in the non-competitive “Rising Stars” challenge, were tasked with developing a new toy. As part of the challenge, they investigated the history of toys and created a story around their creation.

Students in Grades 3 and 4 completed the “Solar Stage” competition, creating a theatrical performance about the use of solar energy. The challenge involved creating a prototype; the students created a solar-powered airplane.

The Fine Arts challenge “Coming Attractions” invited students to create a movie trailer with original soundtrack and special effects, while the most complex challenge, “Assembly Required” invited students to invent a tool to retrieve and deliver parts. It was one of these teams, the “Supercalifragilistics” that won the berth at the global tournament where more than 30 countries were represented.

Arend recommends every school get involved in Destination Imagination and to send at least one team to the provincial competition, citing respect, co-operation and the forming of relationships as side benefits to the program. While she notes it was easier to integrate the program into the elementary curriculum, she suggests it could easily run as an “option” for junior high or as an extra-curricular club.

To learn more about Destination Imagination, visit www.idodi.org


'Panther Pride' raises cash or Brain Tumour Foundation

A 15-member team representing Hythe Regional School ran the 258 kilometres from Banff to Jasper to raise nearly $3,000 for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

Known as the Hythe Regional Panther Pride, the team of nine teachers, four spouses, a sister-in-law and a co-worker, ran stretches from 14 km to 21.6 km. While they all trained for the June event, many of the Panther Pride runners were inexperienced.

Despite a couple of close encounters with bears, the team completed the relay in 28 hours, 49 minutes and 10 seconds to claim a third-place finish and a bronze medal in the Mixed Corporate Division.





Public libraries in schools ‘just make sense’

Giving kids and rural residents greater access to books and other resources is a double win -- for the school and for the community. Six Peace Wapiti schools are now home to public libraries that provide access to library materials from across the province.

The public libraries -- in Elmworth, Eaglesham, Wembley, Woking, Savanna, and Bonanza schools -- share the same space, with specific areas designated as “school library” and “public library.” The public libraries are generally open part-time and after school hours.

Although the collections of school-based public libraries tend to be small, it’s the online access to materials throughout Alberta that is the biggest benefit. Those with library cards can borrow materials from almost 300 public, college and university libraries across Alberta. From their home or from computers at the library, library members can order books, DVDs, Cds and such, pick them up at the school, and later, return them the same way.

Randy Carlstad, Principal of Bonanza School, is a strong proponent of public libraries in schools. He says it just makes sense. “We’re part of the community and it’s easy access. People are often bringing their kids to school anyway or picking them up. They can just pick up their library books at the same time. The kids benefit by having access to more books than we can have (in a school library),” he says.

After extensive renovations, the public library at Woking School also opened earlier this year. While it only has about 150 public library books on its shelves, Principal Kathy Anderson agrees that it’s the access to other libraries that’s important.

The public libraries are a partnership between the school, the municipality and the Peace Library System (PLS). Linda Duplessis, Director of PLS, says creating public libraries in schools takes strong co-operation between the school division, the municipality and the library board. “It opens up so much more to residents. Even if they have a small collection, they can still pick up and drop off books or other library materials…It makes sense if everyone is working towards the same goal,” she said.

Contact your nearest school for information about the public library hours of operation in your community.


Peace Wapiti is on Facebook!

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 Sustainability, stewardship and citizenship


Farron Hill, Jake Carlstad, Makayla Obst, and Melissa Yewell were among the Grade 10 social studies students who learned the tree planting trade from Cathy Newhook of Next Generation Reforestation and the West County Watershed Group.

A group of Beaverlodge Regional High School students learned about water quality and water conservation when they planted willows to protect the Beaverlodge River.

The 50 social studies students had been studying globalization and the environment, with a focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship.

They planted the fast-growing willows on farmland that had been eroded by livestock and along the Riverbend Golf Course where the river banks were eroded. Part of the goal was to increase water quality and replenish fish populations.

Additionally, the Grade 10 students learned how the West County Watershed Group is teaching landowners about better management practices, promoting water quality, and water conservation.

The new Social Studies 10 curriculum requires students to work together to complete a project that relates to globalization. In the first semester, students helped organize the Ten Thousand Villages display and sale of fair trade crafts in conjunction with the Bethlehem Market.

This semester, students wanted to tie their project to the April 22 Earth Day.


Grade 3 class to deliver 564 hugs, cuddles and smiles 

Grade 3 students at Hythe Regional School have devised a unique way to give to people in need.  Back row (L-R): Keanu Laufman, Kayden Runka, Evan Loberg, and Pancho Klassen.  Middle row: Halle Gouchey, Ty Giebelhaus, Jesse Jandrasics, Madison Grey, Chance Klassen, and Emily Harvey.  Front row: Ryan Hewitt, Cassie Courtoreille, and Grayson Winiandy.

Knowing that a favourite teddy bear can cheer them up and sometimes take away pain, young students at Hythe Regional School organized a schoolwide “Teddy Bear Drive.” The Grade 3 class collected more than 500 new and gently-used stuffed toys to give to people in hospitals and nursing homes.

The class of 17 students collected and counted the soft toys that came in each day, and kept track of how many were donated by each class. They offered an incentive prize of Banana Split Parties to the class in elementary and the class in junior high that donated the most cuddly toys.

Jody Johnson collected 140 toys to win an ice cream party for her Grade 8 class, but that number was topped slightly by Erin Lacey in Grade 2, who brought in 141.

In addition to using their math skills, the class wrote letters to local nursing homes and hospitals asking permission to drop off the stuffed animals. The bears are sure to bring at least 564 hugs, cuddles and smiles, but that number will likely multiply exponentially.


Citizenship: 'Helping others helps us'

Whether it’s raising money through the Terry Fox Run and the MS Read-a-thon, or helping clean up the community, Rycroft School is on the right track when it comes to citizenship.

Grade 4 and 5 students are taking part in a classroom community-building program, that teaches them to get along better, while the Grade 1 and 2 students took part in the Roots of Empathy program, where they learned about anticipating needs and looking after others. Meanwhile, Grade 6 and junior high students took a cue from the movie “Pay It Forward,” learning that anyone -- young or old -- can make a difference.

In the “citizenship option” that runs for an hour a week at the K-8 school, the nine students put together gifts for the homeless, made valentines and gave treats to other students in the school, and volunteered with the FCSS Bike Road-e-o.

They also learned about the Ladybug Foundation that was started by a five-year-old in Winnipeg to help those without homes. In addition to their charitable work, the students created posters, wrote poetry and journal responses about making a difference in the world.

“As a school, we have learned a great deal about citizenship and how we can become better participants in our school, community, province and country. We have learned that helping others helps us,” says teacher Casey Brown.


Rycroft students created the following acrostic poems to express how they feel about citizenship:



- by Ashlyn Wozny, Grade 9

- by Jasmine Smith, Grade 7

- by Shilo Doble, Grade 6


Respect is key to success

Connie Calliou teaches students about respect.

The Native Liaison tells students at Beaverlodge Regional High School, where she has worked for the past 13 years, that respect is the key to every success in school and in life.

It was fitting that Calliou was recognized at the Learning Together for Success Conference this spring with an award in the category of “Seven Sacred Teachings -- Respect.”

The award came as a total surprise to Calliou, who knew about her sister’s nomination, but not her own. “What an honour,” she said. “I never expected anything like that.”

Calliou is known -- and respected -- at BRHS for her kindness, wisdom and thoughtfulness as she guides students. Whether it’s one-on-one tutoring, lending school supplies, helping students plan courses or helping them apply for post-secondary programs and scholarships, Calliou demonstrates and embodies respect.

She also believes students need to have positive role models. It’s one of the reasons BRHS sees a steady flow of successful aboriginal artists, TV, movie and sports personalities who speak to all students, regardless of their ethnicity. “The respect Connie has for her students is incredibly strong as she maintains her faith in them, even when they are giving up on themselves,” says BRHS teacher Donna Lewis.

Teacher leads by example

A Beaverlodge Regional High School teacher was recently recognized for her work to develop youth.

Erin Martin recently received a “Civic Award for the Development of Youth Leadership” from the Town of Beaverlodge.

Known to just about everyone, simply as “Erin,” she has been a dedicated and successful volleyball coach, an enthusiastic Student Leadership Team Advisor, and an all-round fun person to be around for her more than 20 years at BRHS.

She challenges her athletes and students to be leaders, and to use their energy to make good things happen, says staff, and the students respond in amazing ways.

The banners in the school gym attest to Erin’s coaching skills and passion for volleyball. Additionally, her teams take on extra fund-raising projects, such as caretaking at Saskatoon Mountain Park, a big commitment for the summer.

The Leadership Team students come up with a variety of activities and fund-raising projects for charity, and Erin is always with them, encouraging and leading by example.


Lifelong learning

Running clubs promote lifelong fitness

“Fitness is the goal, but socializing and having fun are key points,” says teacher Colette Simpson, who coaches the running club at Harry Balfour School.

Like Simpson, who loves to beat her own records, students are encouraged to set personal goals. Last year 80-90 students were running the distance together on a regular basis.

Cross-country running is used at Harry Balfour as a “filler” between the seasons of team sports, such as volleyball, basketball and badminton. It fits in nicely just before track and field training starts up.

Simpson says running is great fitness training for students who aren’t on teams, while at the same time, potentially grooming track and field athletes. While the Harry Balfour club generally shuts down in late fall, many of the same students will move into the school’s weekly “Fitness Club” to maintain their activity levels.

RWZ running around the world

Meanwhile, students from Robert W. Zahara School in Sexsmith have spent the year running around Africa. The school’s noon-hour running club, which runs throughout the year on Tuesdays and Thursdays, keeps track of its progress as students trot around the globe.

During the eight years the club has been running, they’ve made it across Canada, and around the North American coastline. They “took a boat” to Europe and resumed running on the coast of Africa.

Students earn a running club Popsicle stick for every lap they run on the 400-metre track. After 10 laps, they earn a small charm to wear on a chain as a bracelet or necklace. After 100 laps, students earn a bigger prize -- a t-shirt, water bottle, or lunch kit, for example -- that’s presented at a school assembly.

Vice-principal Sherry Alstad says some students are logging up to eight laps during the 20-minute lunch-break recess. “The motivation is building,” she says. “They know where they want to get to by the end of the (school) year.”

Where they want to get is Ethiopia, which holds a special place in their hearts. The school year began with a “Run for Water,” in which they raised enough money for Unicef to build a dozen wells. “We were one of the top three schools in Alberta and one of the top 20 in Canada to fundraise for Unicef,” says Alstad of the K-6 school. In mid-May, the RWZ runners were “in” Mozambique and within sight of their goal.

Everyone runs or walks at Teepee Creek

The all grade cross-country club at Teepee Creek School upped the ante this year taking part in two Grande Prairie runs -- the Brian Harms Memorial Run and The DHT Press Run.

Everyone at Teepee Creek School starts each day with 20 minutes of walking/running as part of its healthy school initiative, which translates into practice time for the school’s running club.

“The runs are a chance to showcase how athletic some of the students really are and what they are capable of,” says teacher and coach Corry Stark. Two students, eight-year-old Brett Mitchell in Grade 2 and nine-year-old Chad Stark in Grade 4, entered the Brian Harms race this year where they ran mostly with adults.

It was the first 5-km race for the youngsters, who were entered in the “males 19 and younger” category. The results were encouraging. “Chad came in tenth out of 115 with a time of 26 minutes, 31 seconds, which earned him a bronze medal in the ‘19 and under’ category. Brett came in 63rd out of 115 with a time of 35 minutes, 48 seconds. It was an amazing race and accomplishment for both boys,” said proud coach Stark.

The duo also entered the DHT Press Run, where they ran the 3-km stretch with fellow Teepee Creek Mustangs Rylan Stark, Ty Doucette, and Carter Dolen.

LaGlace starts club

LaGlace School started its running club this year. About 10 students in Grades 5 and older run around the school and the hamlet after school, rain or shine. Some students run for recreational fitness, while others are training for marathons. LaGlace runners took part in three local cross-country running events this year.

“We are involved in several ‘healthy schools, healthy kids’ initiatives, and this fits right into our school plan for increased student involvement and fitness,” says Principal Ivan Crabbe, noting the club next year will be open to students in Grade 3 and older.

3R Club celebrates personal bests

The Ridgevalley Raiders are also endurance runners who condition and train for distances of 1.5 kilometres and more. Last year 25 students took part in the fall program that sees the students pacing the Willow Lane, a trail between the school and the Rosedale Seniors Home.

“Students are welcome to attend and train for the purpose and in the spirit of competition or be more relaxed and participate for recreational enjoyment,” says coach Edi Giesbrecht. Fun relays end each practice.

“Running club is an opportunity to live healthy and encourage fitness. Running does not require equipment other than comfy shoes, so it is not a huge financial investment for parents of runners or for the school. Once someone learns to run and catches onto the fun, running can be a lifelong sport to do anywhere,” says Giesbrecht.

“It’s also a chance to practise belonging, and having the courage to care for others on a team.”

The Ridgevalley running club, which previously was limited to students in Grades 4-8, will expand to include Grades 4-12 this fall. “At 3R Club we like to celebrate trying something new, personal bests and medal winning victories,” says Giesbrect.


Real food, real fun, real learning

Looking for a fun “real way” to reinforce what they’d learned about Canadian coins, their values and how to count with them, teacher Holly Gould asked her Grade 1 class for input. Their idea was to transform their Hythe Regional School classroom into a restaurant.

No imaginary restaurant was this, but one with tablecloths, centrepieces, water glasses, real food, and naturally, a menu with prices.

After practising with pretend foods, the children served carrot sticks, strawberries, cheese and crackers, watermelon, brownies and such, to each other, paid for their meals, and practised their manners while dining with classroom friends. The children also invited the school staff with about 20 staffers enjoying snacks at “Our Fabulous Restaurant.”


International travellers learn by experience

Students from Hythe Regional School learned the  ropes of international travel as they manoeuvred through four airports in 12 hours en route to Dublin, London and Paris where they were greeted by that Irish staple, rain.

A tour of Dublin veered to the seaside community of Howth with a walk along the coastline of the Irish Sea for the Grade 9 students. They visited the old monastery at Glendalough and Powerscourt House, a palace with beautiful gardens, before taking a ferry to North Wales for a stop at Conwy Castle.

The chaperones weren’t able to curb their excitement when the group travelled to Liverpool, the home of the Beatles. From Liverpool, the group of 13 went to Stratford to learn about Shakespeare and about actress Anne Hathaway.

London involved “drive bys” of Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Trafalgar Square on the way to the British Museum. The highlight of the evening was a ride on the “London Eye.” Located on the banks of the River Thames, it is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe. A visit to Windsor Castle, to see where the history of Henry VIII played out, ended the English leg of the 10-day journey.

The group “metroed” everywhere in Paris, first taking in the panoramic views from Mont Martre, visiting Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and Versailles, which were a welcome respite from the torrential rain. The trip ended on a sunny note with a Parisian meal at BonBock.

Every year, Grade 9 students from Hythe Regional School take an international trip.


Cultural immersion creates lifelong memories

Dog sledding in a blizzard, skiing at Mont Saint Anne that overlooks the Saint Lawrence River, barrelling downhill in tubes, attending circus school to learn juggling, trapeze, trampoline, and visiting historic sites created lifelong memories for 11 students from Eaglesham School when they visited “La Belle Provence.”

“Many of the students were able to put their French to use, and all were able to experience French used as the main language. Being a minority was an interesting experience,” said chaperone and Co-Principal Terry Pattison.

In addition to the cultural immersion, the week-long trip in late January was both busy and physically demanding. The group visited Old Quebec, the Chateau Frontenac, the Aquarium and took in the opening of the Carnaval de Quebec with its massive display of fireworks.

In Montreal, they snuck into a Montreal Canadiens game at the Bell Centre, toured the Biodome, Old Montreal, St Joseph’s Basilica, and Notre Dame Basilica. Students were as awed by the magnificence of the cathedrals as they were by the underground shopping centre in Montreal.

But what do the students remember? “All the maple syrup we ate; watching the boys find a new place to pose a T-Bow for pictures; watching Hannah’s and Jenny’s eyes grow huge as they became surrounded by the crowds on the metro; listening to Ms. Logan scream on the easy tube hill; watching Eric play the spoons at the Cabane a Sucre; eating at Jesse’s poutine shop; having the Grade 9 girls change hotel rooms -- again; finally seeing the Falls after three tries; watching Devin stuck in the snow bank on his go cart -- again; seeing how fast Kimi could fall asleep on the bus; hunting for a new tie for Mr. P.; watching Brandon try to pack all his gifts in his suitcase; seeing Joey twisted like a pretzel on the trapeze; seeing Amanda’s frozen face after the dog sledding; and Kirstin’s constant confusion at Bernard’s teasing.”


Students earn international diploma for French skills 

Nearly a dozen French-as-a-Second-Language (FSL) students at Eaglesham School took a big step outside of their comfort zone to challenge an international French exam. The Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française (DELF) exam provides successful candidates with an international rating and certification of achievement.

Few places in Canada offer this opportunity, but Grande Prairie is one of them. DELF testing is available through the French Language Resource Centre located at the Grande Prairie Public Library.

Eleven Eaglesham students from Grade 9 through 12 travelled to Grande Prairie for the exam that consists of a 90-minute written test followed by an individual, oral exam. Students complete three different oral challenges in front of two examiners as part of the oral exam.

All of the Eaglesham students -- Kirstin Bolster, Kimi Gorgichuk, Amanda Howard, Kaly Beaudoin, Hannah Farkash, Jenny Garrett, Erika Janzen, Jesse Pattison, Katie Price, Elliott Ulland and Darcie Yaremko -- passed and will soon receive their certificates of achievement from France.

DELF exams and their designations are available for both students and adults.

RWZ builds foundation of confidence and competency

Young Sexsmith students glowed like precious metals as they performed on stage at the 2012 Grande Prairie and District Music Festival. The students from Robert W. Zahara School won an astounding number of gold and silver medals.

Each class from Grades 1 to 5 presented a choral speech, and each class won gold. The three Grade 6 classes chose to perform short plays instead, earning two golds and silver.

Grade 5 and 6 band students joined forces to perform together, earning silver. The school’s Early Bird Choir won silver, and the popular FBO (For Boys Only) drum band, in its debut solo performance at the music festival, won gold. Additionally, 25 students took part in the solo speech completion, and each won either gold or silver.

Strong performances at the music festival are nothing new for RWZ where practicing begins months in advance. More than just rote memorization of a poem for choral speech, students delve a little deeper, learning about the author’s life and background, and using the selected poem to inspire their own artwork and music.

RWZ Vice-principal Sherry Alstad says it’s important for children to learn to use their voices in a public setting. “Children need opportunities to demonstrate they are competent and capable,” she says. “Maybe in the future they’ll be asked to express an opinion, or speak at a public meeting. Maybe they’ll become an MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) or maybe they’ll have to give a ‘Toast to the Bride’ at a wedding. They may have to give an oral group presentation in junior or senior high, or in college or university. They’ll have this background experience to draw on.”

Side benefits, says Alstad, are that the children learn to love poetry and music, and they get to be part of a team. “For kids who are not athletic, it may be the only way they get to be a on team,” says Alstad. “It shows them that together they can create something beautiful.”

Like the teamwork the students demonstrate as they perform on stage, it takes a whole team -- indeed, a whole community -- to get them there. The Rotary Club of Grande Prairie sponsored the transportation of the hundreds of students to the festival, while Sexsmith Physiotherapy and the Burletoff Family sponsored the entry fees.

Horses in the schoolyard, kids in the kitchen

At Savanna School, “options” and the skills they teach aren’t just for junior and senior high students. They are a special program for students in Grades 1 to 8.

Each year, volunteers spend three afternoons teaching students about their hobbies or personal interests. This year, students learned about cooking, horses, crochet, dance, ceramics, woodworking and wood burning.

With demonstration and hands-on instruction, the students prepared, cooked and tasted six different recipes. They painted ceramics by applying a base coat and using various brushes to add detail. They learned how to groom and how to mount a horse properly before being led around the schoolyard astride a horse. They crocheted. They built and decorated treasure boxes, adding detail with woodburned designs and paint.

And, they danced. Dressed in tutu’s on their final day, this energetic group learned new ways to move, then used the techniques to create their own routines.

The result of this annual activity is a school full of proud and excited artists.


Working this summer? Earn money & high school credits

High school students can learn workplace skills this summer while earning a paycheque and high school credits. Open to students in Grades 10 and 11, the Summer Work Experience Program allows students to work in any industry, at any type of job.

“As long as we’re confident it’s a safe work environment and that it meets Occupational Health and Safety standards, it’s eligible,” says Jim Venhola, who coordinates the Peace Wapiti program.

Students can earn up to 10 school credits each year that can be used to meet graduation requirements.

To be eligible, students must first complete a “quick and easy” single credit, job-site preparation course that’s offered at all PW high schools and online. While students find their own jobs, there is no limit to the type of work or the industry: office jobs, heavy and light labour, construction, food services, retail, and farming, for instance, are all eligible.

Students need to register for the program by June 15.

In 2011, about 200 Peace Wapiti students from all seven high schools earned more than 1,600 work experience credits through the Summer Work Experience program.

For more information, or to register, contact JimVenhola at jimvenhola@pwsd76.ab.ca


 Building dreams: Beaverlodge Elementary raises nearly $7,000 for new pool

Clearly, families in Beaverlodge are excited about a new swimming pool. Students, parents and staff at Beaverlodge Elementary School searched under sofa cushions, shook piggy banks, and dug through family vehicles looking for loose change during a recent coin drive. They came up with hundreds of pounds of coins.

The load was so heavy that Craig Milliken of RCM Mechanical was enlisted to use his bobcat to haul the change down the street to the ATB bank. The tally when all was rolled by a patient team of 13 BES volunteers? A cool $2815.60 that was donated to the new pool project.

The school’s donation, however, rose even higher when the Grade 6 class opted to donate the $352 it earned at its latest hotdog sale; the funds usually support the class’ year-end trip.

The tally took a further leap when Grade 6 teacher Devany May organized a catalogue sale fundraiser, bringing in another $3,788.

The school community of Beaverlodge Elementary made a definite splash when it donated a total of $6,955.60 for the new pool.


Class Acts

Peace Wapiti schools are asked to choose one student who has an “unparalleled impact on classmates, teachers and the community” to be honoured as the school’s “Class Act.”

Class Acts are students who consistently to above and beyond the average in all aspects of their lies. There is no prize or monetary gift to this award, just a simple way of recognizing students who demonstrate the qualities the school community hopes to foster and to say “thank you” to them for being school ambassadors.


Brittany Meen: Ridgevalley School

Carrying the formal title of Miss Teepee Creek Stompede, Brittany Meen is a Grade 11 student at Ridgevalley School. As well as having an excellent academic standing, she demonstrates her commitment to younger students and to basketball as an assistant coach for the junior high girls’ and boys’ basketball teams.

Brittany has been a 4-H member, is part of the Teepee Creek Gymkhana Club and the Northern Redneck Riders who loves barrel racing and pole bending at local rodeos.

“She makes Ridgevalley staff proud with her constant effort to make the school a really nice place to be,” said a member of the school staff.

Lillian Switzer: Beaverlodge Elementary School

 The tenacity and determination that saw her survive several heart operations as an infant is clearly evident in Lillian Switzer’s natural "joie de vivre." Lily is a bubbly, friendly and exuberant Grade 2 student at Beaverlodge Elementary School who attracts others through her kindness and compassion.

A bright student, she’s also eager and imaginative, coming to school one Monday, for instance, to show her teacher the four-story anthology she’d written over the weekend.

Her enthusiasm and determination are always at the ready, yet Lily seems to know instinctively when it’s time to be more reserved.


Brooklyn Longmore: Elmworth

Grade 9 student Brooklyn Longmore is a positive influence and a positive role model at Elmworth School: She is kind, funny, outgoing, and, according to her teachers, a “terrific all round student.”

As well as being involved in sports, Brooklyn is president of the Students’ Union where she has demonstrated strong leadership through her ability to listen to the ideas of others. She is a strong public speaker and a strong ambassador for the school. The teachers appreciate her attitude, her quick smile, and pleasant personality.

HRS Grade 5's present multi-lingual 'O Canada'

The students who make up the Grade 5 choir are Randell Besuyen, Tharren Horseman, Maddison Peterson, Jade Tolway, Lisa Gauthier, Emily Lowen, Arris Trottier, Amanda Geernaert, Kylee Majewski, Ateya Trottier, Tona Glover, Brandon Penner, Leighton Guise, Talia Harvey, Kayley Campbell, Brock Horseman, Dameion Purdy, Kiana Horseman, Aiden Horseman, Ethan Rasmussen, Carley Courtoreille, Colten Hewitt, Arnold Sawatzky-Wiebe, Trudy Dyck, Daymion Hounsell, Kale Spencer, Kiera Elter, Joseph Ketler, Anastasia Timms, Dru Ferguson, Logan Kjemhus, Delayni Tolway, Julie Ferguson, and Kiara Klassen.

You’ll hear more than Canada’s two official languages when you hear the Grade 5 class at Hythe Regional School sing “O Canada.” When they blend their voices for the national anthem, they highlight four languages: Cree, French, English and sign language.

The students pay tribute to the school’s multi-lingual and multi-cultural ties. HRS students come from the farming communities of Hythe and Beaverlodge, Horse Lake First Nation, and the Kelly Lake Aboriginal Community. Once they reach Grade 4, students have the option of learning French or Cree, and with a hearing impaired classmate, the Grade 5 students have also been learning signed English.

The 35 singers have been much in demand, performing for trustees at the Peace Wapiti’s Central Office in Grande Prairie, then moving onto larger audiences. They sang to a full house at the opening ceremonies of the Hythe Bantam Mustangs Provincial Hockey Tournament, and at the opening of the First Nations, Metis, Inuit (FNMI) “Learning Together for Success” provincial conference, sponsored by Alberta Education.

A video of the young performers has been entered into the Long and McQuade Music Education Contest. View it on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYP_ySNf4Uw


BRHS students recognized as leaders

Seven students from Beaverlodge Regional High School received “Leaders of Tomorrow” awards to recognize their volunteer and citizenship efforts.

Hayden Hollowell, Jackie Isaac, Steavie Lind, Sarah Monk, Nathan Paquette, Emanuel Villiger, and Nicole Jones each received a plaque, a cheque for $100 for themselves, and a cheque for $100 for the charity/organization of their choice.


Penson student wins AWG gold

When Penson School student Jason Smith was chosen as part of Team Alberta North, his goals were to develop as a player, meet new people, play hard, and to represent his community well. He did all of those things, and more.

Jason played hockey in the Bantam division with Team Alberta North in the Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse in March. He and his team surpassed Jason’s goals when they won gold.

To say Jason, his school and his community were proud is an understatement.


BRHS shines at home tourney

Beaverlodge Regional High School went big this year when it hosted a badminton tournament with athletes from 13 Peace Country schools competing in 250 matches.

“Last year, hosting our first tournament in many years, we had 81 matches and five schools participating. We expanded this year’s tournament…(It was) a bit more work but a resounding success,” said Coach Ken Pon. He and fellow coach Scott Bowen credit the tournament success to the willingness of the BRHS players to help with set up and clean up.

The host BHRS team made a fine showing with Shyann Nichol placing first in senior ladies’ singles, and Paige Crickett placing third in junior ladies’ singles. On the men’s side, Emanuel Villiger placed second in senior men’s singles, while Cameron Isherwood and Davis Isherwood placed third in intermediate men’s doubles.


Self-directed program helps PWA students complete courses, earn credits

What started as a program to help a handful of students, who needed only one or two credits to earn their high school diploma, has taken off exponentially. The Peace Wapiti Academy (PWA) program that started in September 2011 with five students, now involves more than 80 students registered in 130 courses.

Known as “CONNECT,” it’s a personalized, self-directed program that has students set their own goals, advocate for themselves, and interact with teachers on a more adult level. “They are learning about the consequences of failure, as well as what it means to be independently successful,” says CONNECT Co-ordinator Debbie Terceros.

Designed by PWA staff, the “recovery and extension” stream looks at areas where the student is weak or failed. Students work only on completing or gaining knowledge in those specific areas, meaning they don’t necessarily have to redo an entire course. Currently, 15 students are working to recover courses from Semester 1. Traditionally, they would have had to retake the entire course to earn credits.

The program, and the way of looking at student learning, is changing the very fabric of PWA. “We are seeing a trend towards more teachers doing the recovery within their class, instead of waiting until the end of the semester,” says Terceros. “This is allowing us more freedom to expand into other areas of the CONNECT program.”

Science and math teacher Farouq Hassanali says the success of CONNECT is unprecedented. “Students are challenging courses and earning credits that they would otherwise not have obtained,” he says.

The program is open to PWA students in Grades 10, 11 or 12. For more information, contact Debbie Terceros at PWA.


Inclusive, family atmosphere hallmark of small schools:
'Like a private school without the fees’

Parent Lori Grant’s only regret about moving her children from a larger school to a small, rural one is that she didn’t do it sooner.

“I’m sorry I didn’t know how good it was or we would have moved out sooner,” says the mother of two children. The family moved from Grande Prairie to their farm in the Elmworth area four years ago, and enrolled their children at the small K-9 school. “It’s like a private school without the fees. The kids just love it,” she says.

Grant cites individual attention from teachers, personal relationships with staff, awards programs that recognize a strength in every student, and a dynamic parent council, with 18 active members, as some of the benefits.

“There are lots of opportunities here. There is nothing they lack,” says Grant, whose daughter is in Grade 7 and whose son is now in Grade 10 at Beaverlodge Regional High. Admittedly, there are some specialized programs that can’t be offered at a school that has fewer than 100 students in Kindergarten to Grade 9, but Grant says some of those programs, such as music lessons, can be taken outside of school. “What they gain in benefits (at the school) is far beyond what they don’t have,” she says.

For Grant, it’s the welcoming atmosphere, the one-on-one attention and the chance to get to know the teachers and the principal that are particular drawing cards for small schools. “When we were going to be moving here (in the fall), the kids spent the last day of school here (in June), so they had the chance to meet some kids and their teachers…These are invaluable things,” Grant says.

The inclusive, family-style sentiment is echoed by the staff: “Having a smaller staff enables us to build strong, positive connections, which transfers to the relationships with our students. Students know that we care,” says Principal Andrew Lojczyc.

“When there is so much personal interaction with students, I believe it helps them feel accepted and more confident. When you have more opportunities to work with students as individuals, you have more time to help develop positive attitudes, co-operation, respect, and independence,” says Lojczyc, who teaches social studies and physical education, and has been principal for the past 10 years.

Double- and triple-graded classrooms and fewer options classes aren’t particular detriments. “I haven’t noticed any real differences (from single-graded classrooms). Sometimes, they will be doing Grade 8 material, for instance, but the Grade 7s are graded on it at a Grade 7 level,” notes parent Lori Grant

Still, school should be interesting. That’s when the staff turns on its collective creativity. Whether it’s fundraising for someone in need, a school dinner, or a community production, everyone seems to pull together. Recently, for instance, every student in the school had a role in the production of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the result of an immersive, week-long residency from Missoula Children’s Theatre. “The cooperation and learning of the students was amazing, and it brought the community together for an unforgettable production,” says Lojczyc.

About one-third of Peace Wapiti’s schools have less than 150 students.


 Peace Wapiti's top academic students


Peace Wapiti’s top academic graduates for 2011 received Awards of Excellence. Recipients included (L-R): Ashley Ikenouye, Sexsmith Secondary; Taylor Yanishewski, Savanna; Peter Dykshoorn, Beaverlodge Regional High; Nicholas Kosa, Sexsmith Secondary; Dylan Squires, Eaglesham; Jessee Kuhar, Spirit River Regional Academy; and Kelmeny Laycock, Peace Wapiti Academy.

Eleven Peace Wapiti graduates from 2011 were recognized by the Board of Trustees for their outstanding academic achievement.

Four students from Sexsmith Secondary -- Ashley Ikenouye, Nicholas Kosa, Jordan Rycroft, and Derek Dodd -- received honours for excellence with averages above 90 per cent. Nicholas Kosa was the top Grade 12 student in his school.

Kody Gundersen and Peter Dykshoorn from Beaverlodge Regional High also received honours for achieving averages above 90 percent, with Peter being named the top Grade 12 student, not only in his school, but in the entire school division.

The top Grade 12 students in their respective schools were Taylor Yanishewski, Savanna; Dylan Squires, Eaglesham; Jessee Kuhar, Spirit River Regional Academy; Kelmeny Laycock, Peace Wapiti Academy; and Cassandra Zenner, Ridgevalley. 



Democracy in action at Ridgevalley School

Grade 6 students at Ridgevalley School took the idea of democracy into their own hands when they approached the principal about creating an elementary leadership group. The idea for the group came from the students who saw it as a way to promote school pride and increase a feeling of belonging among students.

"The goal was to participate in democracy by being a part of a solution to an issue and to positively affect their community,” says teacher Edi Giesbrecht of the social studies project to take a concern and do something to make a positive difference.

The idea evolved from a collaborative small group session. “Although there were no real concerns or problems, the group wanted to show and feel democracy in action by being leaders and making their school better,” says Geisbrecht.

Principal Penny Rose gave the nod, and set the group to organizing an afternoon Winter Carnival in mid-March. Designed to celebrate the Queen’s 60th Jubilee, elementary students and staff dressed as royalty, decorated doors, and played outside games.

Although the crowns and capes have been put away, the student leadership group will continue, with students taking the lead in collective celebrations, such as Earth Day.


Savanna School at the heart of the community

Kathy Hingley, Savanna School Librarian, reads to the ECS students in the newly renovated community library.

A public library, a preschool, zumba, adult volleyball, art, cooking and dance classes? All of this on top of providing a top-quality education for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12?

Located in the northwest corner of the Peace Wapiti School Division, Savanna School truly is at the heart of the growing farm communities of Silver Valley, Fourth Creek, and Cotillion.

“Numbers at the school dwindled in the last few years, but they are now experiencing a huge regrowth. There is a baby boom and the school is answering the community’s needs,” explains Terrina Hampton, Co-Principal of Savanna School.

Open on weekends and two days a week after school, the municipal library, is a collaboration between the school, Saddle Hills County and the Peace Library System. Opened just last year, the communities now have access to books and resources from almost every library in Alberta.

Two years ago, a two-day-per-week preschool opened, filling a community need and giving young children aged three to five a safe, structured learning environment. Being located in the school has the added benefit of making the youngsters feel as if they are already part of the school.

“As a staff, we strongly believe that parental involvement at an early age leads to a successful school career,” says Hampton.

To get the community even more involved in the school and to attract families with children too young for the preschool, Savanna School has begun offering Music Pups and Books for Babies on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

The school is reaching beyond teaching children, offering non-credit adult courses designed to fill a need for lifelong learning. “We are open to new ideas and programs to help get our community members out of the house and actively involved in the school,” says Hampton.

Next on the agenda? Presentations on parenting, courtesy of Grande Prairie’s Parent Link Centre.


 Family focus helps Woking School flourish

Building and fostering community -- both within the school and in the greater Woking area -- is one of the goals of Woking School.

“We fully believe that in order for small rural schools to flourish, they need to be an integral part of the community,” says Kathy Anderson, principal of the K-8 school. “They also need to have a strong sense of family.”

Building a strong working partnership with community groups, such as the Woking Skating Association, is key. This winter the skating association built an outdoor rink next to the school, giving students the chance to skate and socialize, both during and after school. The rink also provided a venue for a school skating party made memorable by perfect temperatures and ice conditions.

The school is also now home to the newly-opened Woking Municipal Library. Open two evenings a week and on Saturdays, the library provides the community with a link to a multitude of resources. The library is housed in the school, but is part of the Peace Library System, meaning members can access books, Cds, DVDs and other resources from libraries across Alberta.

The community also came to the school during Family Literacy Day when residents read their favourite books to students.


Bake sale supports African students

Sweet treats sold at Beaverlodge Elementary School are helping students in Africa.

For the past six years, the Grade 3P class has raised money to purchase school supplies and help pay the school fees of students at Nduna School in Zimbabwe. This year, the class’ bake sale raised $710.

The connection between Beaverlodge Elementary and Nduna is teacher Laurel Pritchard, who travels to the African country each summer to teach new skills to the African teachers.

“Our Grade 3 students worked very hard baking items with their parents and then selling their wares to the students and staff at our school,” says Pritchard of the noon-hour bake sale that serves as the students’ Global Citizenship Project.

The Grades 3’s have raised more than $4,000 since they started this project in 2004.

“Over the past few years, our students have also had the opportunity to see first-hand how their work has benefited the students from Nduna School. Our students have corresponded with students from the school, and last year the Grade 3P class received a video made by students at the school thanking our students for their support,” says Pritchard.


Men's team wins provincial curling silver

Derek Syme (skip), Emanuel Villiger (third), Ashley White (second), Andrew O’Connell (lead) from Beaverlodge Regional High School were 2012 silver medalists.

The Beaverlodge Regional High School’s men’s team swept to a silver finish at curling provincials.

Held in Vermilion in early March, the winning team included Derek Syme (skip), Emanuel Villiger (third), Ashley White (second) and Andrew O’Connell (lead). Fifth on the team was Jared Sterkenburg. The team played together weekly in the men’s league at the Beaverlodge Curling Club where they placed in a very respectable top three.

The BRHS team also curled in other competitions, including the Arctic Winter Games playdown, where they placed second; the Peace Challenge Junior Cup; and the Peace Curling Association Juvenile Super League.

The BRHS mixed team also played well at zones, but missed qualifying for provincials. That team was made up of Sarah Sazwan (skip), Darby Sherard (third), Danae Tuffnell (second) and Wesley Shirk (lead).



 For the love of community: Movie-night raises cash for fire victims

Dressed in pyjamas and carrying blankets and pillows, students, their families, and staff showed their love of community on Valentine’s Day as they spent the evening together at Beaverlodge Elementary School watching movies and raising money.

More than 40 families gathered to watch movies and to raise $580 for a local family who had lost its home in a December fire.


Literacy web catches Wembley students reading

Reading was the name of the game in late January when Wembley Elementary School celebrated its fourth annual Literacy Week with celebrities, mystery, and buddy readers.

The week-long event began with a presentation by Grade 2 students and a chance for all students to “buddy read” in the gym.

Celebrity readers, including two Grande Prairie Storm hockey players, Peace Wapiti’s Superintendent of Schools Sheldon Rowe and trustee Wendy Kelm, shared stories with students on Tuesday, while on Wednesday, students from the neighbouring Helen E. Taylor School read with their younger counterparts, many of whom were dressed as storybook characters. A “mystery teacher” arrived in the Kindergarten to Grade 4 classrooms to read a favourite story before students headed to the book swap and to math literacy centres.

Students nestled in tents or relaxed by the campfire to read on Thursday as part of “Camp Read.” After lunch with their parents, students rotated through four dynamic literacy centers.

Additionally, students were challenged during the week to shut down their screens -- television, computer, and electronic devices -- to spend quality time with their families. Participating students had the chance to win a prize.

The week ended in grand style when teachers performed a comical “readers theatre.”


 Literacy part of the culture at Clairmont Community School


Students at Clairmont Community School enjoy reading together, both at school and at home. Here, Kerry Rumsey, Mackenzie Skinner, Sydney Limoges, and Kaylee White read together.

Literacy is kept front-of-mind at Clairmont Community School, where becoming competent at reading and writing are important parts of the school culture.

“Our literacy-rich school culture is infused with opportunities for sharing our passion for reading and celebrating student success,” says Vice-Principal Kate Thon. “You will find formalized literacy practices, such as the use of benchmark testing, small group instruction and a variety of strategies supported by recent literacy research.”

Whether it’s the literacy cheerleader with newsprint pom-poms, bulletin boards filled with student book reviews and recommendations, or the huge thermometer measuring home-reading minutes, just walking the hallways shows literacy is valued, encouraged and supported.

Strong literacy skills help students achieve their full potential, says Thon. “Literacy encompasses all the skills we need to be able to interpret, respond and contribute to the world around us. As our skills in these areas grow, so does our knowledge and understanding of the world we live in, adding richness to our life experiences,” she says.

Students at the K-Grade 8 school have access to a team of specialists who implement literacy intervention programs aimed at having all its students reach grade level competency. But when it comes to reading and writing, students like Riley Pillsworth in Grade 5, say it best: “I really like this school because teachers take the time to listen to us read.”

The big thermometer in the front entry tracks students’ progress as they work towards a total of 105,000 minutes of reading at home. The minutes have been adding up, with students already reaching nearly 90 per cent of their goal. While the school celebrates students who have achieved personal reading goals each month, Vice-Principal Thon promises a big surprise for the school if students are able to read enough to fill the reading thermometer.

If you would like to become involved, perhaps as a guest reader, drop by the office with your favourite book and ask to speak to someone on the literacy team.


Storybook characters come to life as Bonanza reads together

Bonanza School looked like something out of a fairytale on January 26 when students and staff came to school dressed as a character from a book.

Laura Ingalls from the “Little House on the Prairie” series, Julie from Robert Munsch’s “Makeup Mess” and several Harry Potters were among the best-loved characters from classic and modern books that filled the K-Grade 8 school as it celebrated Family Literacy Day.

Students also brought in more than 100 gently-used books as the school hosted a book swap. This first-time event proved so popular that it has turned into a year-long project with an area in the primary wing designated as a “swap zone” where students can continue to read and trade books throughout the year.

Parents and friends attended the school’s literacy afternoon when students read one-on-one with an adult. Former Bonanza School teachers Vicki York, Gerta Kut and Lorna Barrett were special reading guests.

Family Literacy Day also marked the end of students’ participation in the “100,000 Nights of Reading” program organized by the Grande Prairie Children’s Literature Roundtable. Several students and their families accepted the challenge to read together for at least 15 minutes a day, for 100 consecutive days. “This program complemented the classroom reading incentive programs that occur throughout the school,” said teacher Stephanie Evans. “We encourage all children to read daily.”

Weekly “Buddy Reading” is another success story at Bonanza, in which younger students are paired with an older “buddy” for half-an-hour of shared reading every Friday. Scattered throughout the school, paired students take turns reading and listening to their buddy read.


Penson School celebrates literacy

Students and staff at Penson School celebrated Family Literacy Day with reading and games.

Students at Penson School took to the hallways to read for 30 minutes a day during the last full week of January. The daily “buddy reading” was part of the school’s celebration of literacy, and particularly, Family Literacy Day.

Held annually on January 27, national Family Literacy Day celebrates adults and children reading and learning together, and encourages Canadians to spend at least 15 minutes a day sharing a learning activity with their families. With a theme this year of “Play for Literacy,” families were encouraged to play board games, card games and word games to enhance literacy and numeracy skills while having fun.

To that end, Penson also hosted a “Family Games Afternoon” in which families were invited to come to school to spend the afternoon playing games with their children. The school also had a list of “staff picks” for favourite books, and a prize draw for a Coles gift certificate.

For more information about Family Literacy Day, visit www.abclifeliteracy.ca/en/family-literacy-day. To learn more about local activities that celebrate Family Literacy Day, visit, www.gpclrt.org.



Science Fair Winners

Back Row (L-R): Grade 8/9 winners of the recent Science Fair at Penson School were Coltan Smith, Jason Smith, third place; Hannah Schmakeit, Shauna Kusch, first place; Taylor Smith, Ryley Williams, second place; and teacher Miss Brooke McKenzie. Front Row: The Grade 6/7 winners were Brandi Brothen, Chase Smith, third place; Tara Williams, Madison Wright, first place; and Jadzia Bean, Jordan Schram , second place.


Four months’ work adds up to innovative projects

Students at Penson School spent four months creating an impressive array of science fair projects.

Working at home and during Friday computer classes from September to December, the students in Grades 6-9 completed research projects, developed innovations, or created hypotheses and proved -- or disproved -- them with experiments.

The winning projects in the Grade 6-7 category were “The Sugary Battle”, created by Madison Wright and Tara Williams in first place; “Fastest Way to Cool Your Beverage” by Jordan Schram and Jadzia Bean in second place; and “Fire”, by Brandi Brothen and Chase Smith in third.

In Grades 8-9, first place went to Hannah Schmakeit and Shauna Kusch for “Green vs. Clean”; second place to Ryley Williams and Taylor Smith for “Plants on Acid”; and third place to the team of Jason Smith and Coltan Smith for their project “Top Shot.”

The winners of the 2012 Penson School Science Fair have now progressed to the Peace Country Regional Science Fair to be held in Fairview on March 15. (www.gprc.ab.ca/fairview/ScienceFair.htm)

The school offers its thanks to the 20 volunteer judges from Penson School, the community of Grovedale, ATCO Electric, the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta.


Supported learning helps students explore their passions

Students in Grades 4-12 will receive help pursuing their passions or special interests through a new Peace Wapiti program. Known as the Enrichment
Personalized Inquiry (EPI) Program, it is being offered through Peace Wapiti’s online school, PAVE, the Peace Academy of Virtual Education.

Suited to motivated students who want to learn beyond the regular curriculum, the EPI program is both individualized and student-driven. “Students actually write the project proposals. It is critical that this is a student interest or passion,” says PAVE Principal Joan Coy.

Coy is excited about the program and the opportunity for students to challenge themselves. “We now have the flexibility, the capacity and the technology to support this type of program,” she says. “Even five years ago, we couldn‘t have run a specialized program like this.”

The program will run as an enrichment activity that’s completed on the student’s own time, either within or outside of school hours. It is suited
for students who want to learn about a subject in-depth while exploring different approaches to learning.

“In most cases these will be subjects that the students would want to
explore on their own anyway. The difference is that they will have teachers
to help guide and support their desire to learn more, and to possibly offer
educational paths they wouldn’t have considered on their own,” says Coy.
Students must be recommended to the program by their school principal.

For more information: http://ecommunity.pwsd76.ab.ca/course/view.php?id=3

Have a special interest and want to volunteer as a mentor? Contact, Joan Coy, joancoy@pwsd76.ab.ca


Playful science club popular at Harry Balfour School

Young students at Harry Balfour School are learning about science by playing with plastic Lego bricks.

“The idea (of Lego clubs) is to get science into schools and to make it fun,” says Lacey deKock, the mother of two children who attend Harry Balfour School. An admitted “science geek” herself, deKock works as an instrumentation tech. “Both of my kids are ‘sciencey’ and I thought this would be fun,” she says.

And fun it has proven to be. There are 18 children in the after-school club, with another 10 on a waiting list to join.

Using Lego bricks to build models, students are challenged to research topics and create science fair type exhibits and posters to explain what they’ve learned.

Last year’s challenge “Snack Attack” had children learn about food safety by exploring how proper preparation and food storage can help keep people healthy. The final project had to include a motorized moving part and a “Show Me” poster.

Working in three teams, the creative students in Grades 1-4 built models showing where food comes from and how it’s processed. Models included a truck hauling grain, and a pizza kitchen that showed a food handler washing his hands. Each team works with an adult or older-student mentor, who helps them focus on demonstration and learning, rather than on competition.

The group meets after school for one hour a week for eight consecutive weeks. Typically, each session starts with a “mini challenge” in which the children might, for example, be asked to write their name in Lego, build a tower or free play, followed by team building.

The group of 6-9 year-olds at Harry Balfour is part of the international Junior First Lego League in which more than 12,000 children in five countries are involved. Leagues for older children are also available.

For information on setting up your own league, visit: www.juniorfirstlegoleague.org


Clarke Titford: Bonanza School

Clarke Titford demonstrates good citizenship: respect for others, a strong sense of responsibility, and a willingness to think of others before himself.

Additionally, this Grade 8 student remains consistently on the school’s honour roll while being active in the Students’ Union, fine arts, and school sports.

Clarke has a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, and does not give in to pressure from peers. A leader, rather than a follower, he is someone his peers and younger students look to for direction and advice.

School staff report Clarke’s behaviour at school is exemplary, and say he is mature beyond his years. As well as being kind and compassionate, he is well-liked by staff and students, has excellent work habits, and is keenly interested in learning.


Online learning not lonely at all

“Learning online must be a lonely life.”

Not so, say students and staff of Peace Wapiti’s online school.

As well as daily online chats with teachers and each other through the Elluminate site, Moodle and email, PAVE (Peace Academy of Virtual Education) students, staff and parents get together for a field trip or activity each month.

Last month, it was a sleigh ride at Loberg’s Ranch in which everyone brought items for the “Filling or Funny” Charity Auction. The auction raised a record $1,100 for ANSO, a local charity that supports Ethiopian students and rural families.

For more info on ANSO: http://www.ansoinfo.com