Students across all Ephrata Area School District elementary schools recently embarked on a collective reading adventure, One Book, One District.
Funded by an Ephrata Area Education Foundation Venture Grant, every student in Kindergarten through grade 4 was provided a book – either Glamourpuss or Cheese – by Sarah Weeks. Students were encouraged to read their book independently and at home with family members, in addition to reading it with classmates and teachers while in school. The experience created a common bond among students, staff, and families. Additionally, it inspired schoolwide comradery and shared conversations through a common book.
The culmination of One Book, One District was Ms. Weeks’ visit to all four District elementary schools during the week of May 9. Students took pride in decorating their schools with themes connected to the author’s books and enjoyed interactive assemblies during her visit. Akron Elementary School Principal Sheri Horner noted students’ excitement to meet Ms. Weeks. “Students were very eager to learn directly from an author,” she said.
Sarah Weeks is the author of 59 published books. Visit sarahweeks.com for more information.
Approximately 300 students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 participated in the fourth annual Ephrata Area School District Coding Contest this year. Students worked after school in small groups to create projects that demonstrated the use of code, which were reviewed by a panel of District administrators, teachers, School Board members, and community leaders.
Kindergarten – Grade 2
- 1st place (TIE)
- Lucynda Berkey, Rylan Lapp, and Cole McAnany (Highland)
- Jubilee Mertz and Daisy Musser (Highland)
- 2nd place: Zachary Stonebraker and Brylee McGarvey (Highland)
- 3rd place: Kingston Fischbach and Bryce Thomas (Fulton)
- 1st place: Zion Kapp and Maliha Martin (Clay)
- 2nd place: Cooper Simes and Reece Wilson (Highland)
- 3rd place: Ian Goehrig, Christopher Kohler, and Brendan Morrell (Akron and Clay)
- 1st place: Anastasia Lehman and Sarah Taylor (Grade 6)
- 2nd place: Ethan Garman, Landry Weidner, and Todd Weist (Grade 5)
- 3rd place: Joshua Muhr and Wesley Jones (Grade 6)
- 1st place: Nathan Brubaker, Moses Kapp, and Theodore Smith (Grade 7)
- 2nd place: Clay Sholes, Micah Neff, and Collin Jones (Grade 8)
- 3rd place: Lillian Sharpe and Kyle Swenson (Grade 8)
A signature project supported by the Ephrata Area Education Foundation, the Coding Contest was introduced to District students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 in 2016. It received very positive feedback, which created the desire to grow the event in 2017. The District has provided students coding education, including participation in the global Hour of Code since 2013. Coding activities include creating computer games, programming applications, building robots, and much more.
Why encourage children to code? Predictions are that computer science jobs already significantly surpass the number of individuals qualified for these positions. “Almost every machine we interact with now is built
with code. Our children need to learn how machines work to be best prepared for the future. Plus, computer science is a top-paying college degree, and computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average,” stated Dan Mahlandt, District Coordinator of Virtual Education.
Ephrata Area School District Leaders Shadow Students
How does it feel to be a student for a day? After participating in the nationwide School Retool Shadow A Student Challenge for the fourth year in a row, Ephrata Area School District administrators are able to speak from their own experiences to answer this question. District and building leaders will shadow students in secondary schools on Tuesday, February 19 and elementary schools on Wednesday, February 20 to experience a school day as a student first-hand and gain a new perspective on learning.
District administrators are encouraged to participate with empathy and an open mind to feel what it is like to truly adopt a student’s point of view. “As part of the District theme to embody a growth mindset and a desire for continued improvement, administrators are trying to fully immerse themselves in student life for a day with the goal to better understand the students we serve,” said District Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop.
Administrators have been asked to keep a variety of questions in mind while shadowing students, including:
- How does it feel to be a student for a day?
- What is your student’s favorite moment of the day, and what makes it special?
- What do you notice makes your student feel uncomfortable, anxious, or bored? Why?
- When is your student engaged in learning?
- As you go through your day, what opportunities do you notice for use of critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and effective communication skills?
Following the events, administrators will reflect on their insights to compare students’ experiences with the learning and skills necessary for success through their academic careers.
Eight teams of students in grades three and four participated in the annual District Elementary STEAM Bowl, on Thursday, January 17. Prior to the event, over 650 third and fourth grade students answered preliminary STEAM-related questions to determine who would represent their elementary schools on each STEAM Bowl team.
The teams each participated in a half-day competition, where Clay Elementary School finished as the top fourth grade team and Highland Elementary School was named the top third grade team. Both teams will represent the District in the annual IU13 STEM Bowl.
Over 225 Ephrata Area School District families attended the third annual Elementary STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) Night on Wednesday,December 12. Students and their families from all four District elementary schools participated in a variety of STEAM activities.
The evening began with an opening presentation by representatives of the Whitaker Center entitled “It’s Shocking” for families to learn more about static electricity. Families then rotated through STEAM stations to participate in a variety of collaborative activities:
- Case New Holland provided an interactive activity illustrating the workings of an assembly line. Students built LEGO tractors to simulate the process.
- The Whitaker Center encouraged exploration with coding spheres and caterpillars.
- The Ephrata Borough Water Treatment Authority helped families discover where water comes from, what water is used for, how to keep water clean, and how pollution affects water.
- WellSpan engaged families in a Wellness Health Fair.
- Families were introduced to the 2019 District Coding Contest while participating in the “Build a Zoo STEM Challenge” and using District LEGO kits.
“We are thrilled the annual Elementary STEAM Night engages so manyDistrict families every year. It is a greatopportunity for family members to work together and learn together throughmeaningful 21st century STEAM activities,” said Dr. Jacy ClugstonHess, District Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education.
Paige Reddig, a seventh-grader at Ephrata Middle School, is having an exciting start to her school year. She wrote and recently published a book before also being named the 2018 Distinguished Middle School Student of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PAGE).
“Three Sisters of Doom”
It all began last spring when Paige attended an Ephrata Intermediate School assembly with author and publisher Stephen Kozan. Mr. Kozan challenged students to write a one-page book pitch. The student with the most creative entry would have the opportunity to complete his or her story and have the book published. Paige submitted a start to a story she entitled, “Three Sisters of Doom” and was notified in May that she was the winner.
Over the summer, Paige worked with a publisher, editor, and illustrator to complete her book. The 165-page story has 13 chapters and is geared for readers ages 8 to 15. She used inspiration from her own family members when writing the book, specifically noting her grandparents and cousins. She also found a way to incorporate some of her hobbies, including sewing.
“Three Sisters of Doom” depicts a magical place between the Known and Unknown, where each character represents something specific. Hope, the youngest royal daughter, discovers that her sisters, Greed, Envy, and Sickness, plan to seize control of the kingdom. Hope searches for a way to stop her sisters and finds an ancient spell that she believes will save her family. With a heavy heart, she casts the spell altering the princesses’ lives unexpectedly sending them somewhere in the Known but as objects, not themselves. Elsewhere in the Known, a young girl named Phoebe is visiting with her grandmother. Everything in Grandma’s house has a story, from the furniture to her jewelry. On this visit, they come across things that Grandma does not remember, and when Phoebe touches them, the objects seem to be telling her their own story, pulling her into their lives.
Paige said her ideal writing surroundings are at a computer, silent and uninterrupted. “I wrote the whole thing in about six weeks,” she said. “I really had nothing but an outline guiding the story. It all just came to me as I wrote. I would sit down at my computer and write whenever I had time, whether it was for a couple of minutes or hours. My longest stretch writing at one time was four hours,” she continued.
It is not hard to believe that Paige is an avid reader in her spare time. “I read five or six different books at the same time. The book I pick up to read just depends on the mood I’m in that day,” she said. While she considers her love of reading and writing a hobby, her favorite school subjects are math and science.
2018 Distinguished Middle School Student of the Year
Just days before “Three Sisters of Doom” was finished being printed, Paige was notified by the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education (PAGE) that she was named the 2018 Distinguished Middle School Student of the Year. She will be presented with an award and a $100 cash prize at the 66th Annual PAGE Conference in Pittsburgh at the end of November.
Paige completed an application process with four letters of recommendation, including one from her book publisher, Mr. Kozan and one from an Ephrata Intermediate School teacher, Mrs. Marcie Lloyd. “Paige is very eager to learn and gives her all in everything she does. She is a very talented writer and a positive school leader,” said Mrs. Lloyd.
“I feel super proud but am also a little nervous about it all,” Paige concluded.
JavaTeas at Doneckers will be hosting a book signing on Saturday, November 17 from 10:00 AM to noon. Books will be available for purchase at the event or can be ordered on Amazon or iVisitYourSchool.com.
The recently renovated Ephrata High School media center is now open and inspiring 21st century learning. A full renovation of the media center and surrounding areas of the school began as part of an interactive student design challenge in 2017. Students collaborated in small groups to create plans for a renovation and worked alongside District administrators and architects to bring their ideas to life. The finished project includes more areas to facilitate small-group and project-based learning, technology, collaboration, communication, and more components of 21st century learning.
“We are excited about this design process, which included our students every step along the way, as well as the final product,” said District Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop.
A grand opening was held on October 3 for District families, staff, and community members to tour the space. Approximately 25 High School students served as informative tour guides, greeters, and musicians. Students highlighted different areas of the media center, including the interactive green room, café, Mounts Tech Support, learning stairs, vertical garden, flexible furniture, and much more. Attendees were encouraged to “leave their mark” on the writable surfaces – walls, tables, or windows – with one word to describe the new areas.
Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera also attended the event and spent time talking with students and administrators while touring and learning more about the space.
“The new Library Media Center is able to promote collaboration, creativity, and independence while reflecting the wants and needs of our high school students. The variety of flexible seating, private and group spaces, learning stairs, and coffee shop are sure to make this the centerpiece of our high school,” concluded Dr. Troop.