Friday, October 18, 2013

Flynn Park In the Loop

Close proximity to the Delmar Loop, designated one of 10 Great Streets in America, opens up a lot of opportunities for Flynn Park elementary students.  With both civic and cultural attractions to enjoy, a field trip to the Loop is guaranteed to be both fun and educational - just ask the third graders who recently spent an afternoon soaking up art, architecture, government and, of course, Fitz's rootbeer. 

The kids headed out on foot from the school in groups, each armed with a notepad and digital camera, along with directions to look for and photograph art, architecture, and landscape along the way. Flynn Park art teacher Beverly Brandt was "so happy to see how enthusiastic these young community members were about the art and history that is around them every day."  She says, "they come to me almost every day still talking about art and architecture that they saw on their bus ride or while they were with their families." 

In Council Chambers at City Hall
The group stopped at Fitz's for lunch and a tour of the bottling plant, followed by a tour of the Loop in which they compared buildings intended for government use to those intended to be public places for consumers. The field trip ended with a trip to the fifth floor of City Hall and a chance to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views. 

The photographs taken by the students will used in an upcoming art project in which they will design a book about what they saw and learned on their field trip to the Loop.

Thanks to Beth Martin, Beverly Brandt, and Nicole Wight for photos and information.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Visit from the Prize Patrol

The University City Education Foundation surprised six U. City teachers on Friday morning, October 10th, arriving with balloon bouquets and big checks.  The first round of 2013 fall grants were awarded at Flynn Park elementary's Friday morning assembly.  Teachers Nicole LaPlante Wight and Andrea Andrea Callahan received grants totaling $1900.00 to fund technology enhancements (including iPad Mini and iPad Touch devices) for the math and reading curriculum.

Andrea Callahan, Flynn Park 5th grade and
 Nicole Wight Flynn Park, 3rd grade
Next it was on to Brittany Woods middle school, where three teachers and Librarian Kelly Werthmuller were surprised in their classrooms.  The Brittany Woods grants totaled $2,950 and will fund projects including a 6th grade classroom reading center, new magazines and other reading materials for the library, participation in an area-wide Book Battle event, and a social studies trip to Memphis to conclude an in-depth study of the Civil Rights Movement.

Katherine Adams, Brittany Woods 6th grade Language Arts

The University City Education Foundation was founded in 1996 to enhance the educational programming in the School District of University City by providing grants to fund enrichment projects that typically fall outside of the scope of a school's standard budget.  For the fall 2013 grant cycle, UCEF was pleased to fund all submitted applications. 

Christine Kwiatkowski, Brittany Woods 7th grade Social Studies

Since 1996 UCEF has awarded over $200,000 in grants.  A complete list of recipients can be found here. Grants are entirely funded by donations and fundraising events. For timely news and information about UCEF and how to become involved in this terrific organization,  please visit the UCEF  facebook page.  

Julia Reimann, Brittany Woods 6th - 8th grade Spanish

UCEF awards grants twice a year, in the fall and spring.  The grant program is open to faculty, staff, principals, and administrators in the School District of University City.  Parents and other community members may submit a grant application  if sponsored by an eligible employee of the district. The spring deadline is January 27th, and applications can be downloaded here.

Kelly Werthmuller, Brittany Woods Librarian

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

JP Hits the Road

The weather was picture-perfect for Jackson Park Elementary's second annual Family Walk to School Day, held on Tuesday, October 8th.  Nearly 200 kids and adults participated in this year's event, sponsored by the Jackson Park PTO.  The purpose of the event, says PTO Treasurer and event chair Joycelyn Barnes, "is to get the community walking, biking, skipping to school and leading a more healthy lifestyle." In addition to the health benefits it's also great for community building, as participants have a chance to get to know their neighbors and other JP families.

The PTO partnered with Trailnet to design safe walking routes where volunteers waited at each stop to escort a group of kids to school.  "Trailnet works with parents, schools, and administrators as well as other non-profits to organize these events in order to get parents and kids out walking to school for exercise and fun" says Trailnet School Specialist Cynthia Cantrell. 

Trailnet works with 13 school districts in the greater St. Louis area and holds between eight and ten Walk to School Days each spring and fall. Trailnet received a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to work with both Jackson Park Elementary and Flynn Park Elementary to promote pedestrian  and bicycle education and safety. 

Once the walkers made it to school they were treated to coffee and bagels for the adults, and Cheerios for the kids. The Scholastic Book Fair was open in the gym as well. At the Trailnet tables kids received a bike safety coloring book, an "I Walked to School Today" sticker and a key chain. 

Organizers hope to grow this event in years to come, including finding a way to involve JP's bus riders as well. Flynn Park Elementary will hold their event in the spring. 

Thank you to Sarah Holahan for the photos. 

Spotted on Facebook

The beautiful flower bed in front of Flynn Park Elementary School, courtesy of U City in Bloom.

U City in Bloom maintains stunning gardens at each of our schools, as well as the McNair administration building.   You can read about the new garden at Pershing Elementary here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Robots "Warm Up" at UCHS

The gymnasium at University City High School buzzed with excitement Saturday morning October 5th, as 22 registered elementary and middle school robotics teams from across the area converged for the fourth annual U. City FLL Warm Up (formerly the "U. City Scramble").  FLL, which stands for FIRST LEGO League, is a component of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics program started by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. (Click here to read about our high school's FIRST Robotics Competition team). 

Teams crowd around the tables in the UCHS gymnasium
to observe practice matches.

In FLL, small teams of students aged 9 to 14 design, build, program, and test robots made from LEGO MINDSTORMS technology. At the beginning of each season (which lasts approximately 3 months) teams are issued a challenge with a series of obstacles that their robots must overcome, and research project ot complete and present. The 2013 challenge is called Nature's Fury, and  explores natural disasters and how technology can help us to prepare, stay safe, and rebuild.

At this year's Warm Up, teams had the opportunity to put their robots through their paces in the robot game, meet other teams and see their robots, and get a feel for what an actual competition might be like.  In addition, teams could meet with a panel of experts from the Red Cross and Washington University to ask questions and get help on this year's project.  Students and staff from Ranken Technical College were also on hand to provide programming assistance to the teams. 

A team from Flynn Park listens to a referee explain one of the
many "missions" they can complete in the robot game.

This event is typically the first chance the officials and referees have to see the robot game in action, and is used as a training event for them as well. One of the founding tenants of FIRST is the concept of Gracious Professionalism, which means that teams can compete fiercely but still treat each other with respect and kindness and help everyone to achieve their best game. The Warm Up is a great example of this in action, as teams learn from and help one another. 

Of the 22 teams participating this year, five were from University City schools,  including Flynn Park, Jackson Park, Barbara C. Jordan, and Brittany Woods Middle. Members of the UCHS Robolions FRC team assisted and served as referees. University City is proud to be one of the only local districts to have robotics teams at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. 

The "pit" areas are a hive of activity, as teams tweak and
troubleshoot their robots

In the weeks to come, teams will continue to hone their robots, research their project, and prepare presentations.  The competition season kicks off on October 26th with the first in a series of ten qualifiers, two of which will be held at Brittany Woods Middle School on November 9th and 10th.  The top teams from each qualifier will then go on to compete in the Eastern Missouri FLL Championship at Florissant Valley Community College on December 8th.  The winner of that event has the chance to compete against teams from around the world  in the FIRST World Championship, held April 23 - 26, 2014, at the America's Center right here in St. Louis!  For details and qualifier schedules visit the St. Louis FIRST website.

The Warm Up, brainchild of U. City parents Nicole Adewale, Celina McGinnis, and Ed Deitzler, has grown steadily since its inception in 2010.  The event started as a way to, "pull together resources to help University City's FLL teams prepare for the official qualifying events" says Adewale (UCHS Class of 1986), "but from the beginning we (and Superintendent Pruitt) felt it was important to share our resources with other teams in the area, which would in turn allow us to learn from other teams.  What we originally envisioned as an extended practice event has turned out to be a premier technical conference for elementary and middle school students and has also become a major training opportunity for referees."

The sponsoring organization for the Warm Up was U.City Robotics, founded by parents several years ago to promote FIRST programs in University City and introduce our students to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields through the excitement of competitive robotics. Kids who participate in FIRST are significantly more likely to attend college and major in science or engineering (in fact, all seven 2013 graduating seniors from the high school's robotics team, many of whom began robotics in middle school, are currently majoring in science or engineering.)

U. City Robotics is grateful to the Deitzler, McGinnis, Holahan and Adewale families for organizing and setting up the event and to members of the St. Louis FIRST Robotics FLL committee, Ranken, Wash U., Edwardsville Robotics, and the Red Cross for supplying nearly 30 volunteers who provided a stellar opportunity to the teams who participated.

All photos courtesy of Celina McGinnis

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Three Days, Eight Campuses: UCHS Students Take a Whirlwind College Tour of Illinois

In mid-September, twenty University City High School juniors and seniors and their guidance counselors embarked on an exciting and information packed three-day tour of eight Illinois colleges and universities. The students were selected for the trip based on their outstanding academics and citizenship, along with an application essay.

Touring the campus of Loyola University
Campus visits are a key component of the high school's efforts to raise awareness about college options and opportunities for all students. Last year the UCHS guidance department began annual visits to local schools for each grade level.  This year, the entire freshman class will visit Webster University, the sophomores will visit Washington University, the juniors will visit Mizzou, and the seniors will visit SEMO

The Illinois trip was generously funded by the UCHS class of 1963, along with contributions from the families of each participating student.   As part of their 50th reunion, the class of 1963 established the Class of 1963 Fund, dedicated to funding college visits for University City High School students. It is the hope of Senior Guidance Counselor Katy-Jane Johnson that such funding will allow this trip to become an annual event.

At The University of Chicago

The students left St. Louis bright and early on a Thursday morning and traveled via charter bus to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. where they were met by admissions representatives and given a tour of the campus and, according to one of the young participants, "lots of good swag."  Next it was on to Eastern Illinois University, and over the course of the next two days stops at DePaul University, Columbia College, Loyola University Chicago,  The Art Institute of Chicago and The University of Chicago. Each school rolled out the red carpet for the group and gave them a fun taste of what campus life might be like, along with an introduction to the many exciting avenues of academic pursuit available to our bright young scholars. 

The motivation for the trip, explains Ms. Johnson, was to expose our students to a wide variety of college campuses in order for them to have a better idea of what is out there. She says that students, "often develop their ideas of college through TV, movies, and other related media and it is depicted in a very one-sided way.  Visiting different types of college campuses gives the students the opportunity to experience the feel of a real campus and learn about the amazing opportunities each campus offers students first hand."  

At the Art Institute of Chicago

Students returned to University City late Saturday night, exhausted but filled with excitement about their collegiate futures.  According to Ms. Johnson, "almost all of the students who participated in the trip are now considering schools they would have never thought about before they had the chance to visit them."  This sentiment certainly rings true for Melissa Tschampel, whose daughter Claire participated in the trip. Melissa reports that Claire returned from the trip with "a better idea of what 'fit' was best for her to live and work in. She also easily eliminated what wasn't right, which can be just as helpful as finding the right fit. As it turns out, Claire found the school she wants to attend - all because of this great school-sponsored trip!"

University City High School has a distinguished record of sending graduates to top colleges and universities (click here for a list of schools students in the class of 2013 were accepted to).  Giving more students the opportunity to visit more campuses will likely increase not only the number of colleges applied to, but the number of students applying to college as well.  If you would like to help the Class of 1963 Fund in their efforts to provide more college visits, you can send a check payable to the School District of University City to: Katy-Jane Johnson, Senior Counselor, University City High School, 7401 Balson Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130. Please put Class of 1963 Fund on the memo line.

The entire group in Chicago,  in front of  Millennium Park's famous "bean"
Photo by Alexis Kozhevsky

Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of Claire Tschampel, UCHS Senior