During my time as Watson Elementary School’s public relations intern, I made (approximately) monthly newsletters that were sent out to parents and staff. The PDFs are attached below.
Every January, Watson students get involved in Math-A-Thon, a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This year students raised a whopping $4412.01 to donate to families in need at St. Jude.
“We decided this year that the top five students who brought money in would earn a prize. In the past, all of the kids would earn a prize, but we found out that takes away money that is made for St. Jude so we decided as a committee that we were going to eliminate some of the prizes,” second grade teacher Mrs. Chris Mikuly said. “This year, we had enough money to send four adults and four children airfare so they wouldn’t have to pay.”
The money raised through Math-A-Thon provides funds for patients’ treatment, travel, food and housing so that the patients “do not have to pay a dime,” according to Mikuly. With help from Mikuly and fellow committee members Mrs. Dana Carr, first grade, Mrs. Karen Radencic, third grade, and Mrs. Rita Evanson, third grade, Watson has successfully been participating in Math-A-Thon for years.
“We’ve been doing this since 1983 I believe, so right now we’ve made over $89,000 since then. We’re really proud of that,” Mikuly said.
Although Watson gives back to the community in numerous ways, Math-A-Thon is a favorite of Mikuly’s and other teachers’.
“We keep pushing to the kids to give back, to give back, give back. What I like about Math-A-Thon is it incorporates math with it. Instead of just asking kids to bring in money, they are actually donating some of their time through math,” Mikuly said.
Watson Elementary’s Mrs. Rita Evanson put her third grade students’ cleanliness to the test with a germ lab on Friday, Jan. 27. Thanks to the help of Evanson’s microbiologist husband and donations from Silliker Laboratories, students were able to see their lesson come to life.
“The supplies are donated from a business called Silliker Laboratories. It’s about $300 worth of supplies. My husband is a microbiologist who is a consultant with them, and they have donated the supplies for the past 8 years,” Evanson said.
There were multiple experiments within this lab, including testing the germs on the children’s hands before and after being freshly washed and swabbing items around the school and in the classroom.
“My favorite part was when we got to swab the stuff around the building. I thought it was fun, and it was kind of gross,” third-grader Diane Jefferies said.
Prior to this lab, the students have spent class time learning about chronic and communicable diseases and how germs spread.
“The chronic diseases are ones that you are born with, but you can’t catch them from people or you just get them, but communicable diseases you can catch from food, people or animals. Today I learned that germs can be everywhere,” third-grader Grace Marksteiner said.
To finish off the lab, Evanson asked her students what studies have shown to be the top two germiest items, to which they promptly responded: purses and cell phones. Gross!
“Mrs. Claesgens, did you know that Washington D.C. isn’t far from Virginia?” fourth-grader Samantha Massacavollo buzzed before the start of Yoga for Kids, a before-school program provided by Watson Elementary School.
“Because they placed Washington D.C. on the wrong side of the map, or maybe it’s Virginia, because it’s only a driving distance away…”
Chatter filled the classroom as students continued to file in. Once shoes, coats and backpacks were left at the door and yoga mats lay in rows on the floor, the session began. The atmosphere changed entirely–the previously-talkative students now sat cross-legged on the floor focusing on their breaths under the instruction of a video-proctor.
This yoga program is facilitated by Watson School Service Provider Marcie Claesgens. While Claesgens is not a certified yoga instructor, she advocates for the benefits yoga can bring in social and academic situations.
“The research indicates improved behavior throughout the day when [children] practice yoga. The whole point is to start off their day in a calm, relaxed state of mind and to learn that ability to focus and control their emotions and their breathing,” Claesgens said.
An abundance of studies back the usefulness of implementing the practice into the classroom. Yoga has been said to lower stress and anxiety levels, improve classroom behavior, enhance the ability to focus, and even have physical benefits such as improved posture. Claesgens’ experiences from her program mimic the positive results that research indicates.
“I notice a difference in the kids from the beginning of our yoga sessions to the end. Usually they’re very excited, but by the end of the session the number of times I have to redirect them to be quiet and focus on their breathing is much improved. They really do take it seriously, and they’ve really become more understanding of what the practice of yoga is doing for them.”
With this program, Watson is tuned in with the latest classroom trend sweeping through schools across the nation. According to a study conducted by the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School, upwards of 940 schools across the country have implemented a yoga program into part of their regimen.
“Hopefully it could be something that we end up doing school-wide at some point, but there are other little ways for teachers to interject yoga into their classrooms as well: ‘brain breaks’ or different yoga stretches [are encouraged] to use when it’s practical in the classroom, because yoga can be beneficial even in small doses,” Claesgens said.
If there are still doubts on the benefits that programs such as these can bring into the school environment, take it from our geographically-inclined fourth-grade friend, Samantha.
“After every [session] I feel so fluffy,” Samantha said. “It calms me.”