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Murray Journal

Parkside Elementary Partnerships Expand Opportunities To Students

Aug 03, 2016 08:52AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Murray, Utah - Parkside Elementary students have been given more opportunities to learn, thanks to two long-standing partnerships.

 An eight-year partnership with the Salt Lake Valley Health Department started when the health department director, who grew up in Chicago, realized that not all children knew how to plant gardens or take care of them. When he approached nearby Parkside Elementary about hosting the vegetable garden at the health department for the students to take care of, teacher Cal Beck said it easily worked its way into the curriculum.

 “Each grade had a slightly different approach, but we’d plant vegetables and help tend the garden and at the same time, make scientific observations and measure and chart the growth,” he said. “We’d talk about the soil and what affects the garden, then we’d help harvest so the kids would have fresh vegetables to eat. For some of our kids, they could plant gardens at home and for others, they could apply their knowledge planting a herb garden in their apartment windowsill.”

 Recently, the garden partnership has transformed into an Earth Day celebration that extends to every class, every grade at the school.

 “There are about 20 different booths educating students with mini-lessons from household recycling to not polluting our water in the streams and rivers. Each booth had ways that students could learn how they can help take care of the Earth,” he said.

This year, Beck said students learned about showering before swimming to prevent germs spreading, having cars be idle-free, carpooling, food inspection in restaurants and other topics.

 “Students learned that cars idling helps pollute the air, which when there’s poor air quality, limits their recess — everything was put in context for them to relate to. There was a delicate balance between hands-on activities to lectures; students were engaged in learning and applying what they learned,” he said.

 Beck’s first-grade students wrote what they learned” one way they could make a difference today as well as in the future. They also wrote thank-you notes to those involved in the Earth Day celebration. The learning spectrum was found in all grades as fifth-graders discovered topics they could practice debating on, he added.

 “It also tied into our social studies core curriculum on community and how so many people are vested in improving our community. I think my students learned to respect nature and now that even the smallest person can make a difference,” he said.

 This past year, the lessons were put in place when the school children teamed up with Murray High’s Latinos in Action group to clean up their playground that borders Murray Park.

 “They realize they can make a difference and how they fit into the community that shows it cares about the Earth through businesses, organizations and foundations. This partnership lets them explore what they learn and apply it,” Beck said.

 Three years ago, Parkside fourth-grade teachers responded to wanting to learn interpretive dance with the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.

 Each year, it begins with the dance company bringing a dance assembly to the school, teaching about the art of dance and the four principles of dance: shape, energy, time and space, said fourth-grade teacher Chris Calderwell.

 This year, they performed on April 13 and then two dancers spent the next several days working with fourth-grade students, modeling dance and showing them how to move in high, low and medium position, she said.

 “They spend 45 minutes each day with fourth grade teaching them movements that at the end of the week combine together to make a dance,” Calderwell said.

 This year, about 90 students performed an Egyptian dance that included formations of pyramids, hieroglyphics and the Nile River.

 “Even the skeptical ones loved it. All week they were learning the components of the dance so by the end of the week, they already knew their part and how it fit with other classes’ parts,” she said.

 Then, the fourth-grade students performed the dance for the entire school on April 22.

 Following the performance, fourth-graders filled a questionnaire about how they liked the dance experience.

 “Most of the reviews were very positive and the children expressed that they loved being able to express themselves through dance. But they learned more. They learned how to listen and pay attention. They learned to come up with and apply descriptive vocabulary to match their movements. It made them think and recall what they learned. It gave everyone another way to express themselves and it was so much fun to watch their personalities come out,” she said.