VALTS Newsletter

Issue 3

Please Help Us Fund Our Field Trip to Denver

Field trips are a fantastic way to wrap up a unit and to provide students with quality hands-on learning time. This year students have learned about a variety of topics in their social studies and science classes that relate to many of the exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Beth Still set up an account on DonorsChoose where anyone can donate as little as $1. The organization works on a points system and as soon as she has accrued an additional point she will post the field trip on her page. Until then, please help us by either contributing by giving us a gift care through the DonorsChoose site or by sharing the link to Beth's project through email, Facebook, Twitter and any other means you have. We have to raise $1400 to cover the cost of a charter bus and tickets to the special exhibit and the planetarium.

So far this VALTS year students have learned about how the earth was formed and about many natural features found on our planet. They have also learned about biology, natural selection, extinction, and they have created their own museum! During the second semester they will learn about ancient civilizations in the Americas and astronomy. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is the perfect place to visit to celebrate all they have learned this year.

Emphasis on Soft Skills

With the big push in education being on testing and reaching proficiency in core subject areas, research shows that more students are missing out on some of the basics that will carry them through in life and career experiences. These basics are now being referred to as soft skills. In fact, James J. Heckman and Tim D. Kautz published a report titled "Hard Evidence of Soft Skills" with the National Bureau of Economic Research in June 2012. In this report the authors focus on how "Achievement tests miss, or perhaps more accurately, do not adequately capture soft skills--personality traits, goals, motivations, and preferences--that are valued in the labor market, in school, and in many other domains."

Because our focus at VALTS is on alternative learning opportunities that are student focused, we decided to use one of the exploratory time slots to teach students about soft skills. Brenda Smith and George Schlothauer presented on communication, attitude, teamwork, and problem solving. (See the Google Presentation used.) Along with giving information, students had a hands on activity to help them understand and see how each of these areas are significant and important.

Since the research done by Heckman and Kautz identifies that soft skills predict success in life, and that they causally produce that success, it is our hope that in teaching some of these traits that our students will be more aware and will ultimately find greater success in their work, school, and home lives.

Thankful for our Veterans

On November 20, 2013, VALTS students went to the Western Nebraska Veterans Home. Students played a variety of games with the members of the home. We plan on doing this type of activity every quarter. Building relationships with those who have served our country is very important. THANK YOU to all who have or are currently serving! We appreciate you!

Language Arts

The second quarter focus in Language Arts was on grammar, usage, and mechanics. Students gained an understanding on how usage involves the ever-changing habits of a language: it is how words and phrases are used and understood. Grammar encompasses the rules for a language, and those rules tend to evolve more slowly. Finally, mechanics focuses on sentence structure, punctuation, and basic style of writing. Following these three areas of content, students took a sample college entrance exam to see how much of what they learned would show up on future assessments.

During the third quarter, students will be focusing on a creative writing component. They will read a variety of genres and then will attempt personal writing based on those genres. Some of the writing may include haiku/poetry, autobiography/memoir, collaborative writing, creative non-fiction, short story, songwriting, and children's literature. (One goal is to use computer animation programs to bring the children's stories to life.) Along with writing, I will be using parts of The Freedom Writers Diary as students will be doing journal entries and personal reflections.


During the 2nd quarter, students learned about Personal Finance. Some of the topics that were explored include checking and savings accounts, reading a lease agreement, conflict with roommates, and deposits and expenses associated with renting an apartment. Students worked with "roommates" and established guidelines for their apartments. They researched furnishing expenses and did a mock up expense for what it would cost to furnish their own apartments. Students were then taken on a field trip and visited a rental as well as many homes currently on the market. Brenda Smith, Realtor with Haun Nelson Reality company showed students what to look for when renting or buying a home.


3rd Quarter is Stellar Astronomy!

Formation of Stars:

This quarter we are studying stars beginning with the formation of stellar bodies and the various physical and chemical processes that are involved.

Life and Classification of Stars:

We will then examine the life of different types of stars, how scientists classify them and what types of reactions and processes occur during this portion of stellar evolution.

Death of Stars:

We will also learn about the fate of stars- what happens when they “die”. This will include a foray into the physics and chemistry behind such cosmic features as supernovae explosions, black holes, pulsars, and black dwarf stars.

Studying the Stars:

Finally we will explore the human connection to stars through the concept that we really are all just stardust, the creation of constellations and the invention and use of telescopes.

2nd Quarter Museum Exhibits were a hit!

Exhibit of a giant weta invertebrate created by one of our second quarter graduates.

Social Studies

During the second quarter students focused on the physical geography of the Earth. Each student selected a continent then created a profile about it throughout the quarter.

During the third quarter the students will learn about the first people who inhabited the Americas. They are excited to learn about the Aztec, Maya, and Incas as well as various Native Americans that lived in the United States.

Here are some examples:

From the Principal

In December six more students graduated from VALTS! These six graduates bring our total to 497 since 1998. When students graduate, they earn the opportunity to place a brick on the wall with the initials of their home districts. With these new graduates we are quickly moving toward our 500th . Mark your calendars for graduation on March 11, 2014, at 11 A.M. as we will be celebrating that 500th graduate!