June 23, 2022
As we look back on the year . . .
Farewell from Ms. Branen
Not too long ago, a board member asked me to share my educational journey and my accomplishments during my time at PPCS for the annual appeal letter (which you will see coming out soon). I quickly declined because I wanted to showcase the accomplishments of our students. However, reflecting on my educational journey as an EL teacher and leader has incredible value and I think it is worth sharing. EL Education's mission is, "To create classrooms where teachers can fulfill their highest aspirations, and students achieve more than they think possible, becoming active contributors to building a better world." I truly believe in this mission and see it executed in every student and educator that is integrated into this model of education. As a parent, you may not see the full potential of this approach if you have a kindergartener or even a 4th grader. It is developed over time. Then, as each student enters high school or college, they recognize it and you will too.
As a teacher, I found a love to care more deeply about our world because I was asked to teach students about it. As a kindergarten teacher, I designed and taught an expedition around earthworms. Did you know that earthworms are such an important organism in our world? They are great “soil engineers.” As they move through the soil, earthworms loosen and mix it up; helping to aerate and drain it. This brings nutrients to the surface, making the soil more fertile, and helps prevent flooding and erosion. Well...you may not, but all my former kindergarten students do. After learning of their importance to our world, my students and I would save as many earthworms as we could after a rain. Even to this day I stop and save the worms. This can be a little annoying to my husband when we are on a run, stopping every 10 feet to save an earthworm from dying.
When we teach these topics, it shapes who we are and develops us as people to care more about our world and people that live in it. We tackle topics of civic education to care more about issues of immigration, diversity, equality, humanity, a love for our natural world and mostly to become kind, compassionate humans that develop skills to examine issues critically and to bring forward ideas productively so others will listen. A former PPCS student, a graduating senior this year, wrote this in her college essay for the Honor’s college to which she was applying. She was asked to write about an experience that changed her and caused her to grow as a person. She reflected back on her 8th grade expedition on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here is a part of her reflection:
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict contained multiple perspectives, and our teacher made sure we had a full understanding of the view from both sides. For perhaps one of the first times, I could not pick a side to support, realizing there was no clear victim or villain. We were then tasked with preparing our final product: a two voice poem. As we set to work on our poem, our first goal was to find a common vision with our partner. I was initially concerned with the classmate I was assigned. While I believed him to be incredibly smart, he was excitable in class, had a difficult time focusing, and I had no other experiences with him outside of school. Additionally, he came from a background and culture very different from my own. However, as soon as we began to work and brainstorm together, we became each other’s greatest advantages. His ideas pushed my thinking, ultimately leading to the creation of a beautiful piece I could never have achieved alone. When it came time to perform our piece in front of a college class, I was confident we would do well. I believed in our work and the effort we put in. I knew he would support me in the performance if needed, and I would do the same for him. We exceeded my initial expectations.
This experience taught me lessons I will implement in my college career. This course taught me to carefully examine and research every situation prior to jumping to a conclusion. It pushed me to value multiple perspectives and try to understand the complexities within different situations. It also taught me the importance of working with others and having our ideas and selves challenged to bring out our best. Collaboration with people representing different ideas and backgrounds is a vital aspect of our own individual growth and the prosperity of our global community. I feel that this course was an instrumental factor in developing me into a well-rounded, educated individual.”
Here is what another graduating senior, and a former kindergarten student of mine, said.
These student perspectives- students that attended PPCS from kindergarten through 8th grade-give me hope for our world and hope that our students will have these skills to know how to navigate such a challenging world they face. I can say with confidence, I truly believe our school is magical and it starts in kindergarten. I also can say that where I see the most magic occur is during their adolescent years at our school. We are building the foundation in their elementary education that students in their middle school years start applying. They discover themselves and are the students you will see succeed and surpass their peers in high school and college because of their character.
So when asked about my accomplishments, in deep reflection, it didn’t matter how many times I have presented at national conference, the awards I have received, the number of grants I have written or even the building of a new school. My biggest and greatest accomplishment, and life’s work, is to read or hear from our former students, both as a parent and leader, and the impact PPCS has had on them.
And, as I pass the baton on to our new leader, I want to also acknowledge that my own experience as our leader has been supported by my husband and my entire family. They have supported me to continue to build and improve our school in countless and often invisible ways.
Although, this shift for me is very bittersweet, I can't wait for our new leader to be fulfilled and forever changed as a human, leading our CREW. I have no doubt they will carry the incredible model forward, impacting many educators and students.
Thank you for all for allowing me to grow and learn from each of you, including students, parents, community members and staff. I am forever grateful to have had the honor of serving Palouse Prairie.
Check out the incredible work created by our students!
3rd Graders Swim with the Steelhead
Third graders created artwork of the steelhead lifecycle with observations, questions, or inferences they had while watching the steelhead hatch and grow in their tank. These works of science-based art will be gifted to WSU to adorn the walls of the fisheries lab.
4th Graders Celebrate Confluence
Fourth graders wrote and performed one-act plays along with local artists as part of their Confluence of Cultures expedition: Learning To Live by our Family Motto -Special thanks to David Harlan for producing this film!
You can see photos of the First Journey ceremony for Himyume in this article in the Lewiston Tribune and Moscow-Pullman Daily News. And you can listen to a Northwest Public Broadcasting (NWPB) story, read an article and see more photos at this link.
5th Graders Create Virtual Reality Exhibit
Fifth graders crafted a virtual reality exhibit that puts the viewer in biomes of endangered species they researched as part of their Sixth Mass Extinction expedition. The exhibit includes a portrait of the species, an informational paragraph, and a poem and soundscapes created by the students. This display will be in the Palouse Science Center this summer, and is an amazing cumulation of student driven work. Check out this link to see the students' work. Be sure to navigate all around each page and see here the entire exhibit.
8th Graders Rooted in Conflict
From our Music Instructor
Dear Palouse Prairie Families,
Thank you for your allowing me to bring music to your child’s day at PPCS this year. I'd like to share some music opportunities for your students this summer. Check out my YouTube channel here: Colorfully Playing the Piano YouTube Channel
Here is a website I use to find chords for ukulele songs: Ultimate Guitar (a website and app for finding chords/tabs for guitar, ukulele, and piano)
https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/. If your student is interested in music and wants to take their learning to the next level, here are subscription based apps where kids can either teach themselves music or the apps can truly help them learn on their own:
Simply Piano, Simply Guitar, Yousician (They offer guitar, piano, or ukulele apps)
If you would like to invest in music lessons for your student, I am offering 30 minute lessons of guitar, piano, ukulele, and voice. I'm also offering family music class for children from infant to 5 at the Jim Lyle Rotary Park. You can find more details at these links:
Here is the facebook page for my Family Music Class
I wish you a very musical summer and I greatly look forward to teaching your kids more music next year at Palouse Prairie Charter School, so stay tuned!
Miss Jodi (Aka. Music Teacher)