University School IB Newsletter September 2021

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Fall 2021 Grade 5 students get to know each other

Cover art by second graders of Ms. Eastes and Mrs. Sparks.

Welcome back to University School for the 2021-2022 school year! The start of the year is always a special time as we bring together old friends, new faces, traditions, and fresh ideas. Through this process, we find ourselves constructing a community made up of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideas that help shape a vision for the future. You may not think of University School as a "transient" school, but we welcome many new families to our school each year from across Bloomington, Indiana, the United States, and from around the world. With these changes in our University community each year, we can take advantage of individual choices and actions that shape who we are to meet the needs of all. These diverse identities create community around shared values and agreements, which is what our school has focused on to kick off the school year. A new face that we welcome to University School this year is Ms. Odom, our new assistant principal. Ms. Odom brings her own background, experiences, and ideas to University School that will help shape who we are as a community of learners. It has been refreshing to spend time with Ms. Odom these first few weeks of school, but more importantly, it has been energizing to see her work with your children. I invite you to take this opportunity read a little more about Ms. Odom in the next section of this magazine. If you're lucky, you may hear the steady beat of the jump rope hitting the sidewalk while Ms. Odom and her friends work to perfect their tricks.” Glen Hopkins Principal

I remember growing up in Chicago watching the older girls “Double Dutch.” Double Dutch is a game in which two long jump ropes turning in opposite directions are jumped by one or more players simultaneously. I remember wishing that I could jump like them. One day, my great-grandmother told me, “Go over there, they will teach you how to jump. “Your mama probably taught them.” I remember walking over and watching. Finally, one of the older girls asked me if I wanted to try and I nodded my head yes. Every day I practiced with them until I finally got it! Different girls taught me different techniques of Double Dutch based on who did it the best. One of the tricks I learned was jumping with others in the rope at the same time. We called it “partners”. I was amazed at how they could be doing different tricks in the rope and not mess up as long as they were jumping to the same rhythm. “Just jump! Don’t worry about what the other person is doing, just keep the rhythm and trust that they will keep the rhythm.” That’s how it was explained to me and how I explained it to my younger sister and cousins when I taught them how to Double Dutch. Double Dutch was a major part of the community culture I grew up in. The older children knew that it was their responsibility to teach the younger ones to keep the tradition alive. This helped build a sense of community and collaboration that I still value today. Maya Angelou said, “You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” These experiences not only helped build my confidence; they taught me the value of teamwork and community. I share this experience often because there were several valuable lessons I learned. One of those lessons is that small events and interactions can have major impacts. As an educator I remind myself of this daily when interacting with students, parents, and staff. I became an educator in order to have a positive impact on the lives of children. Just as my interactions with them may have a small impact on their perception of the world, it also impacts my life daily, especially here at University Elementary School where I have a chance to interact with people from all different backgrounds. Each interaction changes me, if only in a small way. My hope is that the impact I have on the people around me is positive and can also change them in a small, but meaningful way just as those older girls had a positive impact on me by teaching me to jump Double Dutch. I still jump today. Ms. Keisha Odom Assistant Principal

We began our year with a school wide unit of inquiry. Our central idea: Communities create unity when using diverse actions and skills collaboratively. Lines of inquiry: 1. how humans express identity 2. how an individual's choices and actions shape a community to meet the needs of all 3. how people's multiple identities create community around shared values and agreements. In this newsletter, you’ll see ways that our classrooms have brought individuals together to become functioning communities.

Ms. Schroeder’s students are learning and discovering.

Get to know us

“I thought the “Mind Map” was a good idea to help new people to UES get to know the people at UES.” -Khloe

IDENTITY What traits and gifts do we bring to our school community? In Ms. Weisenbach’s room, students used what they learned about their identities to come together as a group and build the longest paper chain. They had 5 minutes of individual planning and 20 minutes as a group to discuss their design ideas and build the paper chain with only 2 sheets of paper and 1 foot of tape. All students brought forth to their group diverse skills, assets, and ideas. Using those, they worked together to get the task done with one paper chain extending over halfway across the room.

Ms. Kinkead’s fifth graders and Miss Wiggins’ third graders used objects to explore diversity and stereotyping. All potatoes look the same unless you study them and discover their differences. Each student received a potato and had to examine it. Students studied the lumps, freckles and other traits on their potato. Students became friends with their potato and created a story about how their potato got its "scars". Students shared their potato, and their potato's backstory story with the class using the document camera. After all students shared, students put their potatoes back into the bag. All potatoes were mixed up and then displayed on the table. Students had to find their potato. Students were able to identify their potato from the rest because they spent time getting to know it. The lesson shed light on the negative effects of generalizations and stereotypes about groups of people. Students learned that stereotypes and generalization can be overcome by spending time with that individual and understanding that everyone is unique. Thus, not all potatoes are alike.

Ms. Wong and Mrs. Sparks’ classes talked about our inner and outer identities, and drew self portraits.

Mrs. Harpring’s class has been talking a lot about identity and how your identity is what makes you unique and special!

Mrs. McGarry’s class thought about the ways we identify by looking at some of their favorite things.

Throughout this unit, Mrs. Thompson’s class explored ways humans express identity through self-expression and community participation. They discussed the importance of recognizing others components of their identity and how they bind us together. The class studied the self-portraits by the artist Paul Gauguin. Some of these portraits were realistic while others were very abstract. Each of these symbolized different ways in which Gauguin expressed his identity. Each student then created a self-portrait to express their own identity and values.

Exploring Identity en Español

“We all were having fun and getting to know each other in the 5th grade, outside on the first day.”

From Ms. Antrim’s class: Finding out our similarities and differences through a Friend Venn activity. We had fun discovering and getting to know our classmates more!

In Mrs. Grabczak’s class, kindergartners drew a self portrait in their journals. Everyone included something they love in their picture to share with the class!

From Ms. Kopp’s class: As we explore our own identity, we each told our “name story” to celebrate who we are and where we come from. Together we have learned that we are all unique individuals who each bring something special and important to our classroom community.

In PE, students have discussed the importance of working together during class activities. Students know cooperation in PE means sharing the equipment, moving safely, supporting all classmates with a positive attitude, and following the rules of the game and or activity. The class is a community and the actions of one can greatly influence the outcome of many lessons. Certain activities would be impossible to create without the community collaborating and following the shared expectations.


We take on new knowledge.

The students of Ms. Breeden and Ms. Schroeder considered ways that they could use their choices and actions to benefit the community.

Students in Ms. Loudermilk’s class used artifacts from home to ask questions through the lens of historians, geographers, political scientists, and economists. Our identity may incorporate many roles. Asking questions motivates us to research and take action.

In Ms. Yang-Smith’s class, students shared about their identity: their beliefs, things they like, where they're from, etc...

Then they made name art. They talked about our names and how they make us who we are. They read the book Chrysanthemum and talked about respecting other people's names because their name is part of their identity.

Mrs. Piekarsky’s class held mini metric Olympic Games that show community, unity, and current events with math!

From Mrs. Grabczak: Our kindergarteners have been working hard on classroom procedures. They’ve learned that everyone can be a helper!


We make so we can all get along.

Ms. Weyers Kindergarten class explored how people's multiple identities create community by collaborating to create essential agreements for our classroom. We read the story "Our Class Is a Family" and shared ideas about what we would like our classroom to be like. Students came up with three main ideas; be kind, be safe, take care of our classroom. These student-generated ideas were typed up, decorated, and posted in our classroom. Students also drew examples of upholding these class promises.

Ms. Cerwinske’s class looked at how unity is created in communities when we listen with curiosity rather than judgement. The class completed a reading protocol called a “text rendering” around Margaret Wheatley’s article, “Willing to Be Disturbed.” The purpose of a text rendering is for a group of readers to create meaning and to think critically about a shared text. In Margaret Wheatley’s article, she writes, “ It is very difficult to give up our certainties—our positions, our beliefs, our explanations. These help define us: they lie at the heart of our personal identity.” As a class we discussed personal identity and independence versus interdependence and community. Students then each picked one sentence that they thought encompassed the meaning or lesson in the text. Finally, we each shared one word from the text that summed up our experiences. This activity and text was used as a jumping point for creating classroom agreements.

From Ms. Kroll: In the Kroll classroom, we were excited to come together this school year! We first looked at our own identities and questioned how that is different than our personalities. This gave us a chance to demonstrate and learn about searching on the internet. We also looked at what makes a good source. The entire fifth grade, and the few sixth graders in our room, mixed together to see if we could find 10 things each group of 12 had in common. We worked on setting our Essential Learnings to assure all of us had a say in what we need to make this school year a great one within our classroom! Finally, we extended our thoughts about Communities and looked at how the Olympics have a special place called the Olympic Village where athletes from all over the world come to live while they are competing.

From Ms. Thompson: We completed an identity activity called “The Ties that Bind Us”. In this activity, each student completes a bubble worksheet with various bubbles about themselves. After completing it, each student must help connect one bubble to another by finding something they have in common. This visually shows that we are a united classroom community with shared values and agreements.

In Music we have been getting to know Who We Are by exploring our musical preferences and identities, as well as finding the rhythm of our names. Here is a photo of 3rd graders chanting a name game with body percussion, after reading the book Your Name is a Song.

When we listen stories that just rely on word and facial expression, we get to make the pictures up in our minds! Here we are imagining a world in which everything in the world is gray. We thought about how boring the world would be if everything was the same, and about how we all bring our own unique traits and gifts to the school community.

From Ms. Hays’ class: Our classroom community has been very focused on the concept of interdependence. Through literature and discussion, we focused on our own personal identities. This serves to empower each student to feel confident in the space that they hold within our communities. Naturally, this led us to discussing the importance of sharing our funds of knowledge with others to create a richer community. We brainstormed ways that we could do this and what the true benefit is of making sure that different perspectives and background knowledge have their rightful place within classroom discussions. To visualize this, students participated in a discussion where they brought together individual perspectives to create a richer, more complex, and complete picture.

Student response:

PARENTS : Has your child : • been an inquirer at home? • talked to you about a classroom unit of inquiry? • taken action on new learning? Please consider sharing a story or photo for an upcoming issue. Email IB coordinator Mary D’Eliso at Thank you!

University Elementary School Bloomington, Indiana Fall 2021