Exceptional Instruction

Something’s a “Little Fishy” at Ide

The 2nd grade students at Elizabeth Ide are doing something a “little fishy” during art class.  Ms. Smeltzer, our K-5 art teacher, is taking our 2nd graders on an adventure to learn about Japanese Gyotaku Fish Printing.  Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese fish printing that was used by fishermen to record their catches and keep track of all the different species of fish in an area.  Fish printing is a very popular form of art among young children in Japan and Western countries.
The second graders learned about Gyotaku and the tools that artists use to create these fish prints. These tools include printing ink, a brayer (paint roller), a paint brush, and a rubber fish (some still use real fish).

Ms. Smelter works with students to mix the printing ink, spread the ink on the rubber fish with a brayer, dab ink on the rubber fish with a paintbrush, and complete their fish print.  Here are some of our 2nd grade students practicing the art of Gyotaku.


While children waited patiently to complete their fish printing, they cut waves into construction paper, created their ocean floor, and added other ocean creatures using oil pastels.

What a wonderful way for the 2nd grade students at Elizabeth Ide to learn about art in other countries!!! These students are now “hooked” on Gyotaku Fish Printing!

Weekly Words in the Walkway

5th grade teachers are getting creative to help their students develop vocabulary focused on character traits. As students move through the 5th grade hallway, they walk under a “Word of the Week” display of vocabulary students should know and be able to use. Each week, the trail becomes one word longer. This walkway of words presents each word with its definition going one way,…

and each word used in the context of a sentence going the other way down the hall.

This simple strategy provides a daily reminder and reinforcement of important vocabulary linked to 5th grade ELA curriculum. I like that this technique demonstrates a way to engage students that is not time-consuming or grand, yet makes an impact on learning. It also highlights how our teachers work collaboratively in an effort to educate their collective group of 5th graders.

Making STEAM with the 1st Grade Team!

Congratulations to the first grade team at Elizabeth Ide on their 1st successful STEAM day!  With support from the Team 66 Education Foundation, the first grade team was able to plan and implement an exciting day for their students.  The children participated in 5 engaging activities that allowed students to use many 21st century skills including critical thinking, creative thinking, inquiry, observation, and problem solving. Throughout the day, students moved to different classrooms which each represented a different part of STEAM. A group of Lakeview students helped in each room. The first grade students loved working with the “big kids” during the different centers.

STEAM stands for…

S = Science

T = Technology

E = Engineering

A = Art

M = Mathematics


Take a Peek at the First Grade STEAM Day

Students investigated the effect that a beam of light has on objects that are made of different materials. Students used various materials that were transparent, translucent, and opaque while they investigated what happens when light hits these materials.


Students explored “Ozobots” with Tyler Works from the Indian Prairie Library. “Ozobots” introduced our students to basic coding and at the same time taught students skills such as deductive reasoning while expanding their imaginations.



 Students worked collaboratively in teams to construct a free-standing structure using marshmallows and toothpicks.



 Students created a piece of art using paint and magnetism. They developed their creativity while using unconventional materials to create their masterpieces.



 Students created instruments that made sound using 3-dimensional shapes. They learned that sound is made when something moves or vibrates. The movement sets up a sound wave in the surrounding air.




Save a Heart

During the past 10 years, Mr. Kukulski (PE Teacher at Ide) has facilitated an annual service learning program called Jump Rope for Heart. The focus of this program has been to educate the children on the importance of taking care of their bodies as well as helping others. This year, Elizabeth Ide students raised $11,596 for the American Heart Association!  This money will fund lifesaving research and education.

Here are some Heart Healthy Messages that Mr. K reviewed with Elizabeth Ide Students:

*Share the message about  the importance of heart health.

*Be active for 60 minutes every day.

*Drink more water and avoid sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks.

*Eat fruits and vegetables.

*Avoid salty foods & put down the salt shaker at meals.

*Say no to cigarettes/e-cigarettes and avoid second-hand smoke too.

To celebrate what the children learned and the success of this service learning program, Ide students participated in a special Jump Rope for Heart Day in PE.



Connecting Concepts to Real-Life Application for a Three-Tiered Approach to Science

When Mrs. Grove started planning for her 6th grade study of the water cycle, she knew she wanted to take what she had done in the past to a new level.  She wanted her students to think more deeply and more critically about the water cycle.  Additionally, Mrs. Grove wanted to offer a hands-on experience to her students; one that would bring the water cycle to life.  While continuing to incorporate the newly adopted Next Generation Science Standards with fidelity into her plans, Mrs. Grove worked to more completely integrate all three dimensions of science learning to how students encountered this unit, and what resulted was an engaging unit culminating in students creating watershed models to explore concepts leading students to develop scientifically-based views of the world around them.

Mrs. Grove started by ensuring students had the background information necessary to complete this complex task.  Students learned the basic vocabulary, concepts, and processes of the water cycles.  With the language necessary to move forward, 6th graders watched Tapped, a documentary that explores the role of the bottled water industry and how it affects our world. This led students to the issue of pollutants and how they impact the water cycle.

Next, students broke into small groups and were challenged to design and create a watershed model.  Students had to use all of the information they had gleaned about the water cycle and how the watershed works in order to design a complete model.  

Once their models were created, simulated pollutants like lemon juice, hot sauce, and Kool Aid mix, were added to the models.  Students had to test the effect and impact these pollutants had on their models.  After making observations, students were tasked with researching solutions.  Next, students “built” their top solutions into their models to help mitigate or mediate the negative aspects of the pollutants.  


Students even had the opportunity to turn accidents and disasters into learning opportunities!  Here you can see what happened to a model that was accidentally tipped over:

Instead of asking students to redo their work, Mrs. Grove had her students investigate natural disasters and how they impact the watershed.  Students selected a type of natural disaster to learn about and learned how to classify disaster zones.  After this group’s investigation of earthquakes and the Richter Scale, this model’s disaster was classified with a level 7 earthquake.   The culminating activity was for groups to create a presentation which captured each group’s process and experience from start to finish.

 “It worked because it was inquiry based and hands on.  Students’ creative skills came to the table here. Students who may not thrive in a direct instruction classroom setting had the opportunity to show leadership and shine.” – Mrs. Grove

For teachers who are interested in facilitating this type of scientific learning experience, Mrs. Grove has a few suggestions:  First, you need to carefully consider your setup and organization of the materials.  “Set up is a lot of work, and you really have to manage your space so students have free access to what they need and know where their materials are at all times.  I labeled everything and made materials available for students so they didn’t need my help to locate the things they needed with working with their models.”  Having an organized student system allowed Mrs. Grove to be available to help facilitate student learning instead of managing materials.   A second tip is for teachers to collect random household items, you never know how it could be used for projects.

Mrs. Grove’s updated unit is exceptional!  Students encountered the information using an inquiry-approach. They were required to use evidence when responding to scientifically-oriented questions, they formulated their own explanations from the evidence they had collected, and they had to justify and communicate their findings. Well done, Mrs. Grove!