Sunday, October 5, 2014

The World comes to Sonora! (Guest blogger: Mrs. Stephanie Wilson-Scott)

Three Sonora Elementary teachers partner with the University of Arkansas to become 'Teacher Buddies' for the International School.. Before these teachers leave the United States and head to their respective homes, they visited Sonora.  Please read more about our special visitors from our guest blogger, Mrs. Stephanie Wilson-Scott, 2nd grade.

On Thursday, October 2nd International Teachers came to visit Sonora Elementary, specifically the 2nd grade classes of Mrs. Wilson-Scott, Mrs. Dellett and the 4th grade class of Mrs. Hampson. These teachers were from countries all over North Africa and the Middle East, including Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon. (thousands of miles away from where they are having the Ebola crisis!)  These teachers have been in the US for three weeks at an intensive English and American Cultural training class funded by the US State Department. They are teachers of English and American Culture in their own countries.

They came into 2nd grade just as we were starting our Science Experiment, we were observing Gobstoppers,in a dish of water, to see what they would do. We first talked about the items we had to mix and predicted what they thought might happen. Then after putting the candies in the dishes the colors (sugar) dissolves but instead of mixing with each other they stay on their own sides of the dish. When the students touch the mixture it is like there is a barrier keeping the items from mixing. It was a fascinating experiment! The kids were able to show the International teachers how they observe, how they write down their observations and they were able to see if their predictions came true or not.

After the experiment the students came to the carpet and were introduced to the teachers, including where they were from. Of course the teachers had different accents so the kids asked them many different questions. I had created a flipchart of the map of Africa and Middle East so we could locate where these countries were, and found come photos so we could compare and contrast our countries. 

They showed the students how to write in Arabic . . . that you start on the right and continue to the left unlike English.  There are also different characters to represent different sounds in their language. We learned how to say "Teacher", "Hello",  and "My name is..." The students used an Arabic Alphabet poster to  look at and write their names in Arabic.

We also talked about the differences in currency. One of the teachers, Mrs. Aaouatif, had some Moroccan dollars and coins that we were able to pass around. We found that she had enough for each students so she allowed them to keep the coins. Totally spontaneous! 

We then took a class picture, finished our end of the day jobs, gathered our homework and dismissed. The International teachers walked with us to the buses to see how the students went home. They were really blown away with the school, but mostly with the students!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Celebration Continues (Part 3 Sonora EAST heads West)

After all the excitement in July with EAST, it was time to get back home and get ready for school to start - TOMORROW!  Yet, I didn't want school to begin without bringing some closer to the EAST presentation at the ESRI Conference.  

What an experience it was!  Our Sonora EAST representatives, Rikki, Kylie, and Mr Worthy represented Sonora wonderfully at the Esri User Conference.  Yes, they spoke to an international audience of over 15, 000.  I believe that they created a generation of Esri Users, parents, businessmen, or both, who are going to go back to their schools and create opportunities in their schools.  You could feel the excitement and synergy.  It will be exciting to talk to these young ladies years from now to see if they realize the impact they had on the lives of children all over the world by spreading the word of "let kids"!  Teachers have to become more of the facilitator of knowledge, and let students build upon their interests and talents.  
Here is the presentation!  Hoot, hoot!

While at the conference the girls were able to  . . . 

  • spend time with Mr. Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri.

  • see Skype in from Australia.  Yes, he is a GIS dude!

To view, click here.

  • to meet the United States Secretary of Commerce, Ms. Penny Pritzker (to view her presentation, please click here.
  • to meet Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, NOAA Administrator, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.  

To view, click here
After their presentation we spent some time in the Map Room.  This is a time where conference attendees can come visit with the team.  It was amazing the impact that the team's presentation and Josh's challenge caused.   We were approached my multiple people who were so inspired they planned to immediately go back and discuss how they can facilitate the use of GIS in schools where they live.  Amazing!

The day after the presentation, we did find some time to take these ladies to Disneyland!

Currently, the team is now on the K12GIS front door:

To view, click here.

This was a phenomenal experience for these young ladies, our teacher, and myself.  I could probably blog about this for the entire year.  What does it all mean?  Well, we are now looking at how we do our work differently:  teachers as facilitators, tools that adults use in their jobs in the classroom, business mentors in the school.   

Because of this notoriety, our EAST students have been asked to present at the Arkansas School Board Association in September.  In February, our students will be the keynote speakers at the Missouri GIS Conference.  

Important to note:  Kylie and Rikki are representing the work of many students.  Even though you see them standing and presenting, they are the speakers for so many other students.  We look forward to having them mentor other students who will also begin to share the story.  

We will keep you updated throughout the year about how this extends into our classrooms, too.  Sincere thanks to Charlie Fitzpatrick, our cheerleader, travel planner, and support!

We LOVE you, Charlie!

Next blog:  Mobile Library Experience!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sonora EAST Heads West (Part2): We've Arrived!

The Sonora Team left Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday, July 8th to travel to Redlands, California- home to Esri.  Esri's campus is absolutely breathtaking, with much attention to detail.




                                 This is the building where we have spent most of our time.


The campus and buildings are set up to create opportunities for employees to have multiple, short networking encounters over the course of the day.  We have witnessed this on multiple occasions.

The Sonora presentation team, Rikki, Kylie, and Mr. Worthy are working 12 hour days (or longer) to fine-tune a 8-9 minute presentation highlighting 3 projects that Sonora EAST completed last year:  Camp Alliance (business), Sonora Balloon (science/weather & math), and Sonora Mobile Library (literacy).  

It is important to note that Rikki and Kylie are representing the work of several students 2nd-5th grade.  Some of the tools used for these projects were Esri Software, specifically ArcMap and ArcGlobe.  They then used "Story Map" to give a description their work.  

We have been housed in a conference room for the last two days, with intermittent visits to an area with a practice stage.  The script for their presentation has been edited multiple (and I do mean multiple) times.  The Story Map has not been immune to those edits.  Yet, this team continues to have a 'can-do" attitude, making any and all adjustments suggested.  

                                                Getting set up in the practice room

                                                     Camp Alliance Map

                                                        Balloon Launch Map

                                                     Mobile Library Map

Tomorrow, after another practice, the team will travel to San Diego, the site of the Esri User Conference.  Continue to stay tuned ...

One last thing.  Check out the introduction slide for Sonora at the Esri Conference!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sonora Elementary EAST Heads West!

It has been a LONG time since my last post.  If you are another educator reading this you know that the spring semester going into summer is an extremely BUSY time!  Yet, we have had SO much to celebrate that I truly didn't know where to start. I hope to get caught up.  

To set the stage for this post, I need to take you back to a previous post (March 2013) for your to truly have perspective.  That post was entitle Sonora heads EAST!  Please take a moment to read it; otherwise, this blog won't really make any sense.

This year was our 3rd year in existence as Sonora Scholars.  Wow!  So, this was our 3rd year to attend the EAST Conference.  Since you have read the first blog post (right?), I won't take the time to completely review the Founder's Award.  Yet, for the 2nd year in a row and the 3rd year in existence, the Sonora Elementary EAST Program was a Founder's Award Finalist.  We were also proud to be on the list with Springdale High School, our feeder high school.  

This year we had 13 snow days, so our team even worked on a snow day throught the use of Google Chat our students "had class" on the 12th snow day.  I was not able to completely participate because of our sound issues, but I was able to listen in.  Matt Dozier, EAST CEO, even joined our team for a period of time!  It truly was a learning experience; why does learning have to stop on a snow day?

As the year before, the students from Sonora, as well as from all the schools represented were amazing.  I believe that some adults in the corporate world could learn a lesson from these young EAST students.  The students share their work over the course of the year; they are also able to share the work of their peers.  As mentioned previously the students select projects that will make an impact in their community.  While doing so, they also learn how to work with clients, use technology to get the job done, and how to make modifications when things don't go as planned.  

Pictures of the set-up process, including a picture of the business cards!

This year our students highlighted our Mobile Library (hope to be a future story), weather balloon, Camp Alliance Map Project, Sonora Elementary School App, Stop Motion Animation, Weather Station, and our Summer Camp.

The night of the awards ceremony is always a special event.  This year our students (and program) shone bright once again.  Three of our students received first place in the video competition sponsored by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Mass Communication Department.  Congratulations to Josh, Cayden, and Rikki!  Also, for the third year in a row our program at Sonora Elementary received Superior Ratings.  Thanks to Landon for accepting that award on the behalf of all EAST students.  We were where we had been the year before ... sitting in a room of about 1,500 EAST students, facilitators, and special guests.  We were thrilled to be nominated for a second time, as we knew that the other programs were nominated were STRONG programs.  So, we were just going to celebrate the night.  

Yet, this year was different ... Sonora Elementary EAST was announced as the EAST Founder's Winner for the 2014 school year!
While watching the video showing the announcement of the Founder's Award to prepare for this post, I still tear up.  When Madison Haskins says, "youngest ever award winner ever", Mr. Worthy and I turned to each other.  I have no idea what we said, but we knew - AND- we were amazed at what our students had accomplished.  When watching the video, you will notice the pause before Rikki and Kylie come to the stage.  The kids were in tears, as the year before, but a completely different set of emotions was behind these tears.  I truly cannot explain the feeling! Please take a moment to watch Kylie and Rikki as they wow the conference attendees!  There two young ladies (4th graders!) did what most adults are terrified to do - address a live audience!  Again, these students amaze me every day!

Click here to view the video if viewing from a mobile device.

Har-Ber High School was able to pass the torch to us because they had won the Founder's Award in 2013. It was a treat to have them be able to announce our award, and celebrate with us on stage right after the announcement.  

When we returned to school we were all still in shock, but we knew that we needed to have a celebration for everyone because even though 8 students attended the conference they represent over 100 2nd - 5th grade students from Sonora.  Those students needed their due recognition.  So, on April 25th we had a school-wide celebration.  To help us celebrate our Mayor, Mr. Doug Sprouse, attended to proclaim that April 25th, 2014 as Sonora Elementary EAST Day!  The students also received EAST medals for all EAST participants, and participated in a small reception.  We were honored to have parents and district administration attend the celebration.

Sonora Elementary EAST Day Proclamation
Dr. Rollins, Springdale Schools Superintendent, with EAST Students on April 25th, Sonora Elementary EAST Day!

As I said at the beginning of this post, it has been a long time.  A lot has happened.  This is just the beginning of the story.  Tuesday of this week (July 8th) Mr. Worthy, myself, Mrs. Vaughan, Rikki, Kylie and my daughter, Peyton (who is a Har-Ber EAST Student) will leave for California.  We will be representing Sonora Elementary EAST, Sonora Elementary, Springdale School, and Arkansas at the Esri Use Conference!  Mr. Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Schools Program Manager, proposed that our program present at the Esri International Conference in San Diego, CA.  

The Esri Conference is an annual collection of about 15,000 Geographic Information System (GIS) users from around the world.  About 80% of attendees are from North America, about 20% natively speak a language other than English, and usually about 35% are at their first Esri Conference.  Our students will be one of the opeing presentations!

So, stay tuned!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Seussapalooza: Dr. Seuss' Birthday and More!

Each year the National Education Association (NEA) highlights literacy through the celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday during the first week of March.  It is also called Read Across America (RAA).  Schools use this opportunity to create school-wide celebrations around literacy.  This year, at Sonora, we had a weeklong celebration that was led by our "Seuss-ta-tic" librarian, Mrs. Brenda Love!

To really make the event successful and include the promotion of literacy, Mrs. Love, with the support of our leadership team, began to plan early in the year.  She purchased and collected enough books to ensure that every child PK-5th grade received a book during RAA week.  She made these accessible to the teachers the week prior to the RAA kick-off so teachers could gather the appropriate books for each students' reading level. 

We shared our overall plan with the staff prior to the kick-off.  Mrs. Love shared a file on Google Drive with shared reading poems, pintables, and other resources.

We kicked off RAA at our monthly school-wide assembly called Hoot n' Holler the Friday before the actual RAA week.  All our teachers wore a Dr. Seuss hat for the assembly, which is a true joy for all the students and parents to witness.  Teachers read the RAA poem:

You're never too old, too wacky, too wild,
To pick up a book and read with a child.
You're never too busy, too cool, or too hot,
To pick up a book and share what you've got.
In schools and communities,
Let's gather around,
Let's pick up a book,
Let's pass it around.
There are kids all around you,
Kids who will need
Someone to hug,
Someone to read.
Come join us March 3rd
Your own special way
And make this America's
Read to Kids Day

Then, the students read the RAA promise:

I promise to read
Each day and each night.
I know it's the key
To growing up right.
I'll read to myself,
I'll read to a crowd.
It makes no difference
If silent or loud.
I'll read at my desk,
At home and at school,
On my bean bag or bed,
By the fire or pool.
Each book that I read
Puts smarts in my head,
'Cause brains grow more thoughts
The more they are fed.

Finally, the stage curtains were opened to reveal a "birthday surprise".  The books teachers had chosen for each child in their classroom were displayed as gifts - one for each class (a true gift of literacy).

Coach Cole and Coach McGinley worked with the students in PE to do a flash mob dance.  At the end of the assembly we did it one more time.  Not really about RAA, but thought you might enjoy!

 Sonora Elementary Flash Mob (RAA Week)
The celebration continued over the next week based on this note below that was sent to parents:

 We did have to alternate our plan some due to snow days, but we did get all the days accomplished.  On Wednesday, March 5th, we started with Wacky Wednesday.  Yes, we dressed wacky with mismatched clothes and wacky hair.  Also, Mrs. Love chose two students with the most growth in their reading in the first nine weeks to deliver the books to each classroom. 
 On Thursday, March 6, the students brought a gently used book to be donated to the Children’s House.  This allowed them to get a free picture taken in our “Seuss Photo Booth.”  Students that donated books received a free photo.  Everyone got in on the action! 
I even got in on some of the action!
 On Friday, March 7 we celebrated the book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by wearing red, white & blue.
On Saturday, March 8 (yes on Saturday; we had snow days to make up!) we celebrated the book I Am NOT going to get up Today! by wearing our pajamas.
On Monday, March 10 we celebrated the Grinch by wearing as much Green as we could!
 On Tuesday, March 11 we celebrated Fox in Socks by wearing our crazy socks!!
Originally we had scheduled a Family Math Night for March 4th.  Yet, we were not in school due to snow.  So, our Mathapalooza was held the following week on the 11th. 
We gathered parents together to discuss a K-2nd topic and 3rd-5th grade topic.  Students were taken to recess, while we "taught" parents how to support fact fluency and use real-world situation, like a trip to the grocery store, to teach math to their children.  Our K-2 students were able to go to their classrooms and play fact fluency games.  They were able to leave with the games to continue their work on fact fluency.  Parents and children all met back in the cafeteria for nachos provided by the Sonora Parent Teacher Association.  What a great night!
One other highlight of the week was a daily trivia on the morning announcements.  We also included our school-wide vocabulary for the week to fit the Dr. Seuss theme:  nonsense.  To build upon this, some kindergarten students built nonsense stories.
There is a fath in my bath. 
Fath is a nonsense word.
Vower is a nonsense word. 
There is a vower in my shower.

At the end of the week, not only had we had fun and celebrated literacy, but we were able to give back to our community.  Our students donated 785 books to the Children's House!
Way to go, Scholars!
Be watching for my next post . . . Sonora:  First Elementary Founder's Winner!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ice, Ice Baby! When Technology opens a door!

With snow (ice) day number 12 at our door, it was time to get creative.  

List of our snow days, with make-up plan.
We know that the children we serve do not just learn best sitting in a desk/table in a classroom listening to a teacher recite their knowledge.  No, they need to be active learners, participating in the knowledge acquisition.  The students sitting in our classrooms today are of the Generation Z (born 1996 and forward). For these students, the internet and other forms of technology have been major influences in their lives. They are accustomed to and need immediate feedback - their instant gratification! As teachers,we must change how we teach and engage students.  One of our teachers at Sonora is highlighting that today through the use of Google Chat.

Josh Worthy, our Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Facilitator, is iced in like the rest of us today.  Yet, our conference team is preparing for conference, which is two weeks away.  There is no time to waste.  Therefore, his students are working from the safety of their homes with Google Chat.  

Last night he sent out an e-mail to all his conference students:
     "We're going to try something new tomorrow.  Since school has been canceled and it looks like it may be a day or two before our kids will be able to work together, I'm going to host an online Google Hangout tomorow morning and maybe another one in the afternoon.  This is a lot like a Skype call that the kids can video chat or text chat back and fourth about projects, ideas, etc.  
     I'd like for Rikki and Kylie to practice their Founder's presentation if at all possible.  Morgan, Landen and I would also be able to work on the Camp Alliance story map together through the Hangout.  Cayden would even be able to show us how to use Pivot animator through the "screen share" option.  Kalyssa and Lexus should be able to work on nametag design and booth ideas, too.  Not sure if I can get ahold of Josh H., but I'll keep trying.  It could be a REALLY cool event.  The best part is that it'd keep your kids busy for an hour or two during the snow day. ;)
     All you really need is an internet connection and a computer.  If you have a webcam, awesome.  If you have a mic, even better.  If you dont have ANY of this, you can even call in from you phone.  Its pretty cool stuff.  I'm hosting the event, so the chat will be private and only approved Sonora EAST students and parents will have strangers or unauthorized creeps will have access.
     If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.  Looking to launch the conference call around 10 am tomorrow morning.  It should be a lot of fun and its kind of exciting to be able to work on EAST stuff while the kids are snowed in.

So, this a.m. the children, safe in their homes, were hard at work on their EAST projects and EAST Conference preparation.  Yes, these students had an option.  They CHOSE to do this on a snow day!  Pretty powerful stuff!. 

Kylie, Ian, Rikki, and Mr. Worthy hard at work!
Using Social Media (Twitter and Facebook) to spread the word, they were lucky enough to get Mr. Matt Dozier, EAST CEO to join them.  As I type this they have taken a break for lunch, but will reconvene.  They have even added a previous student to the conversation.  

Mr. Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative, CEO
You may be wondering why I haven't joined them.  Well, my school computer does not have audio or video. I can watch, but not participate.  So, I chose to share their story!  

Great things are happening at Sonora Elementary!

Our EAST students are finalist in the Founder's Award for EAST, an award in honor of the founder, Tim Stephenson.  This is their 2nd year as finalist.  In the history of this award, our program is the only elementary ever to be finalist!  (Can you tell I am proud of them?)

You can checkout the full events and postings of the day on the Sonora EAST Facebook Page. You can find out more about the EAST Initiative at their website.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reading Matters!

Reading Matters
Each nine weeks my assistant principal, Lindsay Hennarichs (you can follow her blog at, and I review 3 grade levels of report cards.  We try, if the teachers leave us enough room, to write a comment and give a “scholarly” stamp on each one for each student.  So, I cannot tell you the number of times that I read comments such as:
  • Keep reading!
  • Be sure and read every night for at least 20 minutes.
  •  Read with (child’s name) every night.
  •  Be sure to keep reading!
The teachers give out these comments without any regard to differentiation meaning that children of all reading abilities are encouraged to read!  Reading is tool for academic achievement that never goes out of style or out-of date.  Personally, I encourage my teachers to be well read, as I expect myself to be a reader.  Currently I am reading two books:

Two different types of reading with different purposes, but both of interest to me.  I am reading The Book Thief for enjoyment.  The Digital Leadership helps me in my own professional growth.

          Through reading, children learn about people, places and events outside their Reading it truly the key to success for all children (and adults)! 
Why does reading matter?

1.      Reading allows children to access the world. 
        Through reading, children learn about people, places and events outside their
 own experience. They are exposed to ways of life, ideas and beliefs about the 
        world which may be different from those which surround them. 

 2.   Reading improves a child’s vocabulary and leads to more highly-   
          developed language skills.
            This is because children learn new words as they read but also because
          children unconsciously absorb information as they read about things like 
          how to structure sentences and how to use words and language effectively. 

3.   Reading builds knowledge.
          This learning is important for its own sake however it also builds a store of
            background knowledge which helps younger children learn to 
            read confidently and well. 
Here are to resources to help:  one for teachers, and one for parents!

4.   Reading improves concentration.
      Children that can sit still and quietly can focus on the story.  If they read  
      regularly, they will develop the ability to focus for longer periods of time.

5.   Reading builds community.
      We, as humans, love to have a common interest with those we live and work    
      around.  How do we know which TV shows to watch? Which movies to go to?    
      Don’t we ask those we are around?  Then, how exciting is it to discuss those 
      shared experiences.  It is the same with books.  Isn’t that how book clubs, like 
      Oprah’s book clubs, became so popular?  While books provide similar 
      experiences, it also allows for language development through the shared 
      discussion.  A win-win!
(No link, but check out Oprah’s website.  Even off air, her book clubs are
alive and thriving building a world-wide community of readers.)

6.    Reading improves a child’s academic achievement.
            Students don’t just do better at subjects like reading, English and history. They 
            do better at all subjects and they do better all the way through school.  Current 
            math assessments require students to read, and problem solve.  Reading 
(Click here to see an interactive sample of the English Language Arts and Math assessments.)

      7.    Reading is entertaining.
           It’s true! You can take a book anywhere, even download a book on your phone, 
             and youll never be lonely or bored.  A book can take you to lands you dream of traveling, let you make friends you never thought you would, and even teach you
             a thing or two.  Books will never be out of style!

      8.   Reading helps kids develop empathy.
            Reading immerses us in someone else's thoughts and experiences so that we            effectively see the world through the eyes of another person; hence, reading 
            can make children/adults more empathetic.  Daniel Goleman, an expert in 
            emotional intelligence has found six positive results from the use of books 
            with children:
    Less physical violence at school
 Fewer name-calling incidents.
Fewer put-downs in the class.
Improved methods to reduce conflict.
Better sensitivity among children.
More incidents of active listening between children.
             For the last two years my 4th grade team has read aloud the book Wonder.  
             Each year they have come to me with stories of and examples of true empathy among the students. 

9.   Reading can be calming.
In an age of instant gratification and constant noise, it is necessary for us to have times of quiet.  From TV to computers, we seem to be inundated with  constant movement, flashing lights and noise.  Actually, our brains do need  rest.  When reading, we usually find a quiet, controlled environment.  As a matter of fact, I read every night to go to sleep to calm down and unwind from my day.
10.    Practice makes perfect!
     As a child reads more, they become better at reading.  Why do they need  
      to get better at reading?  (Did you read # 1-9?) 
So, take some time to read with or to your child today.  Let them see you read!  You will be giving them a gift a legacy of success!


Follow these links to infographics with startling information on literacy:

                                National Reading Campaign

                                      All Children Reading

Font credits to Jennifer Jones @
The fonts can be found on her Teacher Pay Teacher Account.