Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Math in Action

Using real coins, Lester Prairie first graders are trying to become experts at counting money by going to the grocery store.  After students brought in empty food containers from home the classes thought of a name for their grocery store and decided how to organize the items.  Then, of course, the children had to make signs for each category.  Once the store was set up, it was time to shop.  Boys and girls wrote out their own receipt and then used coins to pay the cashier.  Unlike at a real store, the cashier gave all of the money back and students got to go shopping again!  Oh, and the prices…what bargains!  After all, we are just learning, but authentic experiences make math more meaningful and show children how it fits into their world.

submitted by Connie Murphy, First Grade Teacher

Electronics VS Activity

As a Physical Education/Health teacher for the past 30 years I have seen a decline in the fitness levels of our children. Many of the children do poorly on the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge. These same children have problems with Aerobic activities, strength and endurance. Life choices may have an impact.
Many children are using electronics more then any activity. Television, Games, Phones, Computers, Facebook have all contributed to this decline. Some studies say the average teen spends a conservative 17 or more leisure hours per week in front of a screen-almost double the 8.8 leisure hours spent playing outdoors. Many students are quite lethargic in the morning due to the use of electronics through the night. They struggle paying attention in school and are physically tired due to the lack of sleep.
Dr. Aric Sigman states, “Whether it’s Facebook, the internet, or computer games, screen time is no longer merely a cultural issue about how children spend their leisure time, nor is it confined to concern over the educational value or inappropriate content it’s a medical issue!” Dr. Sigman’s findings also revealed by age 7 the average child will have spent a full year of 24 hour days watching recreational screen media. Over the course of childhood, children spend more time watching television then they spend in school.
Children must be given the skills to entertain themselves and be creative without electronics, and must be given the opportunity to interact with others. Parents encourage your children to put down the electronics and get active. Make a snowman, snow fort, go sledding, skating, skiing, fishing, hiking or just play!

Bill Neubarth


           Studies indicate that engaging students and capturing their interest can lead to an enjoyment of mathematics and an eagerness to continue the learning process. Since multiplication can be a daunting challenge to many third grade students, I thought a lot about how I wanted to approach this topic. After browsing through different resources I found many fun games and activities that would help to make this process fun.
Through Multiplication BINGO, Five-In-A-Row, Guess Your Number, and many other activities (seen in these pictures) my students now love to practice their multiplication facts.  It is a lot of fun to see my students understanding and memorizing these facts so quickly!

Miss Nelson
Petra Nelson

        Trent Otto, Logan Meyer, and Lydia Lemke playing the popular game of ‘Guess Your Number’.

                                               Miranda Mallak practicing her multiplication facts.

   Trenten Hecksel and Sage Sponsel learning their basic facts by playing ‘Multiplication Squares’.


Nearly eight years ago I was a second year teacher at Lester Prairie leading the elementary special education classes (grades K through six).  We had an early morning meeting in the first week of school (only teacher preparation days) and the principal went through the MCA scores from the previous year.

With MCA scores there are areas or groups that are considered “red” and when you have a “red” area that means that a certain group of students was not meeting the level it needed to for a long period of time.

The entire Lester Prairie staff saw that a group of students under my direction did not need the progress needed after a year, I heard a teacher say “Mr. James” not in a way that I was hoping for in my second year at the school, and my head went down to the floor. 

At that moment something needed to change.  The special education students of several differing abilities had more potential than what those scores showed. 

Fast forward six and a half years to this winter.  At Lester Prairie Public Schools we now take a practice test named the “OLPA” (Optional Local Purpose Assessment) and shortly after the students take the test we can see those scores. 

Getting a good score on these tests is not easy because the material on the test includes items that our staff still has to teach to students in January, February, March, April, and May (when the MCA tests are taken). 

That said, student after student in special education was receiving scores already of “meeting standards”, “partially meeting standards”, and a few were listed as “did not meet the standard” but are only a point or two off.  And this includes material they haven’t even been taught yet!

Improvement?  Without a doubt.  Exciting improvements! These scores are competitive with same age peers throughout the grades regardless if those students are receiving no additional services, Title One services, or any other additional help. 

It’s more proof that regardless if there is a disability of any kind, students can still prosper and succeed just like any other.  And the scores we saw this winter were not just a one time thing.  We at Lester Prairie have seen a spike in the elementary test scores for several years now.

So over the past several years when those scores are passed out showing where our students are with others, and when the special education students portion of the scores is shown, I no longer look at the floor.  I smile.  Why?  Because your young boys and girls have done a wonderful job of working hard both in the daily academic course load and in the standardized tests that must be taken year after year. 

Good job Lester Prairie!

Lester Prairie ELL Program Gears Up for New Online Test

Every year around this time, students in the ELL (English Language Learning) Program at Lester Prairie begin preparing for the annual WIDA assessment, ACCESS for ELLs. This test measures a student's English proficiency in the areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking. After the test, a student's results are calculated into a number 1-6, which stands for a proficiency level. This score is one of the criteria that is considered when identifying a child's status in the ELL Program. Since 2010, this test has been Minnesota's mandated assessment for all students K-12 who are identified as an ELL; however, the WIDA test is changing and ever-evolving. This year, the paper-pencil test made the jump to an exclusively online format.

The Lester Prairie School District is embracing the change. Students will be taking this test on desktop computers for the first time. LPP4E (Lester Prairie Parents for Education) has graciously covered the cost of headsets that will be used during the administration of the test. Students have been setting goals and practicing hard.

The ELL team at Lester Prairie is comprised of teacher, Mrs. Tanya Minnick, and paraprofessional, Mrs. Jannina Wall. Currently, the ELL Program offers services to 34 students, which is 12% of the district's population.


The sounds of hammers could be heard down the halls as Lester Prairie Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) and Heartland Head Start families built reindeer using kits that were purchased from Stewart Crafts. The kits had all of the pieces each family needed to put together their adorable reindeer. They could also choose to do several art projects and play holiday math games. This was the perfect opportunity for families to get in the holiday spirit and enjoy time together.
Every year ECFE and Head Start host 3-4 preschool family nights. Each night has a theme and are offered at either a low cost or for free. These are opportunities for families to spend time together having fun doing a variety of activities including art, math, and literacy. Our next family events will be held Tuesday, February 23 from 6-7pm and Saturday, April 16 from 10-11am in the lunchroom.
ECFE will begin its Tuesday night mixed ages classes starting January 26 from 6-7pm in the preschool room. ECFE is the perfect opportunity for children ages 2- 5 and their parents to come and do art, circle time, and play. We will also be going on two field trips this Winter/Spring. The first field trip will be to Maple Maze in Maple Grove on Thursday, February 4. The second will be to Good Times Park in Eagan on Thursday, March 10. For more information on ECFE family nights, classes, or field trips go to and find the ECFE tab under community or contact the school.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Back Pack Food Program

Lester Prairie School is now collaborating with Common Cup Ministries and Hunger Free McLeod to offer the Back Pack Food Program to their kindergarten through third grade students who qualify for the free or reduced lunch program.  Given that 33% of students are on their lunch program, there is potential for the Back Pack Food Program to make a tremendous impact on a large percentage of the school's population.  The Back Pack Food program sends home enough breakfast and lunch for each weekend during the school year to ensure the students are able to meet their nutritional needs when they aren’t in school.  A typical bag of food will include cereal, oatmeal, raisins, juice boxes, fruit cups, granola bars, and a few other items which rotate to give the students variety.  The school believes that proper nutrition is an important component of a student’s academic success, so they are excited to be implementing this program.  
The school offers several other important resources throughout the year to all students.  This includes another collaboration through Common Cup Ministries to give person hygiene items to students on an as needed basis.  Winter coats are also available to all students.  Lastly, once a month all students at LP school are invited to a free lunch sponsored by the local churches.  The school works diligently to ensure their students’ needs are met.
If any of these programs are of interest to your family, please contact the Lester Prairie school office for more information at 320-395-2521.

Written by:  Jen Millard


Current Events is a new course available for Juniors and Seniors at Lester Prairie High School and it is taught by Ben Machemehl. This course is centered on what is happening in the news around the world. From Lester Prairie to worldwide and beyond! Students receive copies of this very paper, the Herald Journal, every Monday and also receive the Star Tribune three days a week. Along with reading the newspaper students use online news websites to stay informed on current events.
Some issues that the class has talked about is the Migration Crisis in Europe, Violence in the Middle East, the Paris terrorist attacks, the issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests and obviously the Presidential Race. They also look at local and state news stories.
Currently the students got into groups and are now creating their very own newscast. They are required to film themselves talking about local, state, national and world news stories. They are treating this as a 2015-year in review and covering the biggest news stories from 2015. They are having fun dressing up, editing and creating catch phrases for their newscast.  I will use my favorite catch phrase to send you off.
You stay classy Howard Lake, Lester Prairie, Mayer, New Germany, Waverly, and Winsted!

students researching their news stories

                                                               students filming their newscast


Hello from Mr. Rue and the Music Department. The students here are still glowing with the success of our two music concerts this past December. There’s so much to be happy with. Our elementary students pulled off what could very well be our best concert ever. Each student understood what was required and performed at the top of their musical game. We had piano solos, small group performances, electric guitar solos and two wonderful mass-choral performances from the entire student body. 
The Jr. High and High School concert was equally successful. The Senior High Choir featured songs ranging from English madrigals to current holiday hits. The Junior High Choir truly set a new standard for all Jr. High Choirs to come. With such a variety of songs and singers, from Sidney Sheehan’s jazz scat singing to Caleb Bliss’ “Silent Night” solo, it was a night to remember.
Looking ahead, the elementary students will be diving into many great topics. Our 3rd graders are mastering the letters of the Treble and Bass clefs, the 5th graders are diving into the history of American music, and the 1st Grade musicians are learning to read the rhythmic language of music. For our choirs, we are about to take on what could be the most challenging pop song we’ve ever attempted: We have begun rehearsing the rock classic “Bohemian Rhapsody”. We will be performing this at our spring concert. Many many students, for so many years have been asking to perform this song. Looking at the talent and musicianship that was displayed at our December concert, I believe we finally have what it takes to perform this classic rock anthem. 
Happy New Year from Mr. Rue and the music department. We wish you all the best.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Parents Visit the Kindergarten Classroom

Parents of Lester Prairie Kindergarteners were invited into the classrooms to spend time with their child in the classroom setting.  They played some of the games that are used to reinforce the concepts and objectives that are being taught in Kindergarten.  Families also had the option to spend time making a craft together.  The kindergarteners really enjoyed having their parents come to their classroom and having the opportunity to show their parents many of the fun things they do every day.

Allie and Ariyanna Sponsel playing Hi-Ho Cherry-O! with Wendy Medina

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Challenge Club Students Make Videos with Lego Creations!

3rd and 4th graders in Challenge Club spent weeks using the educational software, WeDo, to program and engineer Lego’s to move. Students work in collaborative groups to build a certain type of Lego. So far, students have made a Monkey and a Lion. The Monkey is programmed to “drum” and the Lion to sit back and roar when given a bone.
Within their groups, students use the programming software to make lego’s move and add sound effects and other mechanical features. Once the Lego is built and the students have completed their engineering, they make a video. Miss Kraemer, fifth grade teacher and Challenge Club Advisor, puts the students videos together to create one full video. The videos are available to watch on her website.

3rd graders Austin Walstrom, Grace Bayerl, and Miranda Mallak work together to build their lego creation.

 4th graders (from left to right) Brodee Sawicki, Carl Overbye, Tommy Dressen, Lilly Parrott, and Megan Tonn gather with a groups lion.

3rd graders Andy Ruwersma and Kaden Otto engineer their monkeys to drum.

Art Class does Monet-Style Reflections

Monet-Style Reflections

The Lester Prairie School third graders learned about Claude Monet and his impressionistic, reflective paintings.  The students listened to information about Monet’s life and his garden in the books, Monet, by Mike Venezia, and Linnea in Monet’s Garden, by Christina Bjork.  Next, artificial flowers were observed and drawn, using overlapping; space was left on the bottoms of the papers for the reflections of the flowers, stems, leaves, and grass.                                      
Projections were shown to students featuring Monet’s reflective paintings of his water garden in the French town of Giverny, the Japanese bridge, and trees.  A combination of pastels and tempera paint was used in the procedure for creating the artwork. White paint was added to chosen colors to make tints of those colors.  Foggy, misty skies were produced by blended pastel colors applied around the flowers, and painted plant reflections in the water were covered over with blended pastels and wavy lines.  This is the second year that the Lester Prairie third grade has created Monet-inspired reflections.  The combination of mediums has produced successful results; viewers of the showcase display have commented on the realistic quality of the reflections.

Picture on left done my Marilin Ixtlilco and picture on right by Kaden Otto

Picture on left by Jurney Dammann and pitcture on right by Sage Sponsel