Communicate 58
News from Downers Grove Grade School District 58
Vol. 9 Issue 2
 October 2017
Nature studies

Experience nature and the Lyman Woods Nature Center through the eyes of seven and eight-year-olds. All second graders take a field trip to Lyman Woods each fall. They learn about life cycles, bugs and invertebrates and more. 

Parents to receive their child's assessment results

Parents will receive a letter the week of Oct. 9 containing their child's fall assessment results. Depending on each student's age/skill level, parents may receive results from the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), ACCESS, PARCC and AIMSweb assessments. 

Assessments are important to ensure students are reaching learning targets. These tests are called summative assessments and provide raw data on how much of a certain subject or material students learned successfully over the course of a quarter, semester, school year or school career.   

MAP: District 58 students take the MAP assessment three times per year. MAP tests students' proficiency and growth in Reading, Math and Language Usage (Language Usage is second grade and older). MAP results help teachers develop skill-based learning opportunities for children.
ACCESS: ACCESS is given to students who speak a second language at home and who do not qualify as English Language Proficient. ACCESS measures a student's English language understanding in the areas of speaking, listening, reading and writing.
PARCC: Students in grades 3-8 completed the state's PARCC assessment last March. PARCC has higher achievement standards and a different baseline from the ISAT, the assessment that it replaced in 2015. 

AIMSweb: This assessment measures a student's reading health. All kindergarten through second grade students take this assessment. Students may exit from the assessment when they are in at least third grade and meet strong reading performance indicators.
Much of this information is available through our district student data portal, SQUIRREL.
Parents who have previously registered in SQUIRREL can simply navigate to and log in with their credentials.
In order to register for a SQUIRREL account, please navigate to where you will enter your email address. The email address you enter must be an address you have given the school previously; if an error occurs, please contact your school secretary to determine whether that address is on file.
After you successfully enter an email address, the system will send you a registration link. Check your email inbox and click the link in the email. Here you will set a password for your account. After setting your password, you can now use your email and password to login to SQUIRREL
Parents will receive more information regarding each assessment in next week's letter. Parents may also view the District's Methods of Assessment webpage for more information.

Reading Games registration to begin

The much-anticipated sixth annual Reading Games registration will open on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 at 8 a.m and close Sunday, Oct. 29 at 9 p.m. The Reading Games is a free and fun district-wide reading competition for District 58 students in grades 3-8. It will take place March 10, 2018 at O'Neill Middle School. The goal of the program is to introduce new genres of books to students and to get students excited about reading.
This year, organizers announce that they plan to accommodate every team that wants to participate. Given space constraints, two sites may be utilized and levels may be split into morning and afternoon events on March 10. Exact locations and timing of events will be announced after the final team registration in January. Parents and team leaders are asked to follow strict deadlines so that organizers can accommodate teams. Thank you for your flexibility and patience.
Each team will read 15 books from a pre-determined list chosen by the staff of District 58 and the librarians at the Downers Grove Public Library.
Teams should be made up of five to eight students. They can be co-ed, all boys or all girls. Each team will need an adult team leader to register the team for the event, act as a point person for all communications and help their team prepare for The Games competition day.

Parents invited to Report Card Information Session

Parents can learn about revisions to their students' quarterly report cards during information sessions this fall. The changes were made last year and are being implemented this fall. The revisions have been communicated to parents and are detailed on the District's website. The information sessions are designed to provide an overview of the revised format and to provide an opportunity for parents to ask questions. Two more sessions will be held this month:
  • October 11, 2017 at O'Neill Middle School, 635 59th St. Downers Grove,
  • October 19, 2017 at Hillcrest Elementary School, 1435 Jefferson, Downers Grove
All sessions will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Sketchnoting helps visual learners 

Instructional Coach Megan Ryder models sketchnoting for the class as O'Neill teacher Kathryn Nickell reads a story.

Some students who are visual learners are finding a new way to take notes and remember complex ideas.  Called sketch noting, the concept is to create visuals of a lesson through words, icons and placement. Megan Rider, instructional coach in District 58 and an Apple Distinguished Scholar is an advocate of sketch noting. She works with teachers and classes to teach the strategy to students. "We want to expose students to a different way of taking notes," she said.
A sample sketchnote from a unit about eco systems. People naturally remember pictures better than words, she said, so sketchnoting increases recall. It also requires different thought processes while note taking. Students listen, make hand movements and visual representations, all of which, studies show, reinforces recall. With sketchnoting, students are encouraged to create a library of icons that they can use continuously. They are also encouraged to go back and clean up or reorganize their sketchnotes, which serves much like a review of the information. Recently, Rider taught and modeled sketchnoting for 6th grade students learning about eco systems and in a lesson on ancient civilization, also in 6th grade. Sketchnoting can be conducted through apps on the iPad or with paper, pencils and markers.
Rider recently collaborated on a digital book for educators on sketchnoting, called "Sketchnoting for teaching and learning." The contribution was the result of collaboration with educators at the Apple Distinguished Institute in Berlin last summer. 
58 Doing Good
School communities continue help  with hurricane relief
Whittier students made bracelets to help raise funds for Dominica, which was struck by Hurricane Maria.
With more news of hurricanes and devastation, the Downers Grove District 58 school communities continue to provide support for those in affected areas. Read on for stories on how our students and schools are helping:
  • A Whittier family is spearheading fundraising efforts for the Commonwealth of Dominica, which was hit by Hurricane Maria before it traveled north to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Vivian, third grade and Naya, kindergarten started Bracelets for Dominica, raising $635 from selling handmade bracelets made by the two and their friends. Their dad, Whittier parent Kofi James and his reggae group, the New Roots Band, held a benefit concert, raising $1,000. The family is also collecting needed supplies to pack a freight container headed to Dominica. More information can be found at
  • Herrick Junior High held a variety of fundraisers to help those affected by Hurricane Irma. They asked for needed donations and also held a "hat day" and "pajama day" to raise monies for Hillsborough Education Fund to help repair a school in Florida damaged by Hurricane Irma.
  • Belle Aire's Student Council made a donation to the UNICEF Fund to help those in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Belle Aire also held a fundraiser - "flip flops for Florida/crazy shoe day" - and raised $600 for the American Red Cross. "With every step we took, the students wanted to send our positive thoughts to those impacted," said Principal Brent Borchelt.
In Our Schools
Mindfulness helps students focus

Kingsley sixth grade teacher Ashley Bidlencik practices yoga and mindfulness with her students.

Educator Lyndsay Morris, who is a leader in the mindfulness movement in schools, visited Kingsley School recently and led a sixth grade class in mindfulness, yoga and decision-making.

She asked them to imagine jumping off a cliff into water or walking down the mountain to lake level and diving in. She asked students how they would feel in each scenario and for alternatives between taking a dangerous leap and simply walking into the water. Students then role-played while peers encouraged them in both directions.
Morris asked Kingsley sixth grade teacher Ashley Bidlencik, who practices yoga and mindfulness with her students, if she could visit her class. Mindfulness is being in the "now" moment and thinking about decisions. It helps students focus, relax, and feel empowered. It also helps them tune into their own thoughts and thoughts of others.

"It helps my students calm their own brains so they are set up for success to learn," said Bidlencik.
She starts each day with a yoga pose and breathing and infuses mindfulness lessons in the curriculum. "It calms their own brains when they need it," she said. It builds a sense of community in her room and helps develop positive self-image.
Recent research in other districts found that these techniques increased students' time on task, improved feelings of community and decreased behavioral issues.
Belle Aire holds second annual Bulldog 5K and Fun Run
The Belle Aire school community came together on Oct. 1 to participate in the 2nd annual Bulldog 5K Fun Run. Over 240 participated, helping the school raise money and promoting fitness. In all, the event took in $10,000 for Belle Aire PTA and school programs. Students worked with Belle Aire Fitdogs coordinators for practice runs and their hard work showed -- all runners finished. Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully kicked off the race and Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli joined the event.   
Lester honors student and principal, promotes fitness and raises money

The 8th Running of the Leopards, the largest fundraiser for Lester Elementary, was held Sept. 24. More than 500 runners participated in the event, which honored Lester student Sophya Barry who passed away last year from ITP, and celebrated school principal Carin Novak. The race raised more than $34,000 for school and PTA programs. In addition, $500 was donated to Metavivor, a breast cancer research, support and awareness organization. In preparation for the run, students started training in August through the PTA programs' Fit Girls and Fit Boys, which focused on improving fitness.
Henry Puffer celebrates annual run 

Former PE teacher Jean Pogue, namesake of the run, seen waving to the camera, cheered on the runners. 
The Henry Puffer community joined together Sept. 29 for its Annual PTA Jean Pogue Lung Run. The run is an annual tradition where students, teachers and parents gather to promote the importance and enjoyment of physical health by running around the school grounds together. Former Puffer School PE teacher, 91-year-old Jean Pogue, attended this year's run. Pogue, the Lung Run's namesake, taught for 23 years at Puffer and was a pioneer in the field of children's health education. She continues to inspire students to live by the code that healthy ways lead to happy days.
Shark Tank comes to Herrick

One of the most highly rated TV shows comes to Herrick's 8th grade English Language Arts classrooms each year. Shark Tank helps students develop their speaking, listening and persuasive skills. Eighth grade students in Alison Brechtel's and Megan Winthrop's classes create a mock product and sell it to a panel of "sharks," aka their principal, teachers and counselors. This year, students designed a cruise ship marketed for children's sports activities, a spider prison to trap spiders and a tutoring machine to help with homework. "The goal of the project is the help students formulate argumentative writing, listening, speaking and presentation skills," said Brechtel.

Studying nature and photography

Fourth graders at Lester and Kingsley studied the work of noted photographer and conservationist Ansel Adams and then tried their hand at photography. They learned about angles, texture, shadows, light and ways to capture nature. They took their iPads outside and discovered and documented the details on trees, flowers and other parts of nature around the schools. They then edited their photography, learning about filters, cropping and adjusting the contrast and other values of the photo. "I love the excitement the children have for this project," said art teacher Elizabeth Lukes, noting that students like working outside, with nature, their iPads and creating art. 

Community E-flyers
In this issue
Parent mailer
Reading Games to begin
Parent Info sessions
Sketchnoting for visual learners
58 Doing Good
Mindfulness helps focus
Belle Aire Fun Fair
Lester Fun Fair
Community E-flyers
Upcoming Board meetings
Video on resilience
District 58 on social media

Like us on Facebook Follow us on TwitterView our videos on YouTube
Upcoming Board meetings

Regular Board Meeting
Tuesday, Oct. 10
7 p.m.
O'Neill Middle School 

Monday, Oct. 23 
7 p.m.
Lester School

How to help children be more resilient
Noted educator Noah Rachlin presented information last month on how to help children be more resilient, respond positively to challenges and struggles and to learn that failure and mistakes are part of the learning process. If you missed his talk, it can be found here.

The information night was sponsored by Henry Puffer School and the Puffer-Hefty PTA and held at Herrick School.

Video wins award
Downers Grove Grade School District 58 continues to be recognized for its outstanding communications and recently received state recognition for its video production.
The Illinois chapter of the National School Public Relations Association, or INSPRA, presented an award to Megan Hewitt, District 58 community relations coordinator, during its annual Communications Contest award ceremony in September. District 58 received an Award of Merit for its in-house video "Getting Ready for Kindergarten in District 58." The video outlines the goals of kindergarten, what a typical day looks like and what parents can do now to prepare their child for kindergarten.
For more information, click here.

A big thank you to
our principals

Oct. 16-21, 2017 is National Principals Month. Join us in giving a shout out to our awesome principals. They do so much behind the scenes to make our schools run smoothly. #ThankAPrincipal

Preschool screenings scheduled

Downers Grove Grade School District 58 will offer several free preschool and developmental screenings designed to identify young children who might have developmental delays and who would benefit from special education prior to beginning kindergarten. Screenings can also identify children who might be at academic risk due to environmental, cultural or socio-economic factors.
District 58 offers both traditional preschool screenings for children aged 3-5 years, as well as developmental screenings for children birth through 3 years of age. All children must reside within District 58 boundaries to be eligible for a screening.
Screenings are held each month. Learn more details here.

The mission of District 58, in partnership with parents and community, is to challenge and engage each child by providing quality educational programs and support services in a safe, nurturing, and child-centered environment in order to prepare all students to be lifelong learners and contributing members of a global society.  
Communicate 58 shares timely, relevant information about District 58 with parents, community members and others who are interested in how we are living out our mission. If you have any questions/comments regarding Communicate 58, or have an article/photo idea for the publication, please contact Community Relations Coordinator Megan Hewitt at or 630-719-5805.