USD 382 school board members learned Monday about Lego We Do, mobile art and a variety of other hands-on projects students at Southwest Elementary are working on under the direction of GATE teacher Brenda Piester.

Children excited about education, teachers rewarded for their leadership skills and school board members who get to play with Lego kits as part of a timed learning demonstration -- USD 382 Board of  Education meetings are anything but dull these days. Before the business-as-usual agenda with payment approvals and division reports, the ACE building meeting room Monday was crowded with students (and accompaning parents) eager to share their projects with board members.
"It all begins at this level," said Southwest Elementary GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) teacher Brenda Piester. "We like to provide educational opportunities that are hands-on and the kids really enjoy that."
Student Ryann Estes shared her artist research project and a painting she created modeled after John Singer Sargent's "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" and student Collin Strong explained his 3-dimensional filter-wire mobile, patterned after Alexander Calder's work. Student Molly Hopkins handed out KDHA 2017 calendars that featured her state award-winning "Keep it Clean Kansas" drawing, and second grade Lego We Do enthusiasts Cade Clarkson and Levi Thibault demonstrated their computer coding abilities with a multi-part moving Lego creation.
"We can help the youngest children develop a foundation of skills in technology that will carry them on to bigger and better things that they really get excited about," Piester said. "With this Lego We Do program they get to program speed, sounds, design options and experiment with timing and direction."
As an extension of the student demonstrations, Piester provided each board member with an allotment of Legos, and an experienced student builder to provide assistance, then gave them 2 minutes to build an ideal classroom. While some board members came up with a better construction than others, it was plain to see they all enjoyed the interaction with students and were impressed with the level of expertise their 'helpers' provided.
In addition to the recognition of student-learning activities at Pratt schools, the Superintendent Suzan Patton also recognized several teachers and coaches recently honored at the state level for their achievements. Those present at the Monday board meeting included: Jo Walker, recently named Teacher of the Year by the Kansas Council for Exceptional Children, she is a resource teacher at Liberty Middle School; Tate Thompson, voted 4A Wrestling Coach of the Year by state officials, English teacher and head wrestling coach at Pratt High; Jamie Cruz, named area Football Coach of the Year by the Wichita Eagle newspaper; and Molly Swank, Make it Happen award winner by MACE for her work as the district's director of technology.
In other business, the board:
* heard from Assistant Superintendent and Director of Curriculum David Schmidt about the possibility of Senate Bill 155 providing state-funded college classes for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade high school students, providing better training for post-graduate job skills in pathways of auto mechanic, nursing and many other options.
"This is gonna change the structure of what parents are used to and will be different from how students are used to doing school," Schmidt said. "We are thinking ahead about what we need to do to get our students down that road of being prepared for the future.
* approved a financial resolution for the 360 Energy turn-key project to bring a mobile classroom to the current campus and signed a contract to provide power to the intended site.
* voted to implement a 166-day school calendar for 2017-18 that mirrors the previous year, balancing days in each semester at the 82-83 mark and providing for two weeks of spring break that coincide with other schools in the area.