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From The Principal — Dr. Aura Wharton-Beck


Now that I am in the middle of my third year here as Principal, I am familiar with the annual school events and grade level artist residencies but every year I find myself enjoying them even more. The energy and enthusiasm that both staff and students bring to each project is inspiring and I love seeing the excitement in parents faces as they watch their child participate in a scholastic, or musical event.

4th Grade Survey Day 2016  — As part of a unit using the scientific method, Kenwood fourth grade students engaged in an all-school survey on November 30th. This inquiry-based learning activity, which is an annual project, showcased a variety of interests and genres. Here are a few of the typical questions I answered during survey day: There were a wide range of questions about food choices, favorite holidays, type of music, etc.

What is your favorite dessert? (cupcakes, ice cream, pie, cake)

What is your favorite December holiday? (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan)

What is your favorite type of music? (jazz, ballet, hip-hop, tap)

What is your favorite birthstone?
(diamond, turquoise, aquamarine, peridot)

What is your favorite type of shoe? (Flip-flops, Converse, Cleats, sneakers)

What would your favorite vacation be? (Water Park, the mountains, the beach, or African safari)

Data analysis serves as the core of this exercise as students learn to tabulate data, create graphs, and present their data. Graphs were displayed on December 9th. As students create spreadsheets
and manipulate the data, they discover how to interpret mathematical terms of mean, mode, and median. They learn that math has practical applications when
real data is used in their daily lives. This early exposure to using statistics builds confidence in our young scholars. This annual survey project is interdisciplinary in nature and requires students to work across the curriculum to develop research questions on a topic of interest. As they read text, record factual information, design survey questions, analyze data graphs with statistical findings, and evaluate hypotheses, they transform raw data into meaningful information. Because of the high level of enthusiasm generated through this process, I would not be surprised if a few of our Kenwood students used their skills in the future to influence policy changes in America.

10th Annual Room 117 performance of “Where the Wild Things Are”, Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book, came alive in Ms. Cathy Sullivan’s room! With minimal prompting from their teacher, our kindergarten students recited the iconic lines from this 1964 Caldecott Medal award book with determination & tenacity. To add to my surprise and enjoyment, the students remained in character as the audience applauded their efforts. Intuitively and on cue they marched around the
room displaying their
wild behavior for the
people who love them the most...their own parents and grandparents!

This fall Kenwood 1st grade students enjoyed a six week long African Drumming residency with Ghana Mbaye, affectionately known as Brother Ghana. They are learning call and response drum patterns and songs, as well as dances. Our students are making connections in academic areas such as patterning and counting, and they even have time for a bit of World Studies as they question Brother Ghana about his childhood and education in Senegal. Ghana Mbaye is a teacher at the WISE school in North Minneapolis, and travels around the state leading drumming residencies. The 1st grade students will be sharing their knowledge in a performance with Brother Ghana on December 15th at 7:50 a.m. Kindergartners will start a residency with him next month.

The annual Barn Dance Residency officially called the “Roots Dance residency” culminated on the night of Thursday, November 17. This signature event capped the students’ two weeks of work with Dr. Bob Walser. A renowned ethnomusicologist, (and newly elected School Board member), Dr. Bob brings a unique and world class experience to this annual residency. He shared his knowledge of folk music to weave a common understanding of the universality of this music. It is through dance, movement, and
rhythm that our students
quickly begin to connect
the dots that folk music
can serve as a platform for reconciliation, tolerance, and social justice. Over 700 students, Kenwood alumna, friends, and families joined us for an evening of festive music and dancing. Bob and his musical accompanists played “Sasha,” “Zudio” (a singing game from the Afro-American playground tradition), “Akisodo,” “Angelina Baker,” “Seven Step” and “Kinderpolka” from Whoopee John. The evening ended on a high note when our fifth grade students proudly marched into the gym dressed with red sashes and “swords” for the Sword Dance, an annual Kenwood rite of passage. Our arts residencies are made possible through the generosity of our Kenwood PTA. A special note of appreciation to The Lowry Restaurant for providing a delicious pasta dinner for this fun family evening!

Give to the MAX – Thank you to our Kenwood parents and families who
generously raised over
$5000, which will be used by all teachers to support instruction. Your support continues to make an indelible mark on our community of learners. Thank you to the team of Julie Coykendall, Coryn Petersen, Cindy White, Christy Kujawa & Lori Smith for coordinating this day of giving.

The Scholastic Book fair successfully sold over $9000 worth of books that will provide $2250 for our media specialist, Joan Kallas to use towards tools and resources for the Media Center to benefit all Kenwood Kids. Thank you to Kirsten Anderson, Lisa Thompson, Cindy White, and Heather Wulfsberg for transforming our Media Center into a mini-bookstore for our students. Thank you to all the families who shopped at the book fair.