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Thursday, July 13, 2017

New Early Literacy Center Designed for Interaction

A new facility that changes the way young students will learn is on the horizon at Mansfield ISD. The MISD Early Literacy Center, set to open in the fall of 2018, will be an innovative school for children ages three and four that takes learning beyond the four walls of a classroom.

“It’s basically structured in what early childhood research says is best for how students learn,” said Kristi Cobb, MISD’s director of early literacy. “Young students can come attend and learn through play, learn through unique experiences and learn through interacting with students.”

The focus of the learning center will be to promote literacy and numeracy development at an early age in an exploratory and engaging environment.

A rendering of a room dedicated to the study of Earth.
The facility will have 16 unique learning experiences, what people would typically call classrooms, that are structured into pods of learning: exploration, investigation, imagination and navigation. In each pod, children will be immersed in learning about different topics, such as the ocean, greenhouses, animals, construction and space.

“The building is very unique. It’s not like a traditional literacy center and not like a tradition school,” said Jeff Brogden, associate superintendent of facilities and bond programs. “For instance, one of the experiences is about the ocean, so there is an interactive submarine that is part of the experience. Students and teachers will be able to take an interactive field trip through the ocean to visit different mammals and learn all about that realm.”

The facility will be located near Della Icenhower Intermediate School off of South Collins Street. Each morning and afternoon session will consist of 15-17 students, a teacher and an instructional aide. Between 480-500 students will be able to enroll each year.

The school will also host field trips and other activities so that all Mansfield ISD students have the opportunity to benefit from the facility.

MISD's Early Literacy Center is aligned with the district's Vision 2020 guiding statement that indicates students will read on level or higher by the beginning of the third grade and will remain on level or higher as an MISD student.

View more details and renderings of the future school here.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Student Nutrition Cooking Up New Foods for Fall

Sturner prepared the chicken spaghetti in the test kitchen.
While students are out for the summer break, Mansfield ISD Student Nutrition Services is heating up their oven making sure everyone comes back to some new tasty, yet nutritious, meals.

Foods like chicken spaghetti, grilled chicken pesto subs, chicken and waffle paninis, hash brown casseroles, Asian chicken and rice bowls, and grilled stuffed burritos will be making their debut for certain grade levels in the fall.

Chef Isabella Sturner is charged with making new recipes for MISD schools. She said the process to get different foods on the menu is a collaborative one.

“I work closely with Denise Hayslip (MISD’s dietician) to make sure each recipe is compliant with USDA regulations,” said the district’s culinary trainer. “We try to keep our meals delicious, fresh and relevant—food that the students will actually eat.”

And MISD students have a say in what foods make the cut. When all the food guidelines are met, students taste them and provide their feedback.

“We recently had a taste testing for students at Summit High School. They really enjoyed the shrimp fajitas and jalapeno cornbread,” Sturner continued.

Sturner said the upcoming year’s meals will have a southern home flare to it, and nothing says homestyle better than making the food from scratch.

Fresher food, like this strawberry salsa, is the goal.
“The lasagna, zucchini bread, taco meat, fried rice, lo mein, ranch, spaghetti sauce—all of that is homemade. We have a good blend of scratch cooking, which is impressive since we have to serve 300 to 500 people within a 10-minute window,” she explained.

The nutrition workers try to accommodate all types of eaters, including vegetarians. That’s why they’re hosting a vegetarian item sample session on July 17 at 11 a.m. Anyone interested can go to the Student Nutrition office on 1151 Mansfield-Webb Road in Arlington.

With an average of more than 20,000 people being served each school day, the department certainly has its hands—and cafeterias—full, but workers said they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My favorite part about food is the amount of enjoyment others get. We’re serving good food that’s real food,” Sturner added.

MISD Student Nutrition Services distributed more than 5 million meals last year. For more information about menus and pricing, visit the department website.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Kids Learn the Wonders of Water at Science Camp

When you’re having so much fun that you forget you’re learning, that’s what coordinators at Mansfield ISD’s summer science camp call a win.

Young scientists entering grades 1-5 participated in various labs and experiments focusing on this year’s camp theme—water. The topics covered ranged from conservation, hydroelectricity, pollution and purification.

“We try to combine keeping their education going and making them realize that education is not just sitting in a room and writing,” said camp coordinator Daniel Beauford. “They’re learning things without even realizing that they’re learning.”

Kids learned about the water cycle in one of the various sessions.
MISD Science Camp is being held June 19-23 at Brooks Wester Middle School. The program is in its fifth year and keeps gaining momentum. Last year, approximately 300 kids attended. This year, the camp maxed out at approximately 420 students.

“There’s a lot of kids here eager to learn. It grows every year, and that’s because of the different experiments and hands-on activities we provide. We have 35 of the best teachers in the district heading these science lessons,” said Beauford.

Incoming third-grader Jackson James said his favorite activity was creating an aquifer out of ice cream and toppings that he later got to eat. He said he learned some valuable information that he can share with others.

“I learned that 75 percent of our body is made out of water,” said the eight-year-old. “We’re also doing a PSA (public service announcement) to teach people not to waste water.”

As interest continues to grow in the camp, camp coordinators said they may need to expand the camp to two weeks to accommodate all the children. It’s a problem they said they’re happy to have.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

MISD Youth Dive into Future Career Choices

It’s a summer of exploration for dozens of Mansfield ISD students going into grades 6-8. Ben Barber Innovation Academy’s (BBIA) annual Rising Star Discovery Camp is underway.

The camp is a fun introduction to a few courses offered at BBIA. Students are able to receive an interactive overview of topics ranging from culinary arts, video production, graphic design, criminal justice and computer maintenance.

Green helps a student troubleshoot a computer tower.
Instructor Jimmie Green, Sr. said he likes seeing the kids learn, and the learning is a mutual process.

“These kids are smart. I can teach them 1,000 things, and they can teach me 2,000,” he said. “We’re diagnosing, defragging; and by the end of it, we’ll have a race to see who can take a computer apart and put it back together the fastest.”

Camp coordinators work hard to make the courses mimic real-life situations.

In the criminal justice class, the students went outdoors to investigate a staged crime scene. Chris Vasquez, who previously worked with the Houston Police Department for 11 years, said it’s a way to give students a general idea of the policing world while creating positive experiences between the children and law enforcement.

“I went into teaching because I got tired of putting kids in jail and wanted to catch them before they get corrupted in the system,” he said. “They’re learning the steps of an investigation right now, which involves documenting and picking up evidence.”

Vasquez gives instructions on how to correctly document evidence.
The teachers said their goal is to spark an interest in the students that will hopefully have them coming back to BBIA to pursue their respective career paths when they enter high school.

“Once my curiosity was sparked in computer maintenance, there was no turning back for me, so I hope these kids find the same interest in a topic,” Green said.

BBIA’s Rising Star Discovery Camp runs June 12-16 from 8 a.m. to noon. The cost of registration is $65.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Learning Continues in the Summer for MISD Teachers

What do teachers do in the first week of their summer break? At Mansfield ISD, they get a jumpstart at perfecting their skills for the following school year.

MISD is holding its annual Summer Curriculum Conference June 6-8 at Legacy High School. Attendees have the opportunity to select from various sessions, such as English language learners (ELL), technology, advanced academics, special education and other content-specific courses, to further their professional development.

“The conference provides professional development that teaches strategies and ways to integrate technology into learning,” said Toni Clarkson, elementary math coordinator. “So next year, as they go back to class, they’ll feel like they have a lot more tools to use with students and make students more successful.”

Teachers took part in immersive learning games for the classroom.
Clarkson said the neat part about the conference is the collaborative nature of it.

“The educators are really able to share with each other, so it’s a place where all the district teachers can come together and share best practices,” she added.

Hosting the summer conference is no easy feat. Coordinators said the planning starts in January to offer relevant courses paired with the best instructors. Registration opens in April.

Teachers enjoy the experience. They said becoming a student and soaking up the knowledge is the best way to better themselves in the classroom.

“I’ve learned a lot about dyslexia and dysgraphia in my session,” said Christie Furtick, teacher at Erma Nash Elementary School. “I’ll use the tools I learned to help my students even more.”

Attendance to the conference is free for MISD employees. Out-of-district educators pay $25 to attend. For more information about the conference course offerings, view the catalog here.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

MISD Senior Graduating with Associate Degree

Cobb graduated from TCC on May 16.
It’s graduation weekend at Mansfield ISD; and for one senior, it’ll be the second time within a month that she crossed the stage.

Frontier High School’s Brianna Cobb earned her associate degree before officially receiving her high school diploma.

She was able to accomplish the academic feat through Frontier’s Tarrant County College Trinity River East Campus (TREC) program. The program allows health science students an opportunity to earn 42 dual credit college hours and a certification.

The 18-year-old joined TREC in her junior year. She said it was a big goal to set for herself and admits that the road wasn’t easy.

“It was frustrating at times,” she explained. “Sometimes I wanted to give up because of the workload.”

Cobb took 17 college hours last semester. She said that she didn’t have much time for extracurricular activities in her junior or senior year, but knew that her end game was more important.

“I kept telling myself that it’ll be worth it, and it was so worth it. I’m so glad I stuck with it,” she continued. “I’m still in shock. When I think about it, I’m like ‘Wow! I did it!’”

The graduate plans to enroll at the University of North Texas this fall to earn her bachelor’s degree. She wants to become a cosmetic surgeon or an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN).

“I’d tell anyone who wants to do what I did to persevere,” she said. “It can get stressful, but don’t give up. Believe in yourself.”

For more information about MISD’s TREC program, visit the Frontier High School counseling center webpage.