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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Swim Lessons Offered Year-Round at Natatorium


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There’s always something going on at the Mansfield ISD Natatorium. If swimming and diving competitions aren’t in session, children are usually using the facility to learn more about water safety.

“We offer swim lessons to the community from ages 4 to 14,” said Blake Kahla, MISD coach and swim school coordinator. “Our mission is to teach kids how to swim, so they can be safe in an aquatic environment.” 

Summer classes last for two weeks, ranging from a novice level 1 to an expert level 8. The goal is for participants to move up one level by the end of each session. 

According to Kahla, 95 percent of the instructors are MISD high school students. 

Each high school student is assigned two to four children.
He said it’s beneficial for all involved because the younger children can see what an advanced swimmer looks like while the older students can learn how to interact with beginners and their parents. 

“I just like seeing them happy, and they enjoy coming here and swimming with me,” said Jacqueline Green, an incoming senior at Lake Ridge High School. “My goal is to teach them something new. They might not understand the skill, but at least be confident enough in themselves to actually learn.”

During the school year, all MISD third-graders go to the natatorium to learn about water safety. 

The coach said the district offers year-round classes to build confidence and teach lifelong lessons in water safety so that children learn to be comfortable in both small and large bodies of water. 

For more information about natatorium classes, visit the facility website.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

New Summer Camp Challenges Students to Make and Create


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There’s an inventor in all of us. That’s what students entering fifth grade learned this week in Mansfield ISD’s inaugural Maker University.

The university featured five different colleges: film, robotics, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and graphic design. Participants chose two of those colleges to focus on for the week.

“We wanted our campers to make things and create things using some of the tools that are unique to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),” said Jeremy Beckwith, the camp administrator.

Students in the robotics college built robots and drone remotes.
Students created commercials, programmed remotes for drones, constructed gliders, made slime and printed on 3-D printers, to name a few.

Although there was much to learn, Beckwith said fun is the primary objective of the camp.

“We want the kids to have a good time while they’re here,” Beckwith continued. “We wanted them to let their imaginations run wild in whatever choice they have. And that’s the other big thing. We gave them choice.”

Katelyn Castro, an incoming fifth-grader at Della Icenhower Intermediate School, said the camp stretched her mind and provided her with new ways to solve problems.

“It gives you more challenges,” she said. “And it’s very entertaining, compared to just sitting down at a desk and working on papers, because you’re actually in the action.”

Maker University was held at the Jerry Knight STEM Academy from June 18 through June 22. The camp capacity was 100 students.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Students Explore STEM Topics at Summer Camp


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Hundreds of Mansfield ISD students spent part of their summer experiencing that science can be fun and interactive.

MISD’s Science Camp allowed kids entering grades 1 through 5 to engage in hands-on labs and experiments while studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The children get an opportunity to really enjoy school in the summer with science,” said camp administrator Daniel Beauford. “It’s very much a camp feel.”

One of the most popular activities was a lockbox escape room, in which students solved puzzles and received clues to unlock boxes and get a prize.

Students also tinkered with circuits, played with robots, launched catapults and built putt-putt golf courses with recycled materials.

Students enjoyed solving puzzles to open the lockboxes.
“In mini golf, I learned engineering,” said Genesis Hunter, an incoming fourth-grader at Willie E. Brown Elementary School. “It was fun, and we got to build things.”

This year, the district extended the science camp to two one-week sessions to accommodate more students. A total of nearly 600 students attended the camp.

Beauford said although the projects are fun, his goal is to teach students how each activity links back to STEM topics.

“Some of the time, they don’t even know what they just did, and then when you explain the science behind it, they’re like, ‘That’s what that was?’ So that’s pretty awesome,” Beauford continued.

The first camp session ran from June 4 to June 8. The second session began on June 11 and will wrap up on June 15.

On the last day of each session, the students show their parents everything they learned that week.

Organizers said they’re excited to see so many kids being passionate about science. They expect camp attendance to continue to grow.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Students Teach Teachers in Summer Course


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When you want to learn about technology, sometimes you have to go to the ones who never knew life without it.

Fifth- and sixth-graders from Asa Low Intermediate School were the instructors for an interactive class at the Mansfield ISD Vision 2020 Summer Conference.

The students taught educators how different technological games and gadgets can be incorporated into the curriculum.

“It’s what we call a technology playground,” said Lynn Gustafson, MISD educational technology trainer. “We invited students who have used these devices and tools in their classroom setting.”

Gustafson said a similar student-taught class was offered at an educational technology conference earlier in the year. It received such rave reviews that the team decided to bring it back for the summer.

Mitchell maneuvers Sphero through an obstacle course.
DaMont Mitchell, an incoming seventh-grader, led a session about using robotics to enhance various lesson plans. The participants learned how to steer a spherical robot name Sphero.

“It’s also waterproof, so you can use it under water for exploration lessons,” Mitchell explained. “And it has a programming feature so that students can learn how to code the robot to move in a certain direction.”

At first, some of the instructors were surprised to see students leading the lesson, but they were impressed by the children’s intelligence.

“It was pretty cool that they are the ones that are knowledgeable and showing us how to do it,” said Lynette Paulino, teacher at J.L. Boren Elementary School. “It’s pretty cool that our future generations are teaching the teachers.”

The class organizers said the teachers were very responsive and appreciative for the students. The student instructors said that it was rewarding to give back.

“It feels good to be teaching the teachers because it feels like I’m the bigger person because teachers teach me, so I get to teach them,” said Mitchell.

The teachers now have the opportunity to write a grant to the MISD Education Foundation in hopes of getting the different devices that were demonstrated to them.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Senior on Track to Get Bachelor’s Degree at 18


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When Melody Delatorre was a sophomore, she had a mission: to graduate with an associate degree while still in high school.

The Mansfield High School student visited her counselor to discuss her plans and became laser-focused to earn at least 60 college credits before graduation.

“She could take up to three dual credit courses per semester, so we just mapped out what three she was going to take in her junior year and what three she was going to take in her senior year, “ said Mansfield High School counselor Monica Dabney.

To put her education on a faster track, Delatorre also took courses at Tarrant County College (TCC) on her own after school. She took no breaks and continued taking courses in the summer and winter.

Delatorre met with her counselor to map out her graduation plan.
The senior graduated with her associate degree from TCC on May 12. She will walk across the stage to get her high school diploma on May 25.

“It was really cool knowing I was getting my associate degree before my high school diploma,” said Delatorre. “It took a lot of work and sacrifice. I didn’t always have time to be with my friends, but I’m glad I did it. I feel accomplished and proud.”

“I cannot even describe how proud I am of her,” Dabney added. “She is such a driven student and highly independent, so I was just elated to hear that she had competed her associate’s degree.”

The 17-year-old said she will take summer classes at the University of Texas at Arlington.

She said she won’t take any breaks and hopes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology in May 2019. Her goal is to become a doctor.

“I want to become a doctor because I like helping people, and I like being able to make a difference in people’s lives,” Delatorre explained.

For those wanting to follow in her educational path, the senior’s advice is simple. She said, “just go.”

Friday, May 4, 2018

Cancer Survivor Rallies Behind Diagnosed Staff Member


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At the age of 28, Tracy Johnson received a call that changed the way she views life.

The doctor called her at the school in which she taught to tell her that she had colon cancer. Her principal at the time was Donna Shepard, a Mansfield ISD school namesake who was also battling cancer.

“She grabbed me and hugged me and said, ‘I am here. I will be with you. You’re strong. You will be fine,’” recalled Johnson, who is now principal of J.L. Boren Elementary School. “To this day, that has meant so much to me.”

Johnson said that since she has been principal of Boren Elementary, a few of her staff members have been diagnosed with cancer. She said she feels it is her calling to rally behind them and encourage them along the way.

“I think there was a great plan for me to be here, and I’m able to share my experience to help others,” she continued.

Carney received gifts from her music students
after news of her diagnosis.
Recently, the school’s music teacher, Katie Carney, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The principal said it has been amazing to see how the staff members and community have come together to support her.

Being able to show an outpouring of love to those battling cancer is one of the reasons why Mansfield ISD’s Colors for Caring initiative is near and dear to Johnson's heart. The initiative encourages the community to wear cancer awareness colors on the first Monday of each school month.

“People always want to be helpful in a way, and they don’t know how,” Johnson said. “This is one easy way we can stand for others and be strong. It’s nice to know that we’re all a community working together to stand for each other.”

The Colors for Caring initiative began in 2015 after Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas was diagnosed with thymoma cancer. He was grateful for the support he received and wanted to continue to spread the love to others.

The last Colors for Caring Day of the 2017-18 school year is on May 7. Johnson said her campus will be wearing a shirt with a pink cancer ribbon made of music notes for Carney.