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The goal is for children to set goals


How Star Center is including the community in helping to make better kids



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STAR CENTER SCHOOL held a Math Career Night in January. Students walked through exhibits, tried out career-related activities and found out how fit they were. Electronics engineer Tim Michnay helps Maggie Knepper try out his equipment.

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February 05, 2013 | 03:45 PM
BLOOMFIELD — "It's building a successful individual," said Lynsey Fleck, a second-grade teacher at Star Center Elementary School.

She's not just talking about the school's recent math career night, which featured presentations by pilots, electricians and even her husband, Joe, of MGA, Burlington, an engineer who uses crash-test dummies to determine a car's safety factors.

It's everything.

The reading night/movie tie-in which featured a showing of "The Lorax" last October.

The special appearance Jan. 31 by Ross and Grant Jones, members of the U.S. Men's Rowing Team in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

The 5-K run/walk scheduled for April 27.

The goal, according to Fleck and Star Center Principal Chiper Tennessen, is making students ready for college or a career.

For two years, Star Center has been unleashing programs on students to help them think beyond the middle- and high-school levels.

A key difference in this year's activities exemplifies the saying "less is more." Fleck said they wanted to increase community involvement in the school's college- and career-readiness program.

Fleck said an electrical engineer showed children how he uses math to diagnose a wiring problem inside a house. Tennessen said Slice, a bakery in Waterford, demonstrated how important math is in the field of baking.

"They came in with cake pans," she said. "One person said this pan gives you 25 slices and another pan gives you a different number of slices. So they had to arrange the cake pans to get a number of slices for the cake that was ordered."

On April 27, the goal is health and wellness. Well, not just that, Tennessen said. The event's called Star Center's 5-K Run/Walk — Tennis Shoes for Technology, she said.

"All the money that we raise will benefit Star Center's technology implementation," Tennessen said.

"It's part of our moving forward with implementing technology in our learning," Fleck said.

The preparation begins before April 27. For two days a week, there will be an afterschool training program.

"We're going to be doing a running/buildup program," Fleck said. "We're not only inviting the kids to do this, but their parents, too."

The run/walk starts and ends at the corner of Lake Geneva Highway and Clover Road. Children and parents will travel from Clover to Lake Shore Drive, then loop through the southern end of the Pell Lake subdivision before reconnecting to Clover, then returning to Star Center.

How's this going to help children prepare for college or a career?

Fleck and Tennessen said it's about goal-setting and making good life choices.

And Tennessen said when it comes to teaching health and wellness, teachers are practicing what they preach.

"We're doing our own health and wellness challenge with the staff right now," she said. " We're truly living it as well."

Fleck said she sees these kind of more physical activities reaching other students. For example, the cross-country program at Star Center was such a success last fall that they're asking about if it will be offered again.

"That's part of why we implemented the 5-K cross-country, because they needed more," she said.

Another part of the goal for college- and career-readiness is teaching children a valuable lesson.

"Not every kid will be a straight-A kid," Fleck said. "But every kid has the ability to believe in themselves and strive to achieve their goals, to experience what it's like to meet that goal."

However, some believe that previously the school oversaturated the calendar with events.

The end result, Tennessen said, was low event turnouts.

Not that case anymore, she said. Both the reading night/movie tie-in and the recent math career night netted about 100 kids and their parents.

"I think it's relationship building, what we're doing with our community," Tennessen said. "It's a team effort, (and) together, we're part of this whole individual's life."

"It also turns into goals," Fleck said.

She said goal-setting is a key component in helping students become successful.

It would appear Fleck has the inside track on the importance of setting goals, pun intended.

"I am a marathon runner," she said. "I've run in 11 marathons and probably done about 15 half-marathons. What I've found is that, especially for girls, being physically active provides you with a positive outlet."

But it helps boys and girls become excited about their goals, she said. And what is a goal but a vision for the future?

That's how Star Center is approaching college and career readiness.

Two down, one to go

Anyone can tell you the trick is to teach children something while they're having fun. With the first main event which ties into the readiness program, the focus was reading.

With a spotlight on "The Lorax," perhaps it's no surprise that Tennessen estimates more than 100 people showed up for the event last October.

Math, on the other hand, can be hard for some to get excited about.

Fleck said in the past, they tried different ways to get not just kids but their parents involved, such as "parent university," in which they educated parents on different reading and math strategies.

So, for math, they decided on a different approach.

"We really felt like we needed something hands-on that included the community," Fleck said.

What better way to do that than ask people from the community to take part in the presentations?

Tennessen said there's another approach to math which she feels helps children connect with the subject.

"We really wanted it to be career-focused, but we feel that, sometimes, kids don't understand why they're doing these things (math problems)," she said.

Fleck said in the case of her husband's job, math is integral. The goal of a crash-test engineer, she said, is to improve vehicle safety.

"There's a lot of math involved because if you don't go the right rate of speed, if the dummy's weight is not correct, even the measurements of how far a window is open, (that) car may not be sold in America," she said.

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