Skip to content

Articles from May 2015

District Offices observing summer hours

summerphotofacebookIt’s officially summer when the Ames Community School District Educational Services Center begins to observe summer hours! Beginning Monday, June 1, offices are open 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Offices are open 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Fridays.

Please note, elementary school offices are closed. Please direct your questions to Registrar Barbara Peterson, 515-268-6605.

Regular hours will resume at 8 a.m., Monday, Aug. 10.

Read More

Mitchell students win Governor’s Youth Action Award

Mitchell fourth grade students  in Amanda McGonigle's class enjoy being active.

Mitchell fourth grade students in Amanda McGonigle’s class enjoy being active.


AMES–To Mitchell Elementary School student Cara Mosher, the heart is more than a muscle that keeps the body’s blood supply in motion.

“The heart symbolizes health and inspiration,” the fourth grade student said.

Cara put her inspiration to work to make a poster that won first place in Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s Governor’s Youth Action Award.

This spring, the Governor and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, the Governor’s Council on Child Health and Wellness and their partners created the Governor’s Youth Action Award to honor efforts of Iowa students in kindergarten through 12th grade who submitted posters, essays and/or videos highlighting healthy behaviors or sharing ideas to engage others.

Cara’s teacher Amanda McGonigle said when she learned about the opportunity to participate, she saw it as a way to give her students a “real world application” of fourth grade science curriculum by teaching others ways to be healthy.

“I learned how powerful being the teacher is for students’ learning,” McGonigle said.”I also learned how much students care about being healthy.”

McGonigle said she was surprised by all the knowledge students already had.

Cara described her poster, which is not available since it will be on display, as a depiction of “Iowa in the middle of a heart made of fruits and vegetables.”

“It’s surrounded by sports balls, and ‘Healthy is Wealthy’ in 3-D letters,” she said.

McGonigle’s students also produced a video that placed in the top three among elementary schools.

She credits Mary Greeley Medical Center’s Mileage Club for keeping students motivated to stay active and make healthy food choices.

“Our class has 100 percent participation in Mileage Club,” she said. “This year, Mileage Club added a token for keeping a log of the fruits and vegetables students eat.”

The Iowa Action for Healthy Kids Coalition assisted with the selection of winners for each genre. All participants will receive a participation ribbon and award winners will receive recognition from Governor Branstad during the Iowa State Fair at an official ceremony Aug. 15.

Read More

Edwards students learn to innovate using basic materials and technology

Sammy Hernandez (L) and Lizzy Witcher adjust cables connecting circuits for their foot-pad-operated math game at the Edwards FAB Faire, May 14.

Sammy Hernandez (L) and Lizzy Witcher adjust cables connecting circuits for their foot-pad-operated math game at the Edwards FAB Faire, May 14.

AMES–Students at Edwards Elementary School are discovering at an early age that Imagination combined with knowledge and resources can lead to innovation. They’ve worked for the past two months learning science, technology, engineering and computer basics for research, development and design.  After presenting their projects at the school’s first ever FAB Faire May 17, some of them are already envisioning what they want to be when they grow up.

Third grade students Davison Juhnke and Colin Wellman, for example, are setting their sights on careers in engineering, based on their success building an electronic  drumset.  Their teammate Mahad Mian sees the potential “to own businesses.”

Teacher Teresa Green said third grade students used an invention kit called a MaKey MaKey  to learn basic circuitry and create a unique project.

“The assignment I proposed was to use the Makey Makey—which turns everyday objects into touchpads—and the conductive material of their choice to create an alternative input device for their computer.”Colin said, “I learned that aluminum foil is conductive, so we used that to make our drum set.”  Connected to the Makey Makey set and the Scratch software program, the aluminum foil drumsticks and drum heads demonstrated the Makey Makey’s capability to work with computer code software, Green said.

“Students worked with Scratch earlier in the year as an introduction to computer programming, learning to write the code in Scratch and then wire up the MaKey MaKey to serve as the controller,” she said.

Adapting a concept from Cool Math for Kids, an online program, Lizzy Witcher and Sammy Hernandez, also in third grade, used the MaKey MaKey to combine math practice with physical activity in a foot-pad-operated math game.

“We decided feet were as good as hands for pressing buttons,” Sammy said.

Learning to troubleshoot design flaws was also an objective of the assignment, Green said.

Lizzy said she and Sammy figured out they needed to use alligator clips to achieve conductivity, for example.

Green said first and second grade students focused on research and design applying Newtonian physics and using basic materials like recycled cardboard.

Will Stevens, in second grade, created a ski ball arcade game from recycled cardboard. After he conducted research at a local arcade, he put his design prototypes through several revisions,  with help from his dad, before he got the angles and proportions just right.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” he said.

Green said fourth graders worked with more advanced circuitry tools  and fifth grade students worked with modular robotics.

A highlight of the evening was a presentation by the Junior First Lego League teams, she said.

Minigrants provided by the Ames Education Foundation helped fund the projects.

Read More

Ames Coca-Cola Scholarship winner honors former fifth grade teacher

AMES–Rachel Kim considers research as something that’s fun to do in her downtime, speaks three languages fluently, has garnered a list of academic awards longer than most adults’ entire resumes, and recently learned she has been accepted to Harvard. But the 2015 Ames High School graduate considers starting an after-school tutoring program for an elementary school among her greatest accomplishments.

Kim’s dynamic set of academic achievements and community leadership attributes helped launch her become a national Coca-Cola Scholars Program winner. From a field of more than 102,000 applicants and nearly 2,200 semifinalists that narrowed to 250 regional finalists, Kim was selected for a rigorous final interview process that set her apart as one of the 150 national winners. She attended the Coca-Cola Scholars Weekend April 16-19 in Atlanta and received a $20,000 award to be used toward her college tuition.

In the midst of these accolades, Kim reached out to honor one of the teachers who helped her believe in her own potential. On Friday, May 24, Kim surprised Elise Wright, a Fellows Elementary fifth grade teacher, as the “distinguished educator” who made a difference in her academic and leadership choices.

2015 Ames High School graduate Rachel Kim, (L) and Fellows fifth grade teacher Elise Wright display their Coca-Cola Scholars program awards. Kim is a national Coca-Cola Scholars winner who named Wright as a Distinguished Educator.

2015 Ames High School graduate Rachel Kim, (L) and Fellows fifth grade teacher Elise Wright display their Coca-Cola Scholars program awards. Kim is a national Coca-Cola Scholars winner who named Wright as a Distinguished Educator.

Flanked by Coca Cola Scholars program officials who presented Wright with the award, Kim told Wright in a prepared statement, “It was because of your dedication that I realized that a great leader is one who can empathize with many individuals.”

Kim said she learned from Wright that it is the “willingness to hear others’ stories and take a momentary pause in life to help others surrounding you that distinguishes a notable leader.”

“Hearing stories from young kids who live a life of day-to-day survival and have insecure futures, my growing compassion for young children has allowed me to realize that a true leader does not simply emphasize self-improvement, but deeply contemplates reform for an entire society,” she said. “Through this opportunity, I would like to thank you for teaching me how to find a window in the walls placed in front of me and developing me to become the leader that you envisioned walking through your classroom door seven years ago.”

Fellows principal Carol Page said Kim and Wright both exemplify true leadership.

“You see, Rachel was always a good student, but Mrs. Wright pushed her to move beyond those comfortable zones,” Page said.  “She pushed her to reach out with her leadership skills to help others!  Empathy building was key—and leadership isn’t about promoting oneself, but reaching out to others to help them reach THEIR potential!”

Read More

Ames High School student’s infographic wins national award

At first, Brandon Johnson chose to study Environmental Science simply to avoid being just like his friends taking physics and chemistry. The Ames High School junior became a standout student, however, for an unrelated reason. During the course, taught by award-winning environmental science teacher Mike Todd, Johnson won the Project Localize national award for the most informative artwork.

Over the past several years, students in Todd’s classes have participated in Project Localize, an educational initiative from the Lexicon of Sustainability that “provides teachers and students with tools to map their food systems, identify local producers and their sustainable practices, then turn their findings into information artworks to share with their community,” its website says.

Johnson said the class opened his eyes to facts about climate change.

“Before this class, people would talk about global warming and I never knew how much damage we’ve been doing,” Johnson said. “Now I’ve seen the scientific concepts first hand.”

The Project Localize experience also reawakened Johnson’s passion for graphic design that sparked when he studied 4D art in ninth grade with teacher Shelli Hassebrok.

“I made the connection to how graphic design can tell a story,” he said. “In this case, I used graphic design to tell a story that has been a good experience for me and will help the community.”

For Project Localize, Todd matched Johnson with Lee’s Green Farm in Ames, whose owner is perfecting a process for growing food year-round.

“We were the first group to document the work he’s doing in his greenhouses,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he built on the basics of photo editing he learned in ninth grade and “self taught the rest, playing with the program.”LeesGreensBuild 5_7_15

“We were on our own to decide how to set stage for the story,” he said.  “I had to figure out how to use all the components–the background, the roof, the interior—to make the composite image.”

Later this summer, Johnson will travel with Todd to Washington DC to receive his award and tell his story to legislators.

“We’ll be going to the legislative sessions,” he said. “Legislators are invited to see our work and talk to us about our images.”

Johnson credits classmates who participated in Project Localize and the Lexicon of Sustainability for their spirit of collaboration, and for motivating each other.

Next year Johnson said he plans to take more art classes. And he’s going to try to go against the grain again.

“This class has raised my expectations about what I can do,” he said. “I’m going to ask if I can work with Project Localize again, if that’s permissible, even though I won’t be part of a class project.”

Other participants in Project Localize:

· Zoe Pritchard

· Fox Henson

· Tori Herber

· Austin White

Read More

Time capsules found at Fellows School connect students with previous generation

Fifth grade student Haylee Thomas recently read a letter from her Aunt Dawn. The letter was special, not just because people don’t send personal letters often these days, but because the letter Haylee held in her hands was written in 1992 and buried in a time capsule.

Haylee and her classmates in Lindsey Richey’s fifth grade class took on the project of opening time capsules found by construction workers at the site of the new Fellows Elementary School building. Buried 23 years ago in honor of the school’s new playground, the capsules contain samples of District  and school materials and curriculum, letters, pictures and cultural artifacts.

Richey said the students, whose room has “the best view of the new school building’s construction,”  are now the curators of the historical archives related to the old building.

“They’re determining what’s important versus what is not, and what the connection is to our time and our community,” Richey said.  “We have, among other things, records from 149 people about what they hoped for the future.”

Richey said she organized students into committees to organize pictures, papers, letters and other artifacts and prepare them for display at the Fellows Fair next month.

Veteran sixth grade teacher Bob Kelly, now retired, was one of the “instigators” of the time capsules, according to Richey. Kelly left a note with the documentation about the time capsule project: “We hope you are enjoying world peace, a stable and unpolluted environment, a technologically advanced life style and a love of learning.” Kelly visited the classroom recently to visit the artifacts.

Haylee’s aunt, Dawn (Kepley) Ozman was in fifth grade. She wrote: “I was tall and nice. I had a lot of friends. I like to listen to Queen, Gun (sic)/N’ Roses and Right Said Fred. I like school a lot and hope to have  a family someday.”

Haylee, age 11, said her aunt’s dreams came true.

She has three children and works in the emergency room at Mercy hospital in Des Moines,” Haylee said. “I talked to her the day we opened the time capsules, and it brought back lots of memories.”

Richey said there was a hint of disappointment alongside all the excitement.

“We had hoped to find the time capsules before construction started, but that didn’t happen,” she said. “When workers dug them up, not knowing in advance where they were, there was unfortunately a lot of damage.”

Gunner Crouch, 11, said he was surprised that only five capsules were found out of the 25 that were buried.

“Some of them were full of water, paper mush and barely surviving NBA cards,” he said. “They smelled really bad.”

Madison DeLashmutt said she was intrigued by how students 23 three years ago liked things similar to her generation—music, games and books—although the names have changed.

“We found a poster in one time capsule with books and toys we’ve never heard of, but we recognized some familiar riddles from a book,” she said.

Gunner has advice for future attempts at time capsules.

“Put in pictures, letters, and food, like potato chips.  And make sure you seal it properly!”

Read More

Ames secondary students take top honors in State Science Olympiad

The Ames High School and Ames Middle School Science Olympiad teams both finished in first place in their divisions at the State Science Olympiad competition at Coe College on Saturday, April 18th. This qualifies the teams to represent the state of Iowa at the National Science Olympiad competition in Lincoln, Neb. in May.

High school student finishing with first place medals:

    • Kween Agba and Brynna Bargfield for Cell Biology
    • Nathan Chen and Katie Fukushima for GeoLogic Mapping
    • Sarah Shen and Nathan Chen for Dynamic Planet
    • Brynna Bargfield, Nathan Chen, Seamus O’Connor-Walker for Experimental Design
    • Yichen Xu, Nina VanderZanden, Sarah Shen for Protein Modeling
    • Alex Lee and Yichen Xu for Chem Lab
    • Julia Meyer and Yichen Xu for Technical Problem Solving
    • Nina VanderZanden and Tifany Chu for Forensics
    • Seamus O’Connor Walker and Takeshi Suzuki for Bridge Building
    • Tifany Chu and Zhi Li for Bungee Drop

Middle School students finishing with first place medals:

      • Anyang Yu and Steven Lian for Entomology
      • Joseph Norman, John Kim and Jason Chen for Experimental Design
      • Amy Yang and Caleb Kong for Meteorology
      • Eddie Wei and John Kim for Air Trajectory
      • Hannah Huang and Shria Chug for Disease Detective
      • Sarah Song and Eddie Wei for Road Scholar
      • Caleb Kong and Seth Durbin for Elastic Launched Glider
      • Anyang Yu and Joseph Norman for Crave the Wave
      • Maria Kosakova and John Kim for Solar System
      • James Lin and Fergal Hennessey for Bottle Rocket
      • Anyang Yu and Shria Chug for Fossils
      • Amy yang and Seth Durbin for Robo-Cross
      • Jason Chen and Steven Lian for Wheeled Vehicle
      • Fergal Hennessy and Jason Chen for Dynamic Planet
      • Maria Kosakova, Amy Yang, and James Lin for Picture This

Ames High School Science Olympiad team

Read about the second-and-third place high school teams.


Ames Middle School Science Olympiad team

Read about the second-and-third place middle school teams.

Read More

Half of state’s 2015 Presidential Scholar Semifinalists are from Ames


Ames High School seniors Rachel Kim, Akash Mitra and Kushan Tyagi were selected as national semifinalists to advance to the final round of this year’s U.S. Presidential Scholars competition. From nearly 3.3 million graduating high school seniors, more than 4,300 students were identified as candidates in the program, and 565 semifinalists have been selected from across the countryas the pool from which the 2015 U.S. Presidential Scholars will be chosen. Only Six students from Iowa were selected as semifinalists.


L-R: Rachel Kim, Akash Mitra, Kushan Tyagi

The other three Iowa semifinalists are Laurel Dusek, Cedar Rapids George Washington High School; Edward Yao, Coralville West High School; and Rachel Schneider, Des Moines Roosevelt High School.

Read More
Juicebox Interactive