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Farm-to-lunch-table program helps Colorado students understand that food doesn’t just come from the supermarket

The Denver Post – Monte Whaley

“Condon is part of a national movement started in 2009 by Chef Ann Cooper aimed at helping schools get access to fresh, healthy food. Cooper began the Chef Ann Foundation to head-off a national obesity epidemic among school kids and to ensure they avoid diet-related diseases. “We just wanted to try and make sure every kid has access to fresh and from-scratch meals,” said Cooper, who also is also director of Food Services for the Boulder Valley School District. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Cooper has 40 years of experience as a chef, including 17 years in school food programs. She speaks nationally about efforts to change how school districts feed students. Cooper uses programs such as Project Produce to provide tools, training, resources and funding to alter school lunches so they offer more fresh alternatives. So far, the Chef Ann Foundation has reached more than 7,000 schools and 2.6 million children in all 50 states.”(more)

Denver Expands Choice and Charters

Education Next – David Osborne

“Some of the most dramatic gains in urban education have come from school districts using what’s known as a “portfolio strategy.” Under this approach, districts negotiate performance agreements with public schools—traditional, charter, and hybrid models. The arrangement affords school leaders substantial autonomy to handcraft their schools to fit the needs of their students. Districts give parents choices among the schools while working to replicate successful schools and replace failing ones.”(more)

Years into changes, Colorado schools still struggle balancing discipline

The Denver Post – Yesenia Robles

“Peace circles, mediation and refocusing. They’re tools that teachers are now using in most districts as alternatives to sending students to the principal’s office. It’s a shift away from zero-tolerance policies that became the norm after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, which left 13 dead. Those policies had some parents upset when schools suspended students who missed too many days from school or chewed gum in class, or they called the police on children with toy guns. Researchers say the strict policies were unevenly applied to students of color and served to disengage students from school without looking into why they may have been acting up.”(more)

Rube Goldberg machines teach students physics

The Denver Post – Ann Butler

“Families of freshmen at Animas High School have found it difficult to make breakfast during the last month or so. The students borrowed coffee makers, toasters, waffle irons, pancake griddles and even cereal and milk to create their Rube Goldberg machines — a complex and creative way to achieve simple tasks. The project was part of teacher Brian Morgan’s physics and earth sciences class. To make their machines, they used springs, gears, pulleys, wheels, dominoes, ramps, levers, mousetraps, funnels, ball bearings, marbles, golf balls and parts from games, not to mention duct tape, lots of duct tape. But the lesson wasn’t the task; it was a hands-on way to see how different physics principles work. “We learned about acceleration, force and transference,” said Emma Poitras, who, with partners Sierra DesPlanques and Ella Brown, created a 14-step toaster process. Their machine included a cellphone set to vibrate that kicked off the steps by pushing a ball bearing down a tube. “We also learned construction skills,” Emma said. “I didn’t even know what a drill bit was, and we used an electric saw, too.” The complexity of the machines reduced the effectiveness of the task completion. Some teams said their machines failed completely. Emma, Ella and Sierra’s machine managed to toast four slices of bread.”(more)

How a School Project Made City Planners Out of Teens

The Atlantic – Jackie Zubrzycki

“Last spring, Chris DeRemer, a geography teacher at Manual High School in Denver’s Whittier neighborhood, found out his district was considering opening a new middle school in the same building as Manual. While Denver Public Schools’ enrollment is growing quickly and the district is pressed for space, most of the first floor of Manual’s three-story building is used by administrators, not students. The high school also has no middle school directly feeding into it, which has led enrollment to drop steadily in recent years. But filling that space with preteens and a brand-new middle school would inevitably change Manual’s academic and social environment. “For [the students] to not have a voice in that, that was not okay,” DeRemer said. DeRemer decided to use the district’s plan as a teaching opportunity. He outlined a project for his Advanced Placement Human Geography class, aimed at fulfilling course goals such as reading and interpreting data and defining regions.”(more)