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A classroom full of young humanitarians

In a series of mini-editorials, we salute a Dixon teacher for showing her students how to be humanitarians, and tip our hat to several Sterling teachers for creating an innovative summer reading program.

Published: Friday, May 31, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

The SVM Editorial Board shares random thoughts today in several mini-editorials.

Helping make life

better globally

The focus this time of year usually is on students who graduate, not those who remain behind in school.

However, we’d like to tip our hat to seventh-graders at Reagan Middle School in Dixon for their participation in a global humanitarian project that demonstrably helps others.

The students are in Tracy Kitzman’s class. For the past 4 years, Kitzman has let her students decide what project to pursue.

This year, students raised money to help drill water wells for impoverished settlements in Africa. Their goal is $2,500; as of last week, they needed to raise about $700 more. (If you want to contribute, call the school at 815-284-7725.)

The money will go to Heifer International and its clean drinking water project.

The 28 students divided the project tasks among them, thus learning valuable lessons about teamwork. They also learned about public health and how important safe drinking water is to a community.

And they learned, indirectly, how blessed they are to live in a community with enough water for everyone, and where unsafe drinking water is not a scourge.

“Saving the world one well at a time” is their motto. It sounds as if they are well on their way toward fulfilling it.

By the way, previous seventh-grade classes raised money to alleviate hunger in Africa and for earthquake relief in Haiti.

We congratulate Tracy Kitzman for teaching her students how to be caring humanitarians. We hope they go forth and do future good works.

Good system for

summer reading

Teachers and parents have long urged students to read during the summer. Studies have proved that summer reading helps young minds retain learning skills from one grade to the next.

With good intentions, many a pupil and parent embark on summer reading projects, only to falter as the weeks pass.

What’s needed is a better way to systemize summer reading.

Two teachers at Franklin Elementary School in Sterling believe they have done it.

Heather Wittenauer and Peg Wills created a guided summer reading program for their first-graders last year, about 40 in all. This year, with the help of reading specialist Melanie Selmi, about 80 students are involved.

The program is tailored to the reading proficiency of each student. Personalized reading kits include several dozen books, a calendar, and worksheets.

As Wittenauer said: “It takes all the guesswork out of it. The books are in order in the bags. And they’re at the right levels.”

The structured program won positive feedback from parents last summer. Test data confirmed that participating students retained more of their reading skills.

We are excited about the systematic, personalized approach of the Franklin program. The Sterling Schools Foundation deserves credit for financially backing the project.

We salute Franklin School and its teachers for their innovative work, and we encourage those 80 young readers to have a happy and profitable summer.

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