Thomas Watts reads to Woofie
Carbon School District Press Release
Woofie is her name and she is a reading tutor.
Well not exactly, but she does listen.
Woofie, a Yorkshire Terrier, works with kids at Bruin Point Elementary to help them to read better by being the best listener there can be, even if she does lay on a blanket with her eyes closed and sometimes sleeps.
“It all began years ago when I was involved with Active Re-Entry in the PAWS program,” said Principal Dina Wise. “It was then that I learned about the power that dogs have to make people comfortable, especially students.”
Woofie is not at the school all the time but makes the trek with Wise every Thursday and Friday to perform her assigned duties.
But that isn’t the only thing that is new to the ever more important reading program at the school. Wise said that a book Superintendent Lance Hatch provided everyone with at the beginning of the school year (“Conferring with Readers”) has been a great influence on what is going on in the reading program on the campus. Teachers are participating in a book study as well as working on their Reading Essential Standards outside of regular school hours. This is made possible through the help of State School Lands Trust Program money that was approved by the school’s community council. She said due to the strategies that the faculty is learning, they are better able to understand students strengths and weaknesses and how to support them.
“Woofie has not gone through the training, but she does confer with readers,” said Wise. “She brings out the best in all students and they are motivated to work hard on their reading skills to show her the improvements they are making each week.”
As with all schools in the district, the reading program is a huge emphasis at Bruin Point Elementary this year. The leveled reading program is making great strides, not only in the successes that are happening but also in helping educators find spots where more work needs to be done.
Wise said the support on the reading program from the district, as well as from the community council that allows for a stipend for teachers to take extra time to do the studies they have been undertaking, is great. She sees progress everywhere. She stated that some students in the school have already moved up as many as seven levels.
“In fact, we just got a shipment of $5,000 worth of books for the leveling program delivered,” she stated. “Between the Raz-Kids (a program on the Internet) that has all the different books online and the books we have in the school, the students have plenty of opportunities to get just the right reading material for each of them.”
Wise said that they are training the kids so that if they find a book they are interested in and it’s not on their designated level, they can self-monitor to see if it is just the right book.
“Self-selection of books is very important to student’s reading motivation,” she stated.
As far as activities go, the library did a student-made ornament contest during the holidays. The ornaments on the tree were judged by Liz Holt from East Carbon City. She said that some of third, fourth and fifth graders also made Christmas cards in the library and took them over to the East Carbon Senior Center this past season for the seniors there.
The Bruin Point Student Leaders sponsored a mitten/scarf/glove drive for the month of December and the items were hung in the cafeteria for all to see. They were then distributed; first to the students at Bruin Point and then the remaining ones were donated to the Children’s Justice Center.
She said the school is working hard to build partnerships with the community in various ways, including combining programs they have with other activities in the area. The school has worked with the East Carbon community on their Third Friday celebrations as well as helping support Junior Jazz and encouraging student-athletes that participate in the popular wrestling program in the area.
“I love it when I greet the students in the morning and the first thing they share with me is their sports successes,” stated Wise. “They love bringing their medals to school to share their accomplishments.”
The STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) partnership with the Sunnyside Co-Generation Power Plant also continues to grow. The “science” closet in the school is lined with materials and kits to be used by teachers. The whole program exists largely due to donations from the plant.
“The fifth grade has some very amazing microscopes they can hook up to a smart phone for a better view,” explained Wise.
She also talked about a STEM Academy program she is attending that has people from throughout the region involved. Largely composed of school principals from many districts, she said they have seen some wonderful things and said that STEM is not just about the disciplines mentioned in its name, but to get students to think creatively, critically and learn to become problem solvers.
“When I started this, I was thinking more along the lines of what the kids built in STEM,” she said. “But it is really the problem solving along with critical thinking and the soft skills that blossom there. It is about collaborating, something that is our district’s goal professionally with the Professional Learning Communities. It is fun to see the kids engaged and working together to solve problems.”
She said one of the things that kids need to learn is that STEM can teach that criticism of something they do is not a negative, but a growing experience. Students need to learn that if they do something and it isn’t quite right, they can learn from their mistakes, find the problem and correct it. She then pointed to a bulletin board in the school’s office that says it all: In This School, Mistakes Are Expected, Respected, Inspected and Corrected.
“We need to teach students to accept that what they do sometimes will be criticized and that they need to learn to grow from that and not take it in a bad way,” she said.
Wise stated these are hard lessons to learn, especially at such young ages and this is where the school utilizes more dog power. They are fortunate enough to have two PAWS dogs, Logan and Baxter, that also work with the school’s counselor Mrs. Bailey. They help her teach character education, social-emotional and hygiene lessons. The dogs also help kids to learn to listen and follow directions as well. All the dogs involved really enhance the positive learning environment at Bruin Point.