Kettle Falls: Engaging in Real Work

IMG_3029-1by Val McKern

Kettle Falls Elementary School believes that by engaging kids in authentic work, attitudes can change toward both work and community.  As a second grader, Todd started the year with little interest in school, had a difficult time focusing on discussions and avoided work whenever possible.

His teacher sought ways to help him stay focused but he continued to struggle.  In January, the second graders began seeking the answer to the question “What does it take for wood ducks to survive in the Colville River ecosystem and how can we help?”

Todd was initially intrigued by the fieldwork to the Colville River and became an exemplary student while studying the ecosystem.

As Todd became more engaged in determining how humans impact the ecosystem in both positive and negative ways, he became more focused.  Soon it was Todd leading the discussions during the science talks and sharing how to improve the Colville River ecosystem for wood ducks. He became adamant about protecting the ecosystem, encouraging students to “leave no trace”.  When reading difficult texts, Todd was engaged and even asked to move to a quiet place to study before participating in group protocols.

Each success for Todd led to a new success.  When writing his final product, a wood duck narrative based on fact, Todd continuously sought excellence through revisions, even asking to stay in during recess to perfect his writing.  His pursuit of excellence transferred to artwork and handwriting, where high quality became Todd’s goal.  His work was selected to send to the Cornell Ornithology Lab newsletter.

When the opportunity came to present their findings at the Ducks Unlimited Banquet on a Saturday evening, Todd completed his application letter promptly.  Once selected, he practiced during recesses to perfect his presentation.

Todd’s enthusiasm for helping wood ducks survive was clear as he shared the trail camera photos of nine wood duck drakes that were near the nesting box that Todd had built and the actual eggshells from two different duck species that had used the nesting box during the spring.

Todd’s knowledge and love of wood ducks made his plea to support ecosystems moving and they were able to raise substantial funds for Ducks Unlimited by auctioning student artwork and nesting boxes.

By engaging our students in real work, Kettle Falls Elementary School students learn they can make a difference in their community while pursuing academic excellence.

Submitted by Val McKern, Principal
Kettle Falls Elementary School

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