Education news from around Idaho

Boise groups partner to offer Pre-K dance classes

Dozens of preschool students stomped around their living rooms in unison Wednesday, pretending they were elephants. Flopping to their bellies, they slithered like snakes. Then they were hummingbirds, flapping their wings.

Boise dance teacher Megan Brandel reads a book to students before asking them to dance through the animal’s movements.

Nearly 40 kids from Boise to Sandpoint registered for dance teacher Megan Brandel’s first online dance lessons, a collaboration between Boise-area nonprofits including JUMP, Brandel’s Open Arms Dance Project, and Idaho Parents Unlimited, an organization that works with caregivers of youth with special health needs or disabilities.

The online classes — which Brandel will host over Zoom twice a week for the next month — are an attempt to help engage youngsters with and without disabilities, with physical activity.

“It’s just our mission, Open Arms, to create greater joy and compassion in the community with dance that opens hearts minds and arms,” Brandel said. “I thought this fit right into our mission to enliven people’s little home spaces with joyful preschoolers dancing around together.”

And dance, they did.

From an empty studio space at Boise’s JUMP, Brandel read the students a book, then led them through dances and stretches. Kids clad in tutus, Pokemon hats and swim goggles followed along, jumping through homemade obstacle courses and pretending to be dancing versions of the Statue of Liberty.

Beatrice Labenski participates in Megan Brandel’s virtual dance class. Courtesy of the Labenski family.

The hourlong class ended with a moment of quiet reflection. Brandel asked kids to snuggle up with something cozy, relax and think back on their favorite part of dance class before saying goodbye.

The relaxation was a highlight for 4-year-old Beatrice Labenski. Labenski takes regular dance lessons with Brandel through the preschool program at Wesleyan Preschool.

Parents Ed and Cynthia have been hiking with Beatrice, looking for wildflowers and doing some preschool education programs from home. But Wednesday was the first time that Beatrice connected with a teacher and other students in a virtual classroom-like setting, Ed Labenski said.

She got to practice her moves — and show her parents the dances she works on at school.

“She was really excited to see Megan and the other kids. She knew all of the moves and we could just see it in her face, in her smile that she was connected,” Cynthia Labenski said. “That she was back into the classroom and she felt part of something.”

Brandel’s classes are free and open for 3- to 6-year-olds and toddlers with an adult dance partner. They will be streamed on Zoom Wednesday and Friday for the next five weeks. To register, email Megan Brandel at [email protected].

Idaho students named as Presidential Scholar semifinalists

Six Idaho students have qualified as semifinalists for the U.S. Presidential Scholars program, which honors high school seniors. State superintendent Sherri Ybarra nominated the students, who were considered because of their SAT or ACT scores.

Nominees include:

  • Blaine Dillingham, Timberline High School.
  • Jayanth Mouli, Boise High School.
  • Siddharth Raghav Naidu, Boise High School.
  • Matteya Ann Proctor, Deary High School.
  • Zoe Simon, Wood River High School.
  • Jieyan Wang, Moscow High School.

The semifinalists were selected from more than 5,200 nominees from all 50 states. Each state will have two finalists named from this list, a boy and a girl. Finalists will be selected in May, and typically receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to receive their awards, but this year’s trip could be postponed.

“Congratulations to these remarkable students, their families and their schools,” Ybarra said in a news release. “The national Presidential Scholars program honors distinguished graduating seniors who have ‘demonstrated scholarship, leadership, artistic excellence and selfless service to others.’ Involvement in their schools and communities is an important part of their qualifications.”

Top Maker schools receive awards for STEM programs

Eight Idaho schools won cash awards from the STEM Action Center to enhance or build advanced manufacturing programs, as a result of their participation in the 2019-20 MakerMinded competition, which connects students to advanced manufacturing and STEM experiences through an online platform.

Four schools were recognized for outstanding performance:

  • White Pine Charter School, Ammon: $3,500.
  • Basin 5-8, Idaho City: $3,000.
  • Syringa Middle School, Caldwell: $2,500.
  • White Pine STEM Academy, Ammon: $2,500.

Four schools were recognized for their participation:

  • Heritage Academy, Jerome: $600.
  • Aberdeen Middle School: $300.
  • Burley Junior High School: $200.
  • New Plymouth High School: $50.

“With the manufacturing sector continuing to play a critical role in Idaho’s economy, we are focused on increasing students’ and schools’ participation in MakerMinded as a means to gain the skills and experiences students need to prepare for the STEM jobs of tomorrow,” said Angela Hemingway,  Idaho STEM Action Center executive director.

Sami Edge

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