Thursday, December 18, 2008

Toys for Tots

Sioux Trail was not included in the district release of information about holiday activities at schools, but our students and families continue to make a difference in the lives of others. When we started the planning process we worked hard to keep this collection low key because this can be a tough time of the year and we didn't want to add additional pressure. Our experience with the Sally Foster fundraiser should have taught me a better lesson. I had heard stories from other schools in ISD 191 about declining totals from fundraisers and expected a similar result. What I did not expect was for us to exceed totals from previous years and that is exactly what happened. Along similar lines I didn't expect that we would collect a great deal of toys, but the total is over 100 toys and climbing. The number of toys that are in, on and around a table in our Media Center is really impressive. Each one of these toys will make a positive impact on a child in Minnesota and this thought is very powerful. Sixth grade student have been collecting non-perishable food during the first week of each month and that was suspended for December and replaced with the Toys for Tota drive. I will load all of the toys into my truck and take them to a Toys for Tots drop off location tomorrow morning.
Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays to all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ESL Family Night

This is a new event for Sioux Trail. Megan Gonzalez, ESL teacher, is responsible for the idea and for organizing the event. She recruited a terrific team of volunteers and the turn out was almost too many! Megan designed ESL Family Night as a way to bring in our ESL families, let them get more familiar with Sioux Trail and continue to build relationships with them. We had over 50 participants and the activities included bilingual bingo, Jenga, picture / shape bingo, concentration and a bean bag toss. Juice and cookies were available and there were lots of prizes for the winners of the various games. The Sioux Trail PTO supported the event with volunteers, food and prizes.

ESL family Night is not a one time event. The theme for next ESL Family Night is arts and crafts. This should be another great time to make connections and interact with one another.

Hats off to Mrs. Gonzalez for starting a terrific tradition at Sioux Trail.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve activities

On Wednesday, November 26 we had some additional excitement at Sioux Trail. Here are some photos from the activities. These two photos are from the second grade feast. The food was traditional thanksgiving food, including corn bread, apple cider and popcorn. The clothing that the student wore reflected their heritage and there were some wonderful outfits and represetnations of the student's ancestry.

The next two photos are from the Stone Soup cookoff in first grade. The first graders each brought in various vegetables from home, prepared them and then made Stone Soup using the book "Stone Soup" as the recipe. It wouldn't be complete without some songs and Thanksgiving jokes and both classes pulled it off without a hitch.

Mr. Khamratthanome set Wednesday as the day for the fifth graders to launch the catapults they had been working on. Tuesday was testing day and there was a fair bit of fine tunining to do. On Wednesday the fifth graders took over the gym and had a shooting for distance and accuracy contest. Mr. Bones was set up on a moving target and got hit with lots of flying corks. This was a great hands on science activity that is good example of application of what had been learned.

Saturday, November 22 - Book Fair

Saturday, November 22nd was our book fair at Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble runs the book fair the entire time they are open - 9am - 11pm and contributes 15% of a purchase for anyone who makes a purchase and uses the prepared flier or tells the clerk that are with Sioux Trail. We raised over $3,000 and 15% of that comes back to our PTO.

We had an author and an illustrator join us for the event and several teachers and parents also came and read aloud. The 4th graders joined us and under the guidance of Mrs. Willemssen sang some wonderful songs. This brought in a number of families and helped to build the excitement.

Here are a couple of photos from the event.
The 4th grade students singing with Mrs. Willemssen

Illustrator David Geister shares his work in the book "Legend of Wisconsin".

Friday, November 21, 2008

S p e l l i n g B e e

Today was our Spelling Bee and we had 21 contestants. Our judges were Dr. DeeDee Currier; retired principal and ISD 191 board member elect, Vicki Roy; Chair of the ISD 191 School Board and Elizabeth Kautz; Burnsville Mayor. Mrs. MaryLou Foster was the pronouncer and Spelling Bee officiant. Mr. Barton and Mrs. Laatsch are the Sioux Trail Spelling Bee Coordinators.

All total there were 144 spelling words (not including the words used during the practice rounds). The Spelling Bee started at 9:30 and concluded at approximatley 11:20. We had a very attentive audience that included families, community members and students from grades 2-6.

The words that the contestants were asked to spell were challenging. Here a some of the spelling words that our contestants were asked to spell. I selected these as these are the words that a contestant misspelled.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Math Night is Magnificent

Organized by Mr. Barton and Mrs. Laatsch, Sioux Trail's Night is a perfect example of what we are all about - learning with a twist of fun! The energy in the room was high and it was all about math. Our gym was transformed from a space where students are usually very physically active to place where families were very mentally active. There were at least 8 different stations that families could rotate through. Each station had a different math activity that engaged students in applying mathematics skills from all of the various strands that make up mathematics.

As always we have terrific volunteers that help make these events a success and several teachers stayed to be a part of this great event.

Tuesday night was a busy night for many families, going to Burger King Night and then back to Sioux Trail for Math Night. Our sixth graders continued making progress towards their goal of raising money for an end of the year send off by selling concessions at Math Night. Thank you to the families that assisted with that ongoing endeavor.

In February we'll be hosting Literacy Night. Last year was the first year for Literacy Night and we're very excited to continue this great opportunity - stay tuned for more details!

Friday, November 14, 2008

This rocket is "can-structed" entirely out of cans and is part of the ongoing food collection that Sioux Trail sixth grade students are leading. The idea was to collect canned food in November and then use the collected cans to construct a model. The designers selected a rocket and set to work. Cub donated the cart and we used it to store the canned food. The initial construction took over two weeks as additional building materials were required. In the end Sioux Trail families brought in over 400 cans which equaled over 570 pounds of food.

The sixth grade students posing for the picture are in Mrs. Istas' class and are the class responsible for bringing in over 1/4 of the entire cans. On Thursday the rocket was disassembled and delivered to the Eagan Resource Center.

Today (Friday, 11/14) Susan Schmidt and her crew of volunteers took over the same space (and the rest of the main hall) to sort and disitribute the Sally Foster and cookie dough that was purchased through our fall fundraiser. The fundraiser surpassed all expectations and according to inside sources we raised more money that some of the larger ISD 191 elementary schools! Thanks to all of the Sioux Trail familes and community members for their support.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Increased access to technology

Mr. Kleven asked his third grade class to join him for part of their lesson in room 216. Room 216 is being used a multi-purpose space this year. Mr. Kleven was using it because he wanted to share website on American Indians with the entire class. Thanks to a donation from our PTO this classroom is equipped with an LCD projector.

The third graders were collecting information on the different lifestyles of American Indians. Mr. Kleven was able to pull up webpages with information, share this with students and then let them engage in selecting what the appropriate type of shelter for each area would be.

At Sioux Trail we have LCD projectors in the following areas:
  • Media Center
  • Upstairs Computer Lab
  • Downstairs Computer Lab
  • Science classroom
  • Music Classroom
We have been able to increase teacher access to these important tools through help from the PTO, a grant from Glaskow, Smith, Kline (through one of our parents) and money budgeted for capital expenditures.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Election Day

November 4 is election day and Sioux Trail hosts precinct #1 voters. Those that are in the know are predicting very large turnouts so it will be an exciting day at Sioux Trail.

Previous elections have always been in the main hallway, but this year the elections are in the gym. The easiest access to the polls will from the rear parking lot. All voters are asked to part in the back lot and enter through door #7.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tie Day!

Tie day started off as a pretty informal thing, but it is growing in popularity. Here is today's tie wearing crew. This is open to anyone that wants to wear a necktie to school. I think Mr. Khamratthanome and Mr. Kleven started this, but lots of people are getting involved and having fun. Thursday is tie day!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

MAP Assessment Information

You are invited to an informational session on the MAP assessment. This is an opportunity for families of students in 2nd - 6th grade to meet with Mr. Akin, learn more about the Measure of Academic Progress and get answers to questions you still have. Please note that Mr. Akin may not have time answer specific questions about your child or an individual score. MAP information night is on Tuesday, October 28 at 6:00 PM in the Sioux Trail Media Center. Please contact Mr. Akin at (952) 707-3301 or with questions or for more details on the informational session.

Can’t attend the session, but still want additional information on MAP? Try these websites:

NWEA Website:

Lexile Website:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fire Safety

Burnsville firefighters visited Sioux Trail today and met with students in Kindergarten, Grade Two and Grade Four. Firefighter Brian is reviewing his turnout gear with kindergartners and going over the various parts, what they do and why he wears it.

Daylight savings time is coming up soon and this is a great time to check your smoke detectors and replace batteries. Unlike a remote control or other battery operated appliance you don't want to wait until your smoke detector batteries are dead before replacing them. Firefighters recommend testing your smoke detectors once a month and replacing the batteries when you reset your clock (Daylight Savings Time).

We have at least five fire drills each year at school. Families should also have fire drills at home. Practice makes perfect and when there is an emergency you do not want to waste time getting out of your home. Create your plan, set a meeting place for everyone when they get outside and then practice it.After chatting with firefighters in the media center the students got a chance to visit the fire engine and and an ambulance. I thought this was a great photo, because it captured the truck, Sioux Trail and the students. When I looked closer I noticed that three of the firefighters are leaning on the fence, no they aren't taking a break, they are cheering on Firefighter Brian (the guy in the turn out gear) as he runs laps with students. Another great role model at Sioux Trail!

Here is a great web resource for more information on fire prevention:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The break that we all refer to as "MEA" is upon us. MEA refers to the Minnesota Education Association which ceased to exist ten years ago. MEA was one of two teacher's unions in Minnesota, the other union was the MFT or Minnesota Federation of Teachers. Both unions were integrated into one that is now Education Minnesota. the MEA break exists because there is a professional conference in St. Paul that is designed for educators, but open to the public.

This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in education (public, private or any other kind!) to learn more and better themselves. Teachers in most public schools are not paid for these days (at Sioux Trail teachers have Wednesday off for working two 12 hour days with conferences and Thursday and Friday are not paid days).

Yes, it is a great conference with some good professional development activities, but there is also great benefit from a couple of days off to rejuvenate and rest from the typical work week that averages 50-60 hours.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The art of teaching

This is but one example of the incredible work that takes place at Sioux Trail. Teaching isn't easy and takes a lot of work in order to engage all learners and it is an ongoing challenge to make that learning exciting. Here is an excellent example of how great teachers pull all of these things together.

The photographs are from the first grade Dinosaur Dig which involved learning on many different levels. The first graders started the lesson with an expert in paleontology. While the students were learning the basics the set up was taking place outside. Several volunteers were burying "dinosaur bones" and setting up the dig site. After the first graders knew how to properly work the dig site they set out in small teams to conduct a dig. They worked meticulously using toothbrushes and trowels to unearth the mysteries from another time (even if it was just minutes ago). After they had a collection of bones they assembled them to form the animal that may have been there, drew it and wrote about it as a team.

I captured one example, but there are many others taking place at Sioux Trail.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

National Fire Prevention Month

Tomorrow (October 5) is the first day of fire prevention week. In addition to being an educator I am also a firefighter in Lakeville. The basic idea is that as firefighters we are trying to put ourselves out of business.

We practice fire drills on a regular basis at school and families need to do the same thing at home, but most families do not. It is important to establish a routine for evacuating the house, have a meeting place outside of the home for the family to gather and account for everyone and then practice the routine. There needs to be a primary evacuation route and then a secondary route. When daylight savings time rolls around it is an excellent time to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and test them.

I have the opportunity to talk to students about being a firefighter on a regular basis and one of things I have shared with them is that I host a cable television program for the Lakeville Fire Department. The program is accessible in iTunes by searching "Lakeville Fire Department", the show is produced every other month and is also available on the city of Lakeville's website on the Government Television page. Here is the link:

Friday, September 26, 2008


Last night (9/25) was our first PTO meeting of the year and we had a terrific turn out. Our next challenge will be to keep attendance numbers this high. The PTO is very important to Sioux Trail; they make a difference by making our connection between school and family even stronger, running fund raising activities and and supporting the learning and infusing fun into our community.

Some of the agenda items from last night included:
  • Reports from the principal, the treasurer and the volunteer coordinator
  • Updates on Sally Foster, Harvest Fest and the Book Fair
  • A proposal to get Art Masterpiece and Music Bravo up and running for the 2008-09 school year (we need more volunteers)
  • A proposal to purchase and sell "Spirit Wear" (clothing with the logo on it - watch for it soon!)
  • Recaps of the fall clean up and Burger King night (we cleaned up the exterior of Sioux Trail and it looks GREAT and we raised over $90 at BK!)
  • An Update on Wish Lists (up to $10,000 is being granted as I type!)
  • New items include: School Supply Kits, an online fundraiser and use the bouncies

The next PTO meeting is October 23 at 6:30 PM

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It looks GREAT!



Without question the best way to appreciate the change in the appearance of Sioux Trail is to come visit and take a look for yourself. We had a team of approximately 70 very hard workers who made an almost magical transformation. One of the most impressive things was how well all of the pieces came together. We laid out the basic plan to all that were present at 2pm and everyone jumped right into the work. Each participant found their niche and within a couple of hours all of the unwanted plants were gone, lots of plants we do want had been transplanted, the edging had been re-positioned and many volunteers were enjoying a hot dog.

Thank you to all the worked ahead of time to make this possible, thank you to those that we able to work on Saturday and thanks to those that continue to work behind the scenes after the event. A special note of thanks is due to Waste Management for donating the dumpster and to Robin Pintozzi for filling out the application and making all of the dumpster related arrangements.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Sign Says it All

Waste Management donated the dumpster that we hope to fill.
We need Sioux Trail families & community members to donate their time and energy on Saturday, September 20 from 2 - 5pm.

In addition to taking advantage of your free labor we will feed you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I hope this picture is detailed enough that you can see what Mr. Khamratthanome is backing away from. The objective of his lesson was for students to question what is happening and then develop different ideas about what happened and how it happened. This was a great activity that had a lot of student walking back in school with lots of theories and ideas.

For those of you that can't see the picture well, a couple of Menthos were dropped into a bottle of Diet Coke and the photograph is capturing the reaction.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Trouble-some Baked Good

Well it happened again - Mrs. Kunkel, our full day Kindergarten Teacher, made and baked a gingerbread man with her class. After he was loaded into the oven he escaped, and what may have looked like time dedicated to learning their way around a new school was really a hunt for the missing gingerbread man. After a long search, including a trip to the science classroom, the gym, media center and nurse's office he was found lounging on a chair outside of Mr. Akin's office!

He was captured (Mr. Glende is standing by with a net in case he attempts to escape again!), taken back to class and devoured!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First Day

The first day was a wonderful success! I went home at 9pm totally wiped out, but feeling very good. We had no major problems, a couple of upset kindergartners (but no upset parents that we saw), lots of excited students, a panther that was dancing in the gym and wonderfully supportive parents. Day 2 is underway and I'm excited and ready to continue our mission.

The photo on top is a photo of all Sioux Trail students (a.k.a. -the Panthers) in the gym for our first day of school assembly. The second photos is of classes filling up the gym before the assembly started.

Monday, September 1, 2008

It All Started Here!

My Dad and his wife, Rachel, passed through Minnesota on their way to Alaska in June. When they passed through Minnesota we spent some time setting up a blog for them to track their progress. This was the impetus to get the Sioux Trail Panther Pages blog started. No, I'm not going to Alaska this summer, but I am planning on being at Sioux Trail for the first day of school tomorrow and I'm VERY excited!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Single Digits

We had a volunteer at school the other day (he donated a semi trailer for the Sixth Grade service project) and he told me that he remembered when the countdown was at 88 days until school starts. At the date of this posting we're down to five days!

Tuesday is the day!

My first "first day of school" was on Monday, August 25 and it was a great success along with a very busy week this week. The classrooms are clean, organized and ready for student. The kitchen is fully stocked with food and most importantly the teachers are ready to begin instruction and restart the formal learning process.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fill that Truck!

At tonight's Open House the sixth grade students will begin a year long food drive. Their plan is to collect a semi trailer full of food. We won't keep the semi trailer all school year, but we are fortunate to have the trailer on loan to us as an inspiration. This photo was taken yesterday (Tuesday 8/26) which is important because thunderstorms moved through this morning and the banner look a little different. There will be more information to come including how people that access to the the collected food can get it for their families.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First Day Pt 1

I suspect that there will be two "first days of school" for me. Tomorrow is first day Part 1. Monday is the first day for all ISD 191 staff to return and will be an exciting day for me. This marks the official beginning of my first school year as an elementary school principal. I'm very excited to start the school year.

Dr .Geneva Gay is the keynote presenter at the all staff meeting. Dr. Clegg will also be addressing the group and we're in a similar spot as as this also the start of his first school year in ISD 191. I believe Dr. Clegg is going to set the tone for the school year and that Dr. Gay is going to emphasize the work we must continue to do with our student population.

First day part two is when the life of the school return and the 410 students that are enrolled at Sioux Trail come back into the classrooms. I'm very excited about that and I hope I'm well rested!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Moving Right Along

And I thought we weren't going to move! At the end of the 2007-08 school year we met at a staff meeting and after reviewing several plans for the layout of the building, decided to go with the "as is" plan. That plan made us through most of the summer - all the way until Monday.

On Monday we began moving classrooms within Sioux Trail. Here is where we are right now:
  • Both first grade classrooms moved to room 109 (Mrs. Mosher) and room 110 (Mrs. Horwart). These are affectionately known as the "portables".
  • The science classroom is in room 118. Most people that are familiar with Sioux Trail know this as the "old" art room. It is now the "new" science room.
  • We also have a new science teacher. Pat Mosey applied for a transfer to Hidden Valley and Dan West is joining us at Sioux Trail. Mr. West has been teaching for over 12 years with a passion for science and is a welcome addition to Sioux Trail.
  • Margie Podominick is moving is to room 215 (a.k.a. Mr.s Horwart's old room). Mrs. Podominick will be teaching fifth grade with Ms Brandon and Mrs. Laatsch. Mrs. Podominick is new to Sioux Trail, but not new to teaching, she has been working with elementary students for over 20 years.
We have one more week until school starts - keep checking the marquis!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Still going . . .

The countdown until the first day of school continues! It isn't dominating the marquis, but it front and center in many of our minds! On the marquis you can look for the countdown in the lower right-hand corner. There were 22 days left when I took the picture. Thanks for the votes.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

September 20

These smiling faces belong to some of the members of the final summer meeting of the environmental club. We re-scheduled the July meeting because of rain and met on Thursday, August 7. The transformation is amazing. We began work along the front of the school near the first grade classrooms and I noticed the biggest difference in cutting and then digging out the trash trees that have planted themselves there.

September 20 is the Sioux Trail Clean up event and I am optimistic that we will have a high turnout from members of the Sioux trail community. My hope is that there are enough folks to get all of the clean up completed and then make fine tuning the landscaping a regular thing.

Like the smiling faces in the photograph we will have fuel to keep the work crews going.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Countdown

Mr. Glende started "the countdown" on the marquis shortly after the 2007-08 school year came to an end. He has been updating it every weekday throughout the summer. We gotten mixed reviews on the countdown. My philosophy on countdowns is that we countdown to good things, like the beginning of summer or the new year. As educators we see that start of the school year as a good thing, this is an opportunity to continue our work with students and to help students increase their academic achievement. At the posting of this blog there is less than one month until the start of school and I am looking forward to having a school full of students and staff.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


You wouldn't know it by looking at the grass in the pictures, but our "weeding party" got rained out today! We have had two weeding parties this summer and today was to be our third and final party. We had some thunderstorms that came through and rained out the party. The rain was badly needed and we still need a lot more. We're going to reschedule our weeding event for Thursday, August 7 from 9 to 10 a.m.

The two pictures are as close to before and after shots as I can get. The photograph on the top is one of the landscape beds directly in front of the school that needs some serious help. The photograph on the bottom is one of the landscape beds along the main sidewalk. This landscape bed has some small weeds in it, but has made dramatic improvements from the beginning of summer when it was very overgrown.

The PTO has scheduled a Sioux Trail clean up event for Saturday, September 20 from 2 to 5pm. All are invited and I'm optimistic that we'll have a terrific turnout and go from landscaping that needs a lot of help to landscaping that needs a little clean up here and there.