Category Archives: Elementary schools

Kristy Yamaguchi scores gold with Greenfield Elementary students

Kristy Yamaguchi autographs books at Greenfield Elementary.

Olympic gold medalist skater Kristi Yamaguchi stole the show at Greenfield Elementary‘s recent Read-a-Thon kickoff.

Now also the author of two children’s book, Yamaguchi talked with students about her figure-skating past and her reasons for writing the books.

“When people ask how do you go from ice skating to dancing to becoming a children’s author, I tell them I’m inspired to do it for my daughters,” she said, referring to her stint on Dancing with the Stars and her 6- and 8-year-old girls. “Reading is important in our family, and we read at bedtime. I thought it would be fun to read a book Mommy wrote.”

It’s a Big World, Little Pig features a persistent, ice-skating pig named Poppy who travels to Paris to participate in the World Games. Though it may sound like Poppy and Yamaguchi are one and the same, Yamaguchi is quick to point out that is not so. “Poppy is made up,” she said. “I draw from the lessons I learned skating and my own experiences, but she is not me.”

Profits from the sale of both of her books go to her Always Dream Foundation, a non-profit, public charity whose “continuing goal is to find innovative ways to provide funding for a diverse range of programs designed to inspire and embrace the hopes and dreams of children and adolescents.”

Greenfield Elementary students filed out of the auditorium after Yamaguchi’s reading and question-and-answer session abuzz with excitement at having met an Olympic medalist. With visions of an adorable, skate-clad pig in their heads, they begin their own reading adventures. This year’s read-a-thon goal is to raise enough money to ensure a SMARTboard in every Greenfield Elementary classroom.

Information and photos submitted by Brenda Morreim, Gilbert Public Schools

Yamaguchi, now an honorary Gator, shows off the Greenfield Elementary shirt given to her by the school.


Fun photos from school: Centennial celebrations at Gilbert Public Schools

Seventh-grade students at Desert Ridge Junior High in Mesa were given the assignment to come up with creative ways to commemorate Arizona’s 100-year birthday. Projects ranged from 100 flags in front of the school to a quilt made by students to 100 acts of kindness.

Julie Rainwater’s class re-created the Arizona state flag in a desert setting using the five C’s: cotton, copper, climate, citrus, and cattle. Another project was to complete 100 acts of kindness.

Left to right: Samantha Schuelke, Rylee May and Fatima Rahim.

Collin Coyle-Brinkmeyer stands in front of a sign labeled with the 100 good deeds students had done in the last month.

The main hallway at Carol Rae Ranch Elementary in Gilbert showcased an enormous centennial paper quilt with 702 squares designed by students and other centennial posters and projects. The PTSO provided 10 birthday cakes so everyone could have a piece.

Carol Rae Ranch Principal Geane Flournoy and fourth-graders (from left) Caitlyn Strauss, Xavier Rollier, Abrey Huso, Kent Garner and Spencer Holt.

Meridian Elementary preschool classroom kicked off its study of Arizona’s desert with a visit from Wildman Phil of Desert Wildlife Presentations. He showed the children a variety of native reptiles and desert dwellers, starting with scorpions and tarantulas and moving up to lizards, king snakes and tortoises. The children were able to hold and touch most of the animals as they learned about their habitats and diets.

The highlight came when Phil brought out a giant python named Patches. Although the python isn’t native to Arizona, the children were fascinated with her enormous size, and the fact that it took the entire class to hold her.

Students in Gwynne Fullmer’s preschool class holding Patches the python. From left: Logan Kirshman, Jazelle Leavitt, Sayanette Gomez, Annabelle Betush, Neve Portnoy, Daenon Davis, and Madisyn Davis.

All photos courtesy of Gilbert Public Schools.

Want to see your school’s FUN photos featured? Send digital images and descriptions to:

City of Xiwang takes first in Future City

Veritas Homeschoolers won 1st place in the regional Future City Competition at the finals on Saturday, Jan. 28.

Front row: (from left) Jesse Friedman, Cambrie Hickman, Rachel Fisher, and Timothy Graunke. Back row: (from left) Guest speaker Randii Wessen, Ken Ekstrom and Mary Ann Ekstrom.

Students Jesse Friedman, project manager, Cambrie Hickman, Rachel Fisher and Timothy Fraunke  created the City of Xiwang – City of Hope in Taiwanese – an island off the coast of Taiwan in the year 2162. Their display included a monorail-type system with light up balls that moved around the perimeter of the city, a marina complete with fish inside and an entire underground view of systems and energy sources.

The students were guided by engineer mentor Ken Ekstrom and teacher and sponsor Mary Ann Ekstrom, who said the kids learned a lot through their participation in the competition.

“At this point we will begin preparing for the national competition by rethinking some of the questions they were asked by all the judges, considering other questions that may be raised or asked and talking with several energy experts,” Mary Ann said in a press release.

For the competition, each student group was required to write a 1,000-word essay describing their use of an alternate energy source that would generate electric power for their city without depleting natural resources. They then gave a presentation to judges.

Link to full essay

Required to use an alternate energy source, these students chose to use hydrogen boron fusion or HB fuse. The students also explained how solar power is used for energy and light. Rooftop gardens are aesthetically pleasing as well as practical for absorbing heat and all extra energy is sold to China through an underwater cable. They also say the city also has “smart buildings” equipped with advanced communication systems and an extensive amount of night life and activities.

Veritas homeschoolers were asked, “Why use solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels and fusion as energy sources?” To this they replied that these were all readily available and could be used as backups if an energy source failed.

Garden Lakes Elementary won 2nd place, Canyon Breeze Elementary were 3rd, Colonel Smith Middle School received a 4th place award and Orangedale Junior High won 5th place. Pictures of the 2nd through 5th place winning groups were taken by volunteer and pro-photographer John Jacoby, and can be seen in his online gallery. — Amy Vogelsang

FUN photos from school – Christmas, copters and a cool rock formation

First grade students at Christ's Church School in Paradise Valley as they prepared for Christmas. Photo courtesy of Stacy Walsh.

Stewart Christie, a product marketing engineer from Intel, shows robotics club members at Gilbert Classical Academy how the Pelikan Quadcopter from Ascending Technologies is built and operated. Photo courtesy of Gilbert Public Schools.

Stephanie Hernandez, a sophomore at Raymond S. Kellis High School in the Peoria Unified School District, took second place in the statewide Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) Jack Peterson Photo Contest. Stephanie's photo of Slide Rock was found to be exemplary by the panel of judges, which included the director of photography for Arizona Highways.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona launches seventh Walk On! Challenge

For six years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona’s Walk On! Challenge has been a component of many fifth-grade classrooms around Arizona. The challenge, now accepting registration for 2012, supports schools in efforts to teach the importance of good nutrition and physical activity.

The Walk On! Challenge is a free health and fitness challenge implemented in classrooms each year in February and designed to motivate fifth-grade students across Arizona to incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines for a healthier future.

“This program is having a positive impact in the lives of our students and they are more aware of healthy choices on a daily basis,” says Victoria Bonavito, P.E. teacher at Desert View Elementary in Washington School District, Phoenix. “At our school, the 5-2-1-0 goal helped point out our need for bottled water instead of juice at breakfast and lunch, something we may not have considered without the Walk On! Challenge.”

According to, nearly one-third of all children in Arizona are either overweight or obese. These children have an elevated risk for a range of health and social problems — now and in the future. And according to the American Public Health Association, among children and adolescents, the annual cost of treating obesity-related diseases has increased more than threefold, from $35 million to $127 million between 1979 and 1999.

“Making a difference in Arizona’s childhood obesity rates is going to take the work of a lot of different agencies, organizations and businesses working together,” says Richard Boals, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. “The success of our program over the past seven years and the feedback from teachers tells us we’re on the right track with the Walk On! Challenge. It’s now one of our core goals in the company to make an even bigger impact on the childhood obesity rate in Arizona in as many different ways as possible.”

In addition to providing information and materials for teachers to use in the classroom, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona offers five $5,000 grants to schools that participate in the program so they can continue teaching the importance of physical education and nutrition after the Challenge has ended.

The Walk On! Challenge is open to all fifth-grade classes in Arizona. Registration is required to ensure students who reach the 5-2-1-0 goal at least 15 days in the month will receive their rewards and be entered into a drawing for prizes. This year’s prizes include drawstring backpacks, iPod® Nanos and gift certificates for sporting equipment.

Arizona fifth-grade teachers and school administration members interested in registering for the Walk On! Challenge or who want to know more about the grant criteria can visit

Friday FUN photos from school: Your response was overwhelming!

EDITOR’S NOTE: I asked the moms, dads, teachers and others who get our e-newsletter to help me build our “Friday FUN Photos from School” feature in this blog. What a fun (and overwhelming!) response we got! Here are some examples. Look for more in coming weeks and keep sending your pictures! We love to share examples of creative, positive, joyful and whimsical moments in the school day, all of which offer their own unique lessons to the Arizona kids we’re so busy raising. — Karen Barr

Principal David Finley, Ph.D. really cracks the whip at Entz Elementary in Mesa. This photo was taken during a recent Halloween celebration. Photo by Robert Turchick.

Cate Johnson, a contributor with Scottsdale Moms Blog, homeschools her three older children (ages 8, 7 and 6). "In our 'school' we have the freedom to explore and learn outside a traditional setting," she wrote. "Here, my oldest is learning science and farming lessons by feeding a baby kid at the Simple Farm."

Kindergarten teachers at Horizon Community Learning Center in Phoenix dressed up as women from the Revolutionary War to teach students about the war and problem-solving. Photo submitted by Melissa Hartley.

Want to see your school featured next Friday? Send your FUN photos to:

If you’d like to get our e-newsletter, which features links to web-exclusive multimedia content and RAK Giveaways, send your email address to Circulation Director Brandy Collet: Put “opt in” in your subject line.

Friday FUN photos from school: Going Greco-Roman

Photo courtesy of Gilbert Public Schools.

Third-graders at Val Vista Lakes Elementary School in Gilbert recently completed a study of ancient Greece and Rome. Students learned about the many ways these civilizations influenced United States government and society, with contributions to democracy, art and architecture, as well as the Olympics and the Roman legacy of representative government, which influenced our country’s Founding Fathers.

Students studied Greek philosophers, including Socrates, and Roman political and military leaders, including Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. In celebration of these ancient cultures, the unit culminated with students wearing togas and eating traditional food. Val Vista Lakes is located at 1030 N. Blue Grotto Dr. in Gilbert and is part of the Gilbert Public Schools district.

Want to see your school featured next Friday? Send your FUN photos to: