#WeTeachAllKids #Kegonsa #WeAreStoughton

Kegonsa uses grant to Expand outdoor

learning area

Cold, snow or ice – nothing can stop them from getting through. Kegonsa kindergartners, that is. You might think an outdoor classroom in the middle of winter would be no fun at all, but for students of Angel Schroeder, Joy Meyer and Julie Alexander, it turned out to be one of the best parts of a new focus in their classrooms. Now, Kegonsa teachers are using another grant to expand the learning area, which is open for business – and fun – all year ‘round.

The teachers created the area last year, using funds from a Stoughton Area School District “Innovation Grant” focused on “play and inquiry-based learning.” Under the maple trees – whether they had leaves or not – the kids spent a half-hour four out of five days, learning about nature, and working together to explore and learn.

Students visited “sensory stations” where they could do everything from identify leaves to dig up bugs or make “mud pies.” When the snow falls, there is also plenty to see and do, like identifying the tracks of animals, or about anything else a 5- or 6-year-old could come up with.

Now, the trio are expanding the area, using a $3,000 grant from the Healthy Classrooms Foundation. Schroeder applied for the grant from the group, a statewide nonprofit “committed to improving the health of children throughout Wisconsin,” according to its website. “I wanted to further our students’ sense of wonder, academic growth and connection to their natural environment,” she told the Hub in an email.

Some of the funds will be used for benches and a stage or presentation area, including a blackboard, a plexiglass easel and an aluminum boat students can play in and around. Schroeder said the school hopes to begin the expansion this school year, although the work could continue into subsequent years.

Schroeder said the outdoor classroom is a space where children can go “with the freedom to be themselves.” “Their imaginations really come alive when they step outside the school building,” she said.

‘Critical piece’

Kegonsa principal Erin Conrad said the outdoor classroom, which has been expanded to include first-graders, is a “critical piece of our play-and inquiry-based classrooms,” providing a “different setting in which to learn and wonder and follow curiosities.”

“The evolving seasons offer students the opportunity to explore the seasons and nature in small and big ways,” she wrote the Hub in an email. “While educators offer structured learning opportunities as students work to master a skill, there is plenty of unstructured time, which gives students large movement breaks as well as time to naturally collaborate and problem solve with their peers in a natural setting.”

First-grade teacher Erica Klefstad said there is a “sense of peace and wonder” when the students are outdoors. She said the area “truly captures the idea of inquiry for not only students, but teachers, too.” “There is always something new that our ‘third environment’ has to show us for the day,” she wrote the Hub in an email. “Instead of telling children about the parts of a cicada, they are able to see and feel one’s shell with their own eyes, squeal as a live one is flying towards them, and then wonder where it disappears to … I am learning about the world through the eyes of a child.”

Time spent in the outdoor classroom is often the “best part of our day,” said fellow first-grade teacher Patricia Wilton. “(It’s) an experience that is full of wonder, yet humbling at the same time,” she wrote the Hub in an email. “It’s a time when kids are allowed to be kids and learn in ways that comes most naturally to them.”

Third-grade teacher Jess Davis said it shows that “education doesn’t have to take place inside,” citing a recent student survey that said nearly 90 percent would rather be outside. He said the area has been used for other school activities like Reader’s Theatre, Writer’s Workshop, Science Inquiry and Community Building Activities. “It’s rewarding to see the strengths of each individual student come out when they are outside,” she said.

Kindergarten teacher Joy Meyer said it’s healthy for kids to be outside during all seasons. Even though some of the teachers may make sure they’re plenty bundled up for those chilly winter afternoons. “Outdoor experiences help students increase their understanding of their natural and human communities, which leads to a sense of place,” she wrote the Hub in an email. “Instead of talking to children or showing them pictures about something, let them experience it first-hand.”

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at scott.delaruelle@wcinet.com.

Kegonsa Elementary News

October 6th, 2017

We have had an incredible start to the school year! We have welcomed many new students to Kegonsa and are excited to see so many new faces. Already, there is so much to highlight from the beginning of the year. Just a few highlights:

Family and Community Engagement

Our First Annual Track-A-Thon was a huge success. A hearty thank you to our Working for Kids Parent group and Ms. Dozois for pulling off such a big event. Students ran their hearts out and celebrated each other’s accomplishments. Thank you to our community for helping us champion wellness.

  • The students of Kegonsa graciously accepted a giant sculpture aptly named Curiosity (100 year old fishing hook) from a local sculptore. The fish hook speaks to our theme for the year “Be Courageously Curious.” The art is installed in our front hallway.The Watch D.O.G kick off for our second year was a success. Please make sure to sign up to come in and spend a day as a volunteer. If you have any questions please get in touch with Mr. Schultz, our school counselor. We also welcome Watch MOMS!


  • The Stoughton Community Foundation awarded us a grant for $5,000 to be used to purchase physical education and playground equipment. Some of the funds will go to purchase adaptive equipment so that all students can have equal access and opportunity to play.
  • We are rocking our new wellness initiative. A huge thanks to students, families and educators for being huge champions for wellness for our kids.

Positive School Culture

  • We finally have a School Song at Kegonsa. Our students are learning to sing it in English and American Sign Language.
  • DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time has continued from last year. In September, the entire school settled under the trees to read. We will be having an all school read every month.

  • Student Council is alive at Kegonsa. 25 students were selected in grades 3-5 to represent their peers in and out of the school.
  • The Traveling Gilly is a new award that is given weekly to a class that has demonstrated exceptional engagement.

  • The Friendship Buddy Bench is also a new award that classes give other classes on a weekly basis. Each Wednesday the bench is presented by kids for kids for fostering friendship in and outside of the classroom.

  • Lunch with the Principal is a weekly award given by classroom teachers who recognize students for being leaders in their classroom.

  • In October we are beginning Community (mixed grade) Morning Meetings to build community across our school. More forthcoming!

Curriculum and Assessment

  • Our play based kindergarten has moved into first grade and we are off to a great start. Come and visit our classrooms if you are interested in learning more about inquiry based learning.
  • Classrooms are working hard to ensure that instructional learning targets and anchor charts are evidenced in classrooms and used by students in their learning.

  • Our school counselor is beginning year 2 of our Zones of Regulation all school lesson on social emotional regulation. Ask your kids what zones there are!
  • Our school psychologist and speech and language pathologist have joined forces to do all school classroom lessons on social thinking. Read more here.

  • We now have two instructional coaches focusing on improving literacy and mathematics instruction across the grade levels.

  • We have shifted to an inclusive service delivery model for our students with disabilities, english learners and advanced learners.
  • Collaboration rooms have been added for all of our grade levels. The rooms are used as additional spaces for grade levels to extend their learning, both whole and small group.

  • Flexible furniture/bright walls have enlivened our school.

Grant Updates: We have received a grant for $3,000 to expand our Outdoor Classroom at Kegonsa.

Additionally we received $1,000 from Play60 to promote wellness at Kegonsa.

Wow, and we are just beginning the school year!

With gratitude, Erin Conrad, School Principal

Would you like to know more? Check out these two videos about some of the great work we have going on in Kegonsa.
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    • MonDec18 Regular School Board Meeting 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
    • MonDec25 No School
    • MonDec25 SASD District Office Will Be Closed Over Winter Break 7:45 AM to 4:30 PM
    • TueDec26 No School
    • TueDec26 SASD District Office Will Be Closed Over Winter Break 7:45 AM to 4:30 PM
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