April 25, 2018

Top 5 Things About Harrison

My Top 5 Favorite things about HarrisoAs my third year at Harrison is starting to wind down it dawns on me that I am no longer “too new” to have an opinion about this place. So without further ado here are my top 5 favorite things about Harrison.

  1. The Students- One of my very favorite things is seeing our students grow into better versions of themselves. Whether that means seeing a kid become confident in their academic abilities or seeing a kid blossom into a leader that other kids follow. Beyond that they make me laugh, they challenge me, and they have taught me skills I didn’t know existed.
  2. Staff- One of the things I really admire about our staff is that they take care of all our kids regardless of whether they are “their” students. I think of the upper level teachers going out of their way to connect with younger siblings of students. On the flip side I see so many of our big kids excitedly hugging the teachers they have had in the past. I could say so many great things about our staff but all the extra love they show students is important in building resilient future adults.
  3. Families- I always brag about how caring and loving the families at Harrison are to my friends and family. What sticks out to me specifically is during the 2016 flood I walked the neighborhood and saw many Harrison families helping other Harrison families, sandbag and move furniture to higher ground. During the most stressful time imaginable people took time to make sure their neighbors would be OK as well, and that’s really cool. On a day to to day basis I’m consistently treated with patience and kindness from all my Harrison families and I appreciate that.
  4. The building- One of the thing that sticks out about Harrison is the architecture, it is gigantic, old, and one of a kind. I have heard kids describe it as a medieval castle, Hogwarts, and “spooky”, like something from Scooby Doo. While all these things might be true I think it’s also important to note it feels like home and a lot it’s quirks make it truly unique.
  5. The Future- I truly feel like every day at Harrison things are getting better, our kids learn new skills, and they are becoming better future citizens. There are things happening in the upcoming years that will continue to improve student outcomes and make staff even more effective. I’m excited to see these things and be a part of them.

Honorable Mention- Mini corndogs are a strong 6th place on this list, every month I scan the lunch menu to look for these. They are culinary magic and I love them.

– Luke Reynolds, Harrison Site Manager

March 2, 2018

The More That You Read, The More Things You Will Know!

“Those are the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.”

-JRR Tolkien

In a frantic scramble to get things ready for a recent family night I found myself coming to a stop while setting up a book table. Emptying box after box of new books for our kids to take home at the end of the night I was swept up in a wave of nostalgia seeing old favorites that had seemingly transcended the generations. Surely, I thought to myself, kids today can’t still be reading Matt Christopher books!

This line of thinking set me on the path of remembering my favorite books from elementary school.

I wondered, then, what is on the favorites list of current fifth graders? Could there be any crossover from my own list from that age? I polled a random assortment of current Kids on Course fifth graders and compiled a list of overall favorite books (I combined all Diary of a Wimpy Kid votes into the same slot even if the votes were for different books in the series. Jeff Kinney gets enough publicity.)

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney

2. Gregor the Overlander – Suzanne Collins

3. Totally Lame Vampire – Tim Collins

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – JK Rowling

5. Dork Diaries – Rachel Renee Russell

6. I Survived series – Lauren Tarshis

7. Wings of Fire – Tui T Sutherland

8. Wonder – RJ Palacio

9. Maze Runner – James Dashner

10. Smile – Raine Telgemeier

For anyone interested, my list is (in no particular order) Harry Potter (whole series), Hatchet, The Hobbit, A Light in the Attic, Magic Tree House (whole series), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, any number of Goosebumps books, Matt Christopher’s books (but only the ones about soccer), Johnny Tremain, and Scary Stories to tell in the Dark.

-Jerry Logan, Van Buren Site Coordinator

March 3, 2017


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Grant Elementary Site Manager

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If you walk among the halls of Grant Elementary on a Friday, you may hear a buzz about something called SPARC. To an outsider, you may find yourself wondering, “What exactly is SPARC?” Well, SPARC is a program Grant implemented this school year. SPARC stands for “spreading passion and recognizing creativity”. SPARC is designed to give students a creative outlet on Friday afternoons and has the added bonus of helping to build relationships among teachers and students. It is a time on Friday afternoon where teachers take small groups of students and teach them something they are passionate about. There have been groups ranging from flag football to scrapbooking to Zumba. Grant even brings in outside resources to lead groups. We’ve had representatives from different military branches come in to work with students and Food Corps members come in to lead cooking classes. SPARC is a great time for students and teachers to have fun and learn together!   

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So far this year we have had three rounds of SPARC. Each round teachers pick a different passion they would like to teach to students. For my own SPARC groups, we have done sewing, Pinterest projects, and volleyball. While all of my groups have been great, my volleyball SPARC has been my favorite. Through a partnership with Kirkwood and the Mt. Mercy men’s volleyball league, we were able to bring in prominent volleyball coaches to help teach students the basics of volleyball. We even had a day where Mt. Mercy men’s players came in to help out. Students worked on passing, setting, spiking (their favorite skill), serving, and floor positions. It was so awesome to watch students who have never picked up a volleyball before develop skills. We definitely have some future volleyball players on our hands here at Grant!  

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A special thank you to Kirkwood and the Mt. Mercy men’s league for helping make this SPARC one to remember. We would not have been able to do it without their resources, time, and passion for the game! Now it’s time to get ready for the next round of SPARC: Crafts with Miss Katelyn! 


January 25, 2017

Learning Lab Family Night

Kids on Course hosted a Family Night for families with students in Learning Lab. Family Nights were hosted at Van Buren, Grant and Harrison Elementary Schools and around 500 people attended for an evening of pizza and interactive activities.

Families participated in activities that focused on math, reading or science. At one station, families and kids signed a pledge to read 20 minutes a night at home, a proven strategy for improving reading skills. Other stations had math-based games such as patterns, dominos, and dice, or a chance to read to a stuffed animal and participate in a readers’ theater with your whole family.

Depending on the school, students went home with a free book or a bag of math and reading games to continue learning at home.

A special thanks to the Cedar Rapids Public Library for setting up stations for families to sign up for library cards, and to all of the tutors and volunteers who spent their evening with our families!

Thanks to everyone who joined us and don’t forget to get in your 20 minutes of reading at home each evening!