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K-4 News and Notes

North elementary logo
Kurt Hildebrandt

Kids in both buildings get the chance to take part in hands-on learning experiences

  These North Elementary 4th graders
  work on a STEM Challenge activity in
  which they had to stack six cups into
  a pyramid without touching the cups
  with their hands.

STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) students in Rachel Schweigert's classes at South Elementary and North Elementary have already been very busy with several class projects.

Schweigert spends the morning hours with students in grades 2-4 at North while moving over to South in the afternoon to work with Kindergarten and first grade students. The following is a summary of some of the work those students have been working on in her STEM classes to date.

Growth Mindset project
First grade STEM students started out the year learning about having a growth mindset, to prepare them for challenging engineering activities we will do later in the year, according to Schweigert.

  South Elementary first graders
  learning about the power of “YET”
  and having a growth mindset.

"We read the book “The Magical Yet” together and talked about how we can use the word ‘yet' when we talk about our learning," she said.

STEM Challenge
The fourth graders were given a STEM challenge. They were tasked with stacking six cups into a pyramid without touching the cups with their hands.

"They were only given four pieces of string and a rubber band to use," Schweigert said. "Using teamwork, this group created a tool to use to pick up the cups."

Car Seat Checkup event set for Sept. 25th for local families
Kurt Hildebrandt

A free Car Seat Checkup event is set for Saturday, Sept. 25th from 9 to 11 a.m. at the St. Peter Fire Department (227 West Mulberry Street). This event is presented by Saint Peter Police, River’s Edge Hospital, and Nicollet County Public Health.

“This is a great program that allows families to make sure they have their vehicle’s car seats installed properly and they are used correctly,” Officer Jon Hughes, Saint Peter Public Schools’ School Resource Officer (SRO) said. “Our number one goal with this program is to ensure your kids are safe when they are riding with you in a car seat, and by working with our families on installing their car seats correctly we can help accomplish that goal.”

Appointments for this event are preferred. To schedule a car seat check or if you need more information please contact the Saint Peter Police Department at (507) 931-1550 or via email at

Certified child passenger safety technicians will check for recalls and ensure all child safety seats are installed by manufacturer specifications. Each seat check takes approximately 30 minutes. Participants are also asked to bring all manuals for their vehicle(s) and car seat(s).

“In Minnesota, all children must be in a child restraint until they are 4'9” tall, or at least age 8, whichever comes first,” SRO Hughes said.

The logo for south elementary
Kurt Hildebrandt

South Elementary students have been participating in a butterfly release project the past few years using Painted Lady caterpillars and they recently released the butterflies to mark the completion of the project.

   Mrs. Depuydt's kindergarten class at South
   reโ€‹โ€‹โ€‹โ€‹leases a Painted Lady butterfly on May 18.

“We have been doing this project as a whole school for the past 3 or 4 years,” South kindergarten teacher Kim Depuydt said. “We purchased butterfly habitats for each classroom teacher, and that's all we needed besides the caterpillars. For the past few years, (retired long-time South secretary) Lois Warren has been funding this project and we’re very grateful for that!” 

“I’m just so happy to be able to continue to be part of the fun at South!” Warren said.

When the Painted Lady caterpillars arrive, they are about one centimeter long and it takes about one week to grow before they make their chrysalis and then another week and a half to two weeks to hatch as butterflies.  

   Students in Mrs. Wolfe's class got a close up look     at the Painted Lady butterfly before it flew off. 

“The students' excitement about the process is incredible as they walk into the classroom each morning to check for changes in the status of the butterflies,” Depuydt said. “Some classrooms journal the whole experience while others find books and videos to learn more about the life cycle of a Painted Lady butterfly.” 

When the butterflies emerge from their chrysalis, the excitement grows even more.  The students are always eager to help with releasing the butterflies in nature, and their amazement and wonder as they fly off into the world is a joy to witness. 

In the fall, South classes often release Monarch butterflies as well if there are any remaining at the beginning of the school year.  The transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly ignites students' sense of wonder as they make predictions, observe changes, and share their learning with their classmates and families.

The logo for south elementary
Kurt Hildebrandt

South Elementary is the lucky recipient of a SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Partnership) grant. The goal of this grant is to strengthen social-emotional and literacy skills in both families’ primary language and English, as well as build family connections, according to Laura Zender, Saint Peter Public Schools Elementary Counselor. 

Every two weeks from May to August, identified Spanish-speaking families will receive a social-emotional-themed children’s book written in Spanish with a note identifying key points to discuss with their children and extension activities (such as art, games, listening to the book online). All materials needed for the extension activities will also be given to the family. Families will receive a total of seven books.

“Literacy skills in a primary language correlate to literacy skills in English,” Zender said. “Promoting literacy skills within our Spanish speaking families will not only influence positive family relationships and social emotional skills; it will also influence these children’s learning experiences within our school system.  With additional literacy experiences in their primary language, students will likely develop literacy skills in the English language more quickly. By educating families on the value of literacy experiences and social emotional skills for students, families will better understand and be able to better participate in conversations about their children’s experiences at school. 

“This will support families’ comfort with practices such as parent teacher conferences and discussions of ways to support their children at home. This project will also highlight the value of children’s primary language supporting their learning in schools. Both educators and families will be able to see the value of families’ primary language in the development of social skills and literacy skills. This will lead educators to better value the influence of families’ primary languages.”

“What a gift this grant has been! This is such a fantastic opportunity for our Spanish speaking families to engage in literacy activities as a family. Our students are so excited to take books and materials home to share,” South Principal Doreen Oelke said. 

The logo for south elementary
Kurt Hildebrandt

  The St. Peter Kiwanis Club recently donated 150
  children’s books to South Elementary and the
  Early Childhood Center as well as $250 to St. Peter
  Community & Family Education to be used for          scholarships for summer programming. Shown        here are St. Peter Kiwanis member Dr. Keith              Stelter, South Principal Doreen Oelke, Kiwanis          member Rich Helgeson, and Community & Family    Education Coordinator Tami Skinner.

Kiwanis International’s mission is to change and improve the lives of children all over the world, with providing reading opportunities being an important part of that work. With that in mind, the Kiwanis Club of St. Peter recently made a significant donation to District 508 to continue that mission.

The group recently donated 150 children’s books to South Elementary and the Early Childhood Center. In addition, the Kiwanis Club of St. Peter also contributed $250 to Saint Peter Community and Family Education to provide scholarships for local youth to participate in summer programming.

“Kiwanis International sends us books that we, as a District, can donate to local elementary and preschool students,” Dr. Keith Stelter, a member of the Kiwanis Club of St. Peter, said. “We are also donating $250 from our funds that will go to the scholarship program for Community Education’s summer programs. We know how the pandemic has affected families financially, and we hope this donation will provide an opportunity for children from these families to participate in these summer programs.”

“We very much appreciate the support of our local Kiwanis Club,” Doreen Oelke, South Elementary Principal said, “These books will be divided between our Kindergarten and first grade building and the St. Peter Early Childhood program. What a beautiful gift.”

“We are so grateful for this donation from the Kiwanis Club,” Tami Skinner, Saint Peter Community and Family Education Coordinator, said. “This donation will provide tuition assistance for children to attend these programs for free or at a reduced cost.”