A Holiday Celebration at Western Hills Kids West

Western Hills students in our Kids West before-and-after school program enjoyed a holiday party before winter break. Children competed in an ugly sweater contest, sipped cocoa, crafted hats, and posed with friends in a photo booth.


CE Highlight: LEARNwest Winter Catalog

The December Community Education highlight is the LEARNwest Winter Catalog. LEARNwest offers a wide range of evening and weekend classes for adults who want to expand their skills, make everyday life better, and want to try something new. Sue Otte, Continuing Education Specialist, shared information about the planning and scheduling of LEARNwest classes and some winter classes students can look forward to.


LEARNwest Winter 2015 Cover



Winter 2015 LEARNwest catalog

Register Online



Mythbusting Monday: Brighter Beginnings

written by Alexandra Wade

Brighter Beginnings is a West Des Moines Community Schools Community Education program that aims to make the world brighter for parents and children by providing fun early childhood family learning. Babies are born learning, and parents are their first, and most influential, teachers. Brighter Beginnings is designed to help parents find the most effective ways to teach and nurture their young children. Parents work with a professional parent educator and gain information on child development from birth through toddle years and have access to opportunities and events in the community for parents. To give people more information about Brighter Beginnings, just in time for Session II registration, we decided to cover the program for Mythbusting Monday.

  • Myth: Brighter Beginnings is a pre-school/daycare program.
    • This myth is FALSE.
    • Brighter Beginnings is a program for parents looking to expand their parenting skills. Classes are divided into time for educational parent/child activities and time for parents to discuss parenting topics with the other parents and a qualified parent educator. Quality childcare is provided during “parent time” so parents can fully focus on the topic discussion, but Brighter Beginnings is not a childcare program.
  • Myth: Registration is year-round.
    • This myth is FALSE.
    • Brighter Beginnings registration take place for each separate session of Brighter Beginnings. The first 2014–2015 session is currently taking place, but registration for Session II (Feb. 2–May 8) begins Dec. 15.
    • Registration cards can be found at the Brighter Beginnings page of the WDMCS Community Ed. website, or contact Sonja LeSher, Brighter Beginnings Coordinator, at (515) 633-5009.
  • Myth: Brighter Beginnings is for WDMCS district family’s only.
    • This myth is TRUE.
    • Brighter Beginnings is a program for families who live within West Des Moines Community School District boundaries. For more information, contact Sonja LeSher.

For more information about Brighter Beginnings, visit the WDMCS Community Education website!

Instructor Tips: Steve Alexander — Photography Fundamentals

written by Alexandra Wade

Steve Alexander

Steve Alexander, owner of Alexander’s Photo.

Steve Alexander is the owner and operator of Alexander’s Photo in Historic Valley Junction. He noticed it was difficult to find practical, realistic, and experienced instruction in photography. He is trying to address that need with short and intensive courses for today’s aspiring photographers, especially those who cannot afford the time or expense of an extended curriculum. Alexander loves to see people learn, grow, and be inspired to go beyond their prior limits. He especially appreciates helping students achieve their own “light bulb” moments of understanding. Alexander can be contacted on Facebook or the Alexander’s Photo website: www.alexandersphoto.com.


Steve Alexander’s Five Photography Tips

  1. The fundamentals of photography are employed for EVERY photo taken—whether the photographer makes those choices or the camera defaults to a pre-programmed response. Since the camera does not care about your photos, it’s better that you learn at least the basics and create your own images intentionally.
  2. Your add-on flash attachment is the second-most important piece of photo gear in your bag. You need to own one, and know how and when to use it.
  3. A seasonal tip: Protect camera gear from condensing moisture when moving from cold temperatures outside to warmer temperatures inside. The best way to protect your gear is putting it in a camera bag, or covering it with a cloth or paper bag, until it is room temperature again. Moving from warm to cold temperatures does not have the same condensation risks, but battery life may be limited in below freezing weather.
  4. Buy local and face-to-face! Photography requires skills and techniques, in addition to talent and opportunity. Buying equipment and accessories in department stores or online offers no additional support or instructions for how to get the most out of a camera. Local dealers will go out of their way to help you because they benefit from your success as well. They should put your needs first and help each customer select the best equipment for them.
  5.  Information and knowledge are the most valuable elements to learning to be a better photographer. Be curious, ask questions, take a Community Ed. class, and PRACTICE!

 Watch for more instructor tips every month on the Community Education blog!

Monthly Motivation: Avoiding Illness

written by Alexandra Wade

The CDC announced Dec. 4 that this season’s flu vaccine does not seem to be as effective as it had hoped, due to variant drift in strains of the virus. People are still encouraged to get a flu vaccine, as vaccinated people may have a milder form of the illness, even if they do still get sick. Those at high risk of the flu—children younger than 5 (especially those younger than 2), adults 65 or older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic diseases—are especially encouraged to get vaccinated if they have not already.

To help motivate the WDMCS community to stay healthy during this potentially-severe flu season, Community Education wanted to share some tips on staying healthy and stopping the spread of germs. To fight the flu, the CDC recommends three steps:

1. Take time to get a flu vaccine.
2. Take everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of germs.
3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

The CDC also recommends some good habits to follow to prevent the spread of the flu.

1. Avoid close contact.
2. Stay home when you are sick.
3. Cover your mouth and nose.
4. Clean your hands.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits.

Many of these good habits can also prevent and protect people from the common cold. Hopefully, these easy-to-follow tips will motivate you to stay healthy this season!

With all this hand-washing going on, it could also be a big season for paper towel use. As a bonus, here’s a video from Joe Smith, lawyer and “powerful advocate for proper paper towel use,” teaching viewers how to cut down on the number of paper towels they use and still end up with completely dry hands.

CE Today: December 3, 1967—The first human heart transplant takes place

written by Alexandra Wade

The first human heart transplant was performed by Dr. Christiaan Barnard at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, on Dec. 3, 1967. He had been trained at University of Cape Town and Stanford University in California. Lewis Washansky, a grocer dying from chronic heart disease, received the heart from Denise Darvall, who was fatally injured in a car crash.

Washansky’s heart functioned normally until his death, which came only 18 days later. He died of double pneumonia, which he contracted due to the drugs used to suppress his immune system so his body would not reject the heart. Heart transplants are more successful today, but it is still difficult to find acceptable donors. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more information about organ donation.

For more interesting history, watch the CE blog the first week of every month!

CE Question: What are you most thankful for?

written by Alexandra Wade

The WDMCS community has a lot of things to be thankful for, and the Thanksgiving season is the perfect time to focus on them. We asked Community Ed. employees to share the things that they are most thankful for this Thanksgiving, and invite you to share what you are thankful for on our Facebook page.

  • My family and our new home! —Julie Lundy
  • I’m thankful that my children are healthy and happy!—Kris Gardner
  • My family!—Jess Lieb
  • Amazing parents!—Shahna Janssen
  • Being able to spend the holidays with my extended family. This time of year always reminds me of how truly blessed I am.—KJ Yaeger
  • Since I normally host, this Thanksgiving I am thankful for no housecleaning and cooking!”—Rosemary Brandt
  • My family! And, of course, a big ol’ smoked turkey!—Michelle Campos
  • I am most thankful for my amazing family and friends. I am so blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.—Jamie Evans
  • My grandson, Benjamin.—Rebecca Harless
  • My family.—Sonja LeSher
  • Relationships—with co-workers who are fun and dedicated to their job, not in competition with each other but cooperation; with family who want to be together and spend time; with friends who are really more like family; and with God, who makes life much more peaceful and the relationships with others so much more of a blessing.—Amy Dvorak
  • This Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for God and the amazing family and friends that He has blessed me with.—Keri Remsburg
  • I am thankful for the people in my life, and the opportunity to add more.—Nate Lingren
  • My family!—Sue Otte
  • Two healthy precious grandchildren!—Holly Burns

Rec’s and Reviews: A Book About Giving Thanks

written by Alexandra Wade

The cover for Steve Metzger's "Give Thanks for Each Day."

The cover for Steve Metzger’s “Give Thanks for Each Day.”

With Thanksgiving taking place later this week, we thought it would be a good time to recommend “Give Thanks for Each Day” by Steve Metzger. Metzger is a former teacher of young children and a bestselling children’s author who has penned “Five Little Sharks Swimming in the Sea,” “The Mixed-up Alphabet,” and the Dinofours series, among other books. “Give Thanks for Each Day” was written for preschool- and kindergarten-age children and is a great way to start a discussion about being thankful for the little things.

Metzger’s story is accompanied by colorful illustrations by Robert McPhillips, a children’s illustrator since 1994 and illustrator for the “Kingdom of Wrenly” series. The illustrations are warm, but playful, and will catch readers’ eyes.

Check out “Give Thanks for Each Day” with young readers as soon as possible to get them in the Thanksgiving spirit!


CE Highlight: Brighter Beginnings

written by Alexandra Wade


Our CE Highlight this month is Brighter Beginnings, a WDMCS Community Education program for parents who live within the WDMCS district boundaries and want to expand and develop their parenting skills. Children and infants are born learners, and parents can be their most influential teachers. Brighter Beginnings teachers parents to build on that relationship by pairing them with professional educators who offer guidance about effectively teaching and nurturing children.

Classes are divided by the age of the child, and parents and children attend together. Each class is divided into two parts: parent/child education activities and parent time. During parent time, quality childcare is provided so parents can discuss different parenting topics and issues with educators.

TODDLER I (12-24 MONTHS) Tuesdays 10:45 – 11:45 a.m.
TODDLER II (2-3 1/2 YEARS) Tuesdays 9:15 – 10:30 a.m.
Wednesdays 10:45 a.m. – noon
Wednesdays 9:15 – 10:30 a.m.

The second session of Brighter Beginnings is from Feb. 2, 2015—May 8, 2015. Registration begins on Dec. 15, 2014. Interested parents should register by filling out a registration card and returning it to WDMCS Community Education, Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines, IA 50265-5556. Separate registration cards are required for each individual session. For more information, parents can contact Sonja LeSher, the Brighter Beginnings Program Coordinator.


Instructor Tips: Jamie Evans — Using Twitter

written by Alexandra Wade

evansjWDMCS Community Education’s very own Jamie Evans, Communications Specialist and District Webmaster, offered up these Twitter tips for our third Instructor Tips post. On top of her Community Education duties, Evans teaches LEARNwest classes on social media platforms like LinkedIn, WordPress, and of course, Twitter. She likes to start her Twitter classes out with this quote from David Roberts: “If writing a blog post is like sitting in a bar with a friend, Twitter is like standing around at a cocktail party.”


Jamie Evans’ Top Ten Tips for Using Twitter

  1. Don’t be afraid to get out there and start tweeting. Twitter is a fun way to gather the news and information that’s important to you quickly.
  2. Just getting started on Twitter? Begin your journey by finding and following other interesting Twitter accounts. Look for business you love, people you know, celebrities, or news stations.
  3. One great way to find more interesting people to follow is to see who those you know or admire are following.
  4. Don’t forget to listen first. Build your voice by retweeting and replying to others.
  5. The best way to gain followers on Twitter is to regularly engage and contribute in a significant way.
  6. Start new conversations by mentioning people using their Twitter handles.
  7. Don’t use more than two hashtags per tweet—it can be annoying to see a tweet that’s only hashtags.
  8. Once you are comfortable with Twitter basics, consider using lists, direct messages and favorites.
  9. Favoriting a tweet not only lets the originator know that you liked their tweet but gives you a chance to save the tweet to read later (if it links to a longer article).
  10. Last but not least, be sure to follow Community Ed. on Twitter @wdmcscomed!

Look for more instructor tips on the WDMCS Community Ed. blog during the third week of every month!