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!