Rec’s and Reviews: “Mr. Peabody and Sherman”

written by Alexandra Wade

A reboot of the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle characters, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is a sweet, simple story, despite hinging on time travel. Rushed but enjoyable, this film can open the door to discussions about history, families, and being a good friend.

The "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" poster from

The “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” poster from

Now available to rent or buy, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” focuses on a dog genius and his adopted human son, Sherman (Max Charles). Mr. Peabody (an excellent Ty Burrell) has been using a time machine he built, the WABAC, to educate and bond with Sherman since he adopted him as a baby, and Sherman’s first-hand knowledge of historical events gets him in trouble when he corrects another student. The girl, Penny (Ariel Winter), resorts to bullying Sherman, and the two fight. This leads to Peabody’s parenting skills being questioned.

In an attempt to prove himself and smooth things over, Peabody invites Penny and her parents (Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann) over before his evaluation by the school guidance counselor, Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney). Penny’s parents and Peabody hit it off, but Sherman still cannot win Penny over. Penny convinces him to power up the WABAC, setting off a chain of events that results in a time rift.

Peabody and Sherman’s relationship is a strong point throughout. The duo value and enjoy their time together, and even when disagreeing, they clearly love each other. The historical sequences are a high point as far as humor goes, but do not offer much in the way of accuracy. The fast pace makes it difficult to get facts in around the humor. The movie offers an opportunity to discuss the true stories behind the people shown (Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Antoinette, and King Tut, to name a few), as well as revising history and why it happens.

Penny’s character creates a chance to talk about another important issue: bullying. Though she eventually reforms, Penny is a spoiled, bratty bully for most of the film. In a movie dominated by time travel and a talking dog, Penny’s behavior and Sherman’s reactions bring something real and relatable to the discussion. Other topics that could be discussed are the movie’s representations of “nerdiness” (overwhelmingly pro), women and girls (disappointingly flat), and diverse families (see dog adopting a boy).

Sherman, Penny, and Mr. Peabody travel to Ancient Egypt. Photo credit: DreamWorks Animation/AP.

Sherman, Penny, and Mr. Peabody travel to Ancient Egypt. Photo credit: DreamWorks Animation/AP.

The humor is a good mix of jokes for parents and jokes for kids. Some humor is obviously targeted toward parents only, with physical comedy and mild bathroom humor mixed in for kids. Peabody’s signature puns run rampant. There are also some scary or dangerous situations, but the rushed nature of the film is actually a benefit here. Frightening sequences fly by as fast as the rest of the film, and scary images are mostly of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is an enjoyable mixed-bag that will be appreciated by the entire family and offers opportunities to talk about history, families, and friendships. For more detailed reviews, visit:

Silver Cord Program Creates a Generation of Volunteers

Almost 150 seniors wore braided silver ropes with their graduation robes at the 2014 Valley High School graduation ceremony. Each student earned the honor by volunteering a minimum of 200 hours in the community.

With the silver cords on display at graduation, it may seem like earning one is the student volunteers’ main goal. Cyndi Bonus, Silver Cord program coordinator, disagrees. She believes students are motivated by the opportunity to give back to their community.

“It’s totally voluntary,” Bonus said. “It’s completely up to the students if they want to do it, so the fact that this is what they want to spend their time doing is awesome.”

The Silver Cord program was started in 2001 as a way to encourage students to start a lifetime of giving back. Students can begin tracking their volunteer hours in the summer between eighth grade and ninth grade. Senior students who have volunteered a minimum of 50 hours each year of high school earn the silver cord to wear at graduation.

Silver Cord By the Numbers | Number of Volunteers: 147 Silver Cords awarded to graduates in 2013-14, 890 Silver Cord participants in 2014-15 | Number of Hours: 27,000 2014-15 volunteer hours completed by March 2015; 37,596 volunteer hours completed in 2013-14; 1,293 organizations are benefiting from Silver Cord volunteers in 2014-15 |

Infographic designed using Venngage (


Silver Cord Goes Digital

The program began listing volunteer opportunities on the WDMCS website in 2010 and went completely paperless for the 2014-15 school year. Prior to the transition, all students had to find their own volunteer opportunities, contacting potential sites and hoping to find the right person. Some students struggled to meet the location requirements. Others had trouble finding volunteer experiences that met their interests.

The Silver Cord webpage now functions as an opportunity database. A list of pre-approved volunteer opportunities offers 271 organizations students can choose from. Common volunteering sites are Living History Farms, Courage League Sports, Meals from the Heartland, and the Animal Rescue League. Students are still encouraged to bring in ideas for unique experiences, and many do; students have volunteered for political campaigns, gone on mission trips overseas, and volunteered as models at fundraisers like ChildServe’s Bubble Ball.

If students want to volunteer for an organization that is not pre-approved, they submit their ideas through the website. Once approved, volunteer sites are added to the student’s personal list so they don’t have to enter information more than once. Students also use the website to submit their volunteer hours and reflections after the hours are completed.

Start your Silver Cord journey by checking out the webpage.

Organizations and Silver Cord

Organizations can also use the website. They can request pre-approval, and site supervisors approve students’ hours through the website. Supervisors are also able to add comments on a volunteer’s work. Bonus said many take advantage of the feature.

“Being on the website has really made all the difference,” Bonus said. “The reflections and feedback we’ve seen from students and organizations are really phenomenal.”

The online process and multitude of opportunities make it simple for any student to join the Silver Cord program, but successfully earning the award takes commitment. Many students end up using their summers to meet the requirements.

“Anyone in our entire school can participate in Silver Cord if they put the time in,” Bonus said. “If you put in the hours, you can earn it. But it’s not easy. We want it to be an honor that they’ve earned by going above and beyond.”

There are currently 890 students participating in the Silver Cord program. They have already contributed 27,000 volunteer hours to 1,293 organizations during the 2014-15 year.

Not every student will complete the program, but all will contribute time and effort back into their community. Those who do earn silver cords will wear them as they walk across the stage. Each individual cord is a symbol of personal achievement for a student, but together, the cords represent a program that is growing a generation dedicated to giving back.


CE Highlight: Spring Break with Kids West

School was not in session, but Kids West students had fun and continued to learn during their Spring Break. Visits to Courage League Sports, Chow’s Gymnastics, Pump It Up, Val Lanes and Skate North, plus Blank Park Zoo animal visitors, kept Kids West busy.

Instructor Tips: Cindy Lin — Tackling Group Fitness Classes


Cindy Lin, WERQ Dance Fitness instructor.

The March Instructor Tips are focused not on marching, but on dancing. Cindy Lin is a third-year podiatric medical student at Des Moines University. She is originally from Portland, Ore., and graduated from the University of Oregon in 2012. Lin first fell in love with fitness while taking Zumba classes with her mom in high school. She became a “group fitness junkie” in college, taking a wide variety of classes, from yoga to kickboxing. She started teach WERQ Dance Fitness classes in August 2013, and it has become her favorite way to work out. She loves teaching group fitness and challenging others to push themselves to their full potential during workouts. Lin is teaching a WERQ Dance Fitness class starting March 25. She can be found on Facebook and Pinterest.

Register Here

Five Tips on Group Fitness from Cindy Lin

  1. Go into the class with an open mind and a smile. Those who come in with no expectations tend to have the best experience. Give different classes a chance; you might be surprised by which ones you like.
  2. Try each class three times. For dance fitness, the first class is getting used to the class, and the second class is about learning the choreography. By class three, things are more familiar, and students can bring out their inner Beyonces. Once they are more familiar with the choreography, it is easier to add flair and have more fun. If you still aren’t a fan by that point, it’s okay — not every class is a good fit for every person.
  3. Get to class in time for the warm-up. WERQ Dance Fitness is different than other dance fitness classes because it utilizes the warm-up to ease students into the workout and previews dance moves that come up later in the class. Gradually easing into the workout helps prevents injury, and the previewed dance moves make it easier to master the choreography later.
  4. Do not worry about what you look like to others. Most people are too focused on watching the instructor and learning the moves to pay attention to anyone around them. Remember to focus on yourself during a workout — the workout is about you.
  5. A workout is what you make of it. Fitness instructors are there to guide the workout and provide external motivation. Students who feel sore and tired can make the workout a little lower intensity. To get their heart rate up, a student can add more intention to their movements — jump higher, dance bigger, and squat lower. Each student is in total control of their body and workout.

Monthly Motivation: Saving Your Sleep Cycle

Last week was National Sleep Week, and daylight saving time started early Sunday morning. Even though it was a few days ago, many people are still feeling the effects. The biggest part of adjusting to the time change is keeping your sleep routine regulated. To help you get a good night’s sleep, the National Sleep Foundation has ten tips for better “sleep hygiene”:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. Separate sleep from wakeful and exciting activities by engaging in some quiet time before bed.
  3. Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Many people love naps or rely on “power naps,” but they may disrupt your sleep in the long run.
  4. Exercise daily. Even light activity can be helpful, so fit in exercise whenever you can — but not at the expense of your sleep.
  5. Evaluate your sleep environment. Check that your room is the right temperature and has good noise and light levels for sleeping.
  6. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. The average good-quality mattress only lasts nine or ten years, so make sure your bed is still supportive and inviting.
  7. Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Sunlight or other bright light can help wake you up in the morning while keeping things dark can help you fall asleep at night.
  8. Avoid heavy meals and other sleep-disrupting substances in the evening. Things like caffeine and indigestion can make it hard to fall asleep, even when you feel tired.
  9. Wind down for an hour before bed. Participate in a calming activity, like reading, for an hour before you need to sleep. It helps you shift into “sleep mode.”
  10. Do something relaxing if you are having trouble falling asleep. Make sure your bed is associated with sleep, not work or TV or the computer. If you have to work on something, keep yourself relaxed, and do it in another room.

The National Sleep Foundation also has tips for learning to relax:

Find out more about these tips, healthy sleep, and different sleep strategies on the National Sleep Foundation website.


CE Today: March 4, 1933 – Frances Perkins Becomes the First Woman to Serve in the Presidential Cabinet

written by Alexandra Wade

Frances PerkinsFrances Perkins took over as secretary of labor on this day in 1933, making her the first woman to hold a position in the U.S. presidential cabinet. Trained as a social worker, she was involved in the reform following the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. As the secretary of labor, she was influential in writing the New Deal legislation and developing the Social Security Act of 1935. She continued to work as a teacher and lecturer after her career in government.


Social Security Administration, Pioneers: “Frances Perkins”
U.S. Department of Labor, Hall of Secretaries: “Frances Perkins” “Frances Perkins”
Women’s History Month